India has increased the number of aircraft requested under its medium-range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) requirement as well as mandating Indian-sourced content on the contract.
New Delhi released the long-awaited request for proposals (RFP) for the patrol aircraft on 8 August. Originally anticipated in mid-2012, the reasons for the delay are unclear. Additionally, the original solicitation to manufacturers called for six aircraft, which has since increased to nine.
The MRMR aircraft will be operated by the Indian navy. Aside from the aircraft, says a source familiar with the requirement, the RFP calls for weapons, defence countermeasures, spares, test equipment, ground support equipment, and training.
Although the aircraft will not be required to perform anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tasks, New Delhi appears to be placing a significant emphasis on the platform's electronic warfare capabilities. India is also asking for several locally-produced mission systems to be integrated.
According to Indian media reports, the RFP was sent to eight contractors: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Airbus Military, Dassault, Saab, Bombardier, Embraer and ATR.
Given the vast potential of India's defence market, the contract is likely to be a hard-fought battle among the various bidders.
Boeing appears to be in a strong position. It is already supplying the navy with eight P-8I Neptune ASW aircraft, a variant of the US Navy's P-8A Poseidon. New Delhi's first 737-800 based P-8I arrived in May, and it will have three examples by the end of the year.
It also has other large contracts with the nation, including an order for 10 C-17 strategic transports, of which two have so far been delivered.
A source familiar with Indian naval aviation requirements says several indigenous Indian electronic systems aboard the P-8I are also required under the MRMR contract. Boeing's experience in integrating this equipment onto the Neptune could give it an edge in relation to the latest requirement.
Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database indicates that there are 104 CFM International CFM56-powered 737-800s flying with Indian commercial airlines, thus ensuring a strong support network for any P-8I variant.