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The Indian Navy’s plan to acquire additional P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) has been put on hold. Instead, the Navy has opted to procure nine new Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft based on the Airbus C-295 transport platform.

These MRMR aircraft, developed by Airbus, will provide the Navy with enhanced capabilities for various missions including maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, and maintaining maritime domain awareness. Additionally, they will be equipped with DRDO-developed Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communications Intelligence (COMINT), and special operations.

While the MRMR program fills an immediate need, the Navy’s long-term goal is a domestically developed, P-8I-class MPA. Collaborating with DRDO, the Navy is exploring the possibility of building a larger platform based on the Boeing 737-800 airliner or Same class, similar to the P-8I. This indigenous MPA is expected to match or even surpass the capabilities of the P-8I in terms of range and payload.

The project is currently in its deliberation phase, with the final configuration and platform selection likely taking several years. The development of the C-295-based MRMR aircraft is seen as a stepping stone towards achieving self-reliance in the production of advanced MPA platforms.

Developing a domestic MPA offers several advantages. It would not only reduce dependence on foreign suppliers but also create jobs and boost the Indian aerospace industry. Additionally, an indigenous platform could be customized to meet the Navy’s specific needs and operational environment.

Indian Navy is watching Netra Mk-II and Mk-III programs initiated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and DRDO and much of the technology that will go into this program can be modernized and customized for Maritime Reconnaissance that might go into the Indigenous Maritime Patrol Aircraft program in the future.

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