Boeing has launched discussions with Indian industry for offset deals linked to a new contract to supply at least eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to the nation's navy. The company's search is focused on finding structural and avionics partners to fulfil a requirement reportedly worth 30% of the deal's $2.1 billion value.

"We are working with a number of suppliers in India to work out the details. That is ongoing," says Bob Feldmann, Boeing vice-president and programme manager for the P-8I.

A version of the US Navy's 737-based P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft, the design was selected after a long-range maritime reconnaissance competition against types including EADS's Airbus A319. India becomes the first export customer for the type, which will replace its current Tupolev Tu-142 turboprops.

New Delhi will purchase a first batch of eight P-8I airframes and mission systems under a direct commercial sale, with weapons including sonobuoys, torpedos and Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles to be added via the US government's Foreign Military Sales system.

Indian officials have not informed Boeing of any requirement to integrate other weapons, such as the Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missile being developed by India and Russia.

 © Boeing

Deliveries will run between 2013 and 2015, although Indian media reports suggest that the deal could eventually be expanded to total 12-16 aircraft. "Ultimately, it's the Indian government's and Indian navy's call as to what their need is, but we expect more P-8s to be added in the future," says Feldmann.

The sale must now be approved by the US Department of State and Congress, but Feldmann says that Boeing already has "export authority for a tremendous amount of this weapon system. We are confident that Congressional notification will occur and then we will go forward with the whole programme." New Delhi has previously signed a $1 billion contract for six Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports.

Boeing expects to perform the first test flight of a prototype P-8A in the third quarter of this year, with the type due to enter service with its first US Navy unit in fiscal year 2013.

Source: Flight International