Navy weighs ordering more P-8I aircraft as Boeing nears end of delivery - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 18 October 2021

Navy weighs ordering more P-8I aircraft as Boeing nears end of delivery

Boeing has delivered 11 of the 12 P-8I Poseidon aircraft ordered by India. The question now is: To order more of these, or to lease Sea Guardian drones?



By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 19th Oct 21


The Indian Navy’s ability to detect and destroy enemy submarines has been given a substantial boost with The Boeing Company delivering the eleventh of twelve P-8I Poseidon “long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare” (LRMR-ASW) aircraft ordered by India.


Since the first P-8I Poseidon was inducted into the Indian Navy in 2013 and during the 30,000 flight hours that the Poseidon fleet has logged since then, the aircraft has become the cutting edge of India’s ASW arsenal.


The P-8I, which is widely acknowledged to be the world’s most deadly LRMR-ASW aircraft, is a derivative of the Boeing 737-800 airliner, onto which a plethora of sensors and weaponry has been fitted.


It has Raytheon multi-mode radar to detect aircraft, surface ships and submarines, while another belly-mounted radar looks backwards like an electronic rear-view mirror. A “magnetic anomaly detector” on the P-8I’s tail detects submarines from the magnetic field that large masses of metal (such as submarine hulls) create.


Hostile submarines, once detected, are required to be destroyed. The on-board Harpoon missiles and Mark 54 torpedoes do that. Alternatively, the targets are “handed on” digitally to friendly warships, or submarines, which finish the job.


The Indian Navy became the first international customer for the P-8I in January 2009, when it signed a contract with Boeing for eight aircraft for US $2.177 billion, according to a Comptroller & Auditor General report.


In 2016, the Indian Navy signed a follow-on contract, under the “options” clause in the first contract, for four additional P-8I aircraft. With just one more P-8I aircraft left to be delivered, the navy has been grappling with the question of whether to order more of these lethal aircraft.


Instead of acquiring more P-8I aircraft, the Indian Navy also has the option of buying or leasing MQ-9B Sea Guardian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which can carry out surveillance of vast expanses of the Indian Ocean. Washington has already leased two of these Category-1 platforms to India after New Delhi became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime.


Today India operates the largest Poseidon fleet outside the US. Besides the Indian Navy, the P-8 is operated only by the three AUKUS countries: The Royal Australian Air Force, the UK’s Royal Air Force and the US Navy. 


During several bilateral and multilateral naval exercises with these countries – such as Exercise Malabar, last week – the Indian P-8I crews have developed joint drills and communications protocols with their counterparts that enable them to take swift and lethal action against warships and submarines from hostile countries.


This interoperability has been greatly enhanced by the conclusion of agreements such as Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA).


In exercises such as Malabar, as in a war with China, the P-8Is would play a crucial role in tracking any Chinese attempt to move their navy from their bases in the South China Sea into the Indian Ocean. To forestall this, the navy’s P-8Is would patrol and mount surveillance over four major south east Asian straits – Malacca, Lombok, Sunda and Ombai Wettar.


Boeing says its integrated logistics support package has enabled the P-8I fleet to remain at a high state of readiness at the lowest possible cost. Boeing is completing construction of a Training Support & Data Handling Centre (TSDH) at INS Rajali – the home base for P-8Is at Arakkonam, in Tamil Nadu. A secondary centre is coming up in Kochi at the Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology, as part of a training-and-support package contract signed in 2019.


Over the years, Boeing has strengthened its supply chain in India, sourcing about $1 billion worth of equipment annually from more than 275 partners, who employ over 10,000 workers. This includes a joint venture with the Tata group to manufacture fuselages for Apache helicopters.


In addition to unmatched maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, the P-8I has been deployed to assist during disaster relief and humanitarian missions. Navy chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, has stated that the maritime aircraft was also used in Ladakh, during the on-going stand-off with the Chinese. 

1 comment:

  1. Despite the P-81 aircraft of the IN having been obviously patrolling the Indian Ocean, I don't remember any press releases by the Indian Navy mentioning any Chinese submarines having a presence in the Indian Ocean that was of concern to India. Do such instances occur so frequently, that they can't be reported, or is the reality otherwise?


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