India has cancelled a request for proposals for six medium-range maritime patrol aircraft that it planned to operate in tandem with eight Boeing P-8Is it bought earlier in 2009.
"The defence ministry and the navy had asked for the proposals, but they withdrew the tender a few months ago," says an industry source close to the ministry. "There is no indication of when a fresh tender will be issued, although it appears as though this procurement has gone down in the navy's list of priorities."
New Delhi had been assessing medium-range aircraft to replace the Indian navy's 12 Britten-Norman Islanders, which the service hopes to begin retiring from around 2013. It had planned to either transfer the Islanders to the Indian coastguard, or convert them for use as trainers. Myanmar, which sourced two Islanders from India for its coastguard several years ago, could also be a recipient, say industry sources.
Jets and turboprops had been assessed for the requirement. Sources say that Brazil's Embraer, which already has a maritime patrol version of its EMB-145 and is helping to modify the same type for an indigenous Indian air force airborne early warning and control requirement, was a possible contender.
Boeing had offered a modified version of the P-8I, while Israel's Elta Systems has been pushing a maritime patrol variant of the Dassault Falcon 900 business jet. Northrop Grumman was also hoping to compete with its E-2D, while other turboprop alternatives were maritime patrol variants of the ATR 72 and the EADS Casa C-295.
India is the first export customer for Boeing's P-8, having selected the type to replace its navy Tupolev Tu-142 turboprops. The service, which has often been neglected in favour of the air force and army, has received a boost in recent years as the country's politicians seek to establish their maritime capabilities.
Observers say the nation needs to augment its maritime patrol capabilities due to growing tensions with neighbours such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean, and the rise of piracy in the Arabian Sea.
Earlier in December, India issued a request for information for new naval fighters that will be capable of operating on two indigenous aircraft carriers projected to be in service by the end of the next decade. Boeing, Dassault and Lockheed Martin received the RFI, according to industry sources. This did not indicate the number of aircraft required, and asked only for information on available technologies and capabilities with their respective F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter designs.
This is in addition to the induction of RSK MiG-29K carrier-borne fighters and naval variants of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, six of which were ordered earlier this year, over the next decade. It also keen to buy new anti-submarine warfare helicopters and wants to induct a range of unmanned air vehicles.