The Indian Navy seems desperately eager to acquire an all-P8i Poseidon fleet and phase out, as quickly as affordable, the eight multi-role Tu-142 long range turboprop aircraft currently deployed in MR, ASW, and anti-ship (AS) roles out of the naval airbase at Arrakonam. This must be a fairly recent decision to retire the Tupolevs acquired in the 1980s because, not too long ago, the navy had procured from Ukraine a modified rotating system of weapons carriage in its bomb-bay to enable easier, more effective, delivery of ordnance. Much of that investment is thus wasted. But it is a bad move for another reason. While an additional eight P-8is have been ordered from Boeing, these will not all be inducted for another 5-6 years. Meanwhile, Russia has made it known it has 20 of the newer version of the Tu-142, which can be modified with the rotator system-equipped bomb-bay and fitted to fire the Brahmos AS cruise missile in case India is interested, and which could be secured for a reasonable sum. So, instead of just one P-8i MR squadron, India could trade in its eight for the newer Tupolevs and buy eight more of the same and constitute a second MR/ASW/AS Tu-142 squadron.
This is also by way of a precautionary measure. One can never tell when Washington may decide to over-ride contractual obligations and, with legislative prompting, cutoff spares and service support for the Poseidon fleet, and leave India stranded w/o any MR/ASW/AS complement, which will happen if there’s no fallback option. Remember how the Sea King unit was grounded in the aftermath of the 1998 N-tests when sanctions were abruptly imposed because, even though the helicopter was UK-sourced, it had a US component that Washington expressly denied the Indian Navy?
It is strategic thinking. If one is dependent on imported arms — then best to secure the same genus of item — if it is at all feasible — from rival vendor camps. (For those who’ll see in this recommendation an inconsistency — won’t securing French Rafales reduce dependence on Russia, etc, the difference is that the alternative to Rafale is the indigenous Tejas Mk-II.) With PLAN growing its presence in the Indian Ocean in the future, there’s no such thing as too many long range MR/ASW/AS warfare aircraft. And we better not get into a position of vulnerability where any particular vendor country can shut down so critical a capability.