Asia Defense | Politics | Security | South Asia

US State Department Clears Lightweight Torpedo, Harpoon Missile Sales to India

India is slated to receive 16 MK 54 lightweight torpedoes and ten Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles for its latest maritime patrol aircraft.

US State Department Clears Lightweight Torpedo, Harpoon Missile Sales to India
Credit: Indian Navy

The U.S. Department of State on April 13 cleared the possible sale of 10 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles and 16 MK 54 lightweight torpedoes and related equipment for service on the Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I Neptune advanced maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft at an approximate combined cost of $155 million.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified U.S. Congress of the possible sales, which are still subject to congressional approval.

The proposed sales “will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region,” a DSCA statement reads.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The AGM-84L Harpoon Block II is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, sea-skimming anti-ship/land-attack missile. “The Harpoon missile system will be integrated into the P-8I aircraft to conduct anti-surface warfare missions in defense of critical sea lanes while enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allied forces,” according to DSCA.

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“The MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo will provide the capability to conduct anti-submarine warfare missions. India will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense,” a separate DSCA statement notes. Included in the sale are also three Mk 54 exercise torpedoes. “India intends to utilize MK 54 Lightweight Torpedoes on its P-8I aircraft.” As I explained previously:

The P-8I is equipped with some of the most modern U.S. anti-submarine warfare (ASW) technology including a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar system and a cutting-edge magnetic anomaly detector The APS-143 is not present on the original P-8A Poseidon in use by the U.S. Navy.

The aircraft is also armed with U.S. weapons systems including Harpoon Block-II missiles, [and]  MK-54 lightweight torpedoes [next to others]. The aircraft are all data-linked with Indian submarines in order to have the capability to pass on information about enemy vessels.

The Indian Navy’s P-8I squadron (Indian Naval Air Squadron 312A) is stationed at naval air station Rajali in southern India and consists of eight aircraft.

The Indian government and Boeing concluded a $2.1 billion contract for the purchase of eight P-8I aircraft in 2009. The Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) placed a $1.1. billion follow-on order for four additional P-8Is in 2016.

The Navy is expected to begin receiving the second batch of four aircraft this May. Additionally, the MoD approved the purchase of six more P-8Is in June 2019.