Indian navy issues maritime patrol, amphibian requests

Singapore
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The Indian navy has issued requests for information for a medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and nine twin-engined multi-role amphibians.

The first requirement foresees an aircraft capable of maritime patrol, anti-surface warfare, electronic intelligence and search and rescue. It must have two engines and be capable of all-weather operations.

Boeing confirms that it has proposed a variant of its 737-based P-8I for the role, and an industry source says Sweden's Saab has also pitched the Saab 2000 maritime patrol aircraft.

In regard to performance, the selected aircraft must be able to patrol for at least 4h while 740km (400nm) from its base carrying a "full mission configuration" with a minimum of two anti-ship missiles. The aircraft must also be capable of being refuelled while airborne.

The RFI calls for a radar capable of 360° coverage that can detect and track "surface vessels, ships, submarine periscopes and low flying aircraft/missiles against sea clutter".

In 2009, India cancelled a request for proposals for six medium-range maritime patrol aircraft to replace its 12 Britten-Norman Group BN-2 Islanders, which the navy hopes to begin retiring from around 2013. One of the aircraft competing in the earlier tender was a maritime patrol variant of the Embraer EMB-145. The Indian air force will soon receive three EMB-145s for the airborne early warning and control role.

The amphibian RFI calls for an aircraft with twin or multiple engines, preferably turboprops, equipped with full authority digital engine control and a range of at least 800nm. The aircraft must also be capable of short take-offs and landings from both the ocean surface and runways.

Other roles the aircraft will perform are supplying spare parts to naval units at sea, visual and radar surveillance of coastal areas and islands, and rapid response missions for humanitarian assistance. A cargo door capable of handling an inflatable rescue dingy is also required.

Notably, the RFI outlines an extensive electronic warfare suite, including forward-looking infrared sensor, sideways looking airborne radar, radar warning receiver and missile approach warning system.

Possible contenders for the amphibian requirement could include the Bombardier 415 and Beriev Be-200.

India is in the process of upgrading its maritime patrol capabilities. It will receive its first of eight P-8Is before January 2013 to replace its Tupolev Tu-142 turboprops. It also recently commissioned its second unmanned air vehicle squadron, which will operate Israel Aerospace Industries-supplied Herons and Searcher IIs over the northern Arabian Sea.

India faces a challenging maritime environment in the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. Piracy is a problem in the Indian Ocean, while potential rival China has access to ports in countries such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

In May 2010, India's air force issued an RFI for amphibious aircraft for deployment in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.