The Indian Navy has formally signed a deal with US aviation giant, Boeing for four P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft. The deal costing around US $1 Billion is being placed enforcing the follow-on clauses enclosed in the now completed P8I order of 2009.
Long Range ASW aircraft is the need of the hour for the Indian Navy to counter the growing threats of lurking Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The P8I is a supplement to India’s depleting submarine force. The induction of these technologically advanced aircraft allows the country keep a close watch over the strategic choke points such as the Malacca straits.
The P8I is largely based on Boeing’s 737-NG commercial aircraft. India’s tryst with the aircraft began in May 2013 when the first aircraft was inducted into the Indian Navy. After a long and through evaluation program the navy had selected the capable P8I aircraft as a replacement to the aging fleet of Tupolev aircraft.
India and Boeing signed an agreement for the delivery of eight P8I aircraft in January 2009. Boeing completed the delivery by November 2015 and shortly after the maiden squadron ‘INAS 312A’ was raised at INS Rajali, Arakkonam.
The aircraft can be used for Search and Rescue (SAR), Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti Surface Warfare (ASUW) missions. The aircraft is capable of carrying depth charges, torpedoes and Harpoon Anti Shipping Missile (AShM).
The aircraft has a range of around 2,300 kilometres and can stay airborne for over four hours. The OceanEye Aft Radar systems can effectively be classified as the eyes of the aircraft. The highly advanced radar system enables the user to have unmatched situational awareness about the operational area.
The Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) enables the aircraft to detect even the slightest anomaly in the ocean bed. MAD is augmented by various sensors and the sonobouys the aircraft carries in its belly.
Crucial subsystems for the aircraft have been developed by various Indian firms. The contribution of Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Avantel Systems and Electronics Corporation of India (ECI) is noteworthy.
The Indian Navy has permanently deployed a P8I aircraft under the Andaman and Nicobar (ANC) tri-command. An aircraft has also been operationally posted to the distant Seychelles. India realized the capabilities of the aircraft further during the search for the MH-370 airliner and in its search for a downed Dornier surveillance aircraft. The P8I aircraft is also part of the ongoing SAR operations for the missing AN-32 IAF aircraft.
The addition of four more P8I aircraft to the Indian Navy is a shot in the arm for India’s mission in maintaining vigil over the strategic waters of the Indian Ocean. The aircraft using its countless technologies can effectively detect and hunt down any hostile threats lurking in the unknown waters.