Saturday, October 16, 2010

20,000-crore boost for Navy’s snooping power

NEW DELHI: In a strong booster dose to India’s maritime reconnaissance and “strategic sea-lift ” capabilities, the defence ministry has cleared the acquisition of four longrange surveillance aircraft and four big amphibious assault warships for the Navy.

MoD sources say the two big naval projects, whose cumulative worth is Rs 20,600 crore, were cleared by the defence acquisitions council, chaired by A K Antony, on Monday afternoon.

The four new aircraft will be the P-8 I Poseidon longrange maritime patrol aircraft , which will add to the eight such planes already contracted from Boeing under the $2.1-billion deal inked in January 2009. It will take this biggest-ever Indo-US defence deal till date past the $3-billion mark, making it even bigger, as was first reported by TOI last month.

The entire project to acquire the four amphibious warfare ships, called Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) in naval lingo, will be worth around Rs 16,000 crore.

The LPD project will be executed under the “buy and make” category of the Defence Procurement Procedure , which basically involves licensed indigenous manufacture in collaboration with a foreign manufacturer.

“At least two of the LPDs will be constructed at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) at Visakhapatnam, which was transferred from the shipping ministry to the defence ministry last year to meet national security requirements of building strategic vessels,” said a source. Both the P-8 Is and the LPDs are crucial to the Navy’s long-term strategic plans. The 12 P-8 I aircraft, the first of which is slated for induction by early 2013, will help India plug the existing gaps in its surveillance of the entire Indian Ocean Region.

Armed with torpedoes, depth bombs and Harpoon missiles, apart from being packed with long-range radars and sensors, the P-8 Is will also boost its anti-warship and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

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