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India Approves Purchase of More P8 Spy Planes From US to Counter a Growing Chinese Naval Presence

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New Delhi (Sputnik): The requirement of more spy planes comes against a backdrop of a mounting number of Chinese warships, including submarines, in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian defence ministry has approved the purchase of more long-range anti-submarine warfare P8-I aircraft for its navy which is facing strong competition from China in the Indian Ocean.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) - India’s highest decision-making body related to procurement - emphasised that these aircraft would “greatly strengthen the navy's capabilities for Maritime Coastal Surveillance (MCS), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Vessel strikes.”

The Indian Navy earlier ordered 12 P-8I aircraft, with eight of them inducted and the rest of the four slated for delivery by 2021-22.

The planes would be directly purchased from American aviation behemoth Boeing while the weaponry, radar, and other machinery are likely to be procured under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. The contract, which is worth around $3 billion, would be completed in 2020.

India's Chief Admiral Karambir Singh spoke in July about the development of the Chinese Navy and admitted that it is monitoring the massive growth of its northern neighbour, which has been displaying its assertiveness with the deployment of at least six to eight warships, including submarines, with patrols in the Indian Ocean.

Since 2017, India has been operating its warships and other maritime assets under a new strategic plan known as "Mission-Based Deployment" as it seeks to strengthen its dominant regional position amid a growing Chinese naval presence.

In July, India strengthened its eavesdropping capability with the commissioning of a dedicated spy base on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian archipelago in the Bay of Bengal.

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