Boeing has been awarded a $1 billion contract option by the Indian government for four more of the company’s P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft, USNI News has learned.
The four P-8Is – based on the U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft – follows a $2.1 billion 2009 initial deal for the eight of the aircraft. The option, built into the original deal, would add the four aircraft as a direct commercial sale, sources familiar with the option told USNI News on Wednesday.
The option to buy the quartet of aircraft was exercised in conjunction with a Wednesday visit to India by Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official.
Officials with Boeing would not confirm the exercise of the option but noted reports of the Ministry of Defense’s expressed intent to pick up the four aircraft.
“The Indian Navy has been clear about their intent to exercise these options,” company spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson told USNI News.
“We will defer to the MoD for any formal announcement.”
Based on Boeing’s 737 commercial airliner, India’s P-8 differs from the U.S. Navy configuration for the P-8 with the inclusion of an additional aft radar and a magnetic anomaly detector used to find submarines. Much of the configuration is informed by the “Make in India” initiative for domestically defense material. Following those standards, the aircraft will be built and outfitted at Boeing’s facilities outside of Seattle, Wash.
The P-8Is replace eight Soviet-era Tupelov Tu-142M Bear anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft the Indian Navy bought in 1988.
India’s purchase of the P-8Is from a U.S. supplier was seen as a break with its relationship with Moscow – to date New Delhi’s chief supplier of military hardware.
In the last several years, India has put effort into increasing its ASW capability as China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has pushed its submarine operations further west into the Indian Ocean. China is largely seen by New Delhi as India’s largest regional competitor.