New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) The US Navy has begun acquiring the sophisticated lightweight air-launched Mk-54 torpedoes from the US weapon maker Raytheon for the Indian Navy.
A company spokesperson told India Strategic magazine (www.indiastrategic.in) from Tewksbury in the US that the US Navy has placed an order for the torpedoes and associated equipment worth $45.3 million for the Indian and Australian navies. The breakup of numbers and respective costs was not given,
The Indian Navy will deploy the missiles on its eight P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft being built and integrated by Boeing. The torpedoes are primarily meant for hunting submarines.
The aircraft will also carry Boeing's Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles and other offensive systems, including the highly advanced Raytheon APY-10 radar to track even small vessels far away. Its range though is classified but should be between 300 to 400 km.
The aircraft being purchased by India and Australia are the same, built on the Boeing 737-800 platforms, but the Indian variant has some systems supplied by Indian companies to make its communications secure and compatible with Indian naval and air assets. They include the Data Link II communication system from Bharat Electronics, an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) transponder from HAL, a speech secrecy system from ECIL and a mobile SATCOM (satellite communication system) from Avantel.
India is buying eight P-8Is from Boeing and its sophisticated EW (Electronic Warfare) and missile systems are being acquired from the US Navy under the US government's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.
A further order for another eight aircraft, and possibly more later, is awaited as the Indian Navy gradually has to phase out its outdated Soviet vintage maritime aircraft in the coming few years.
The first two aircraft are undergoing test flights and should be delivered mid-2013, Boeing officials had told a group of visiting Indian journalists in July.
The impending torpedo deal was announced in June this year by Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which manages the FMS. It had said then: 'This sale reflects the mutual benefits of the U.S.-India security partnership. For India, the combined sale of the P-8I aircraft with the Mk-54 torpedoes will add to India's anti-submarine capability, as it expands its ability to protect India and the critical sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. The offer highlights the US commitment to share cutting-edge technology with India and to ensure that both nations enjoy the benefits of a secure and stable South Asia.'
The Indian variant also has an aft APS-143C(V)3 Multi-Mode Radar (MMR) from Telephonics to ensure 360 degree coverage and a transponder beacon from DRS Technologies, both US companies.
A Raytheon official told this writer during a recent visit to the Rhode island that the MK54 is the US Navy's next generation lightweight torpedo, 'designed to counter the threats of enemy submarines in deep-ocean or littoral environments'.
'Developed jointly by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and the US Navy, the MK-54 leverages the most modern torpedo technologies from the Mk-50 and Mk-48 ADCAP (advanced capability) programmess as well as the proven warhead and propulsion subsystems of the Mk-46.'
'As enemy submarines remain a threat to security, stability and access to the world's oceans, naval forces worldwide require a reliable and effective undersea warfare weapon,' said Kevin Peppe, vice president of Seapower Capability Systems for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business, adding: 'Together with the US Navy, we continue to advance the development of the world's most effective lightweight torpedo, delivering its proven capabilities to meet the anti-submarine warfare needs' of US and friendly fleets.
The Mk-54 can also be deployed from a surface ship, helicopter or fixed wing aircraft to track, classify and attack underwater targets.
(Gulshan Luthra can be contacted at email@example.com)