Boeing completes delivery of 12 P-8I aircraft to India - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 25 February 2022

Boeing completes delivery of 12 P-8I aircraft to India

The P-8I has been an important asset, given its maritime surveillance, recce, anti-sub and HADR capabilities. 


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 25th Feb 22


The Boeing Company delivered on Thursday the last of 12 P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (LRMR-ASW) aircraft ordered by the Indian Navy.


The Indian Navy became the first international customer for the P-8I in January 2009, when it signed a contract with Boeing for eight P-8I Poseidon aircraft for US $2.17 billion, according to a Comptroller & Auditor General report.


In 2013, the Indian Navy began inducting those first eight Poseidons. These have since flown 35,000 flight hours, imposing tight control and close observation over the northern Indian Ocean.


In 2016, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracted for four more P-8Is under an options clause in the first contract. The P-8I delivered on Thursday is the last one of those four. 


Today, the P-8 is also operated by the US Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the UK’s Royal Air Force and the Royal Norwegian Air Force.


The P-8I has proven to be an important asset to India, given its exceptional maritime surveillance, reconnaissance and anti-submarine capabilities, The aircraft has also been deployed in disaster relief and humanitarian missions.


It has played an important role in the two-year stand-off on the Ladakh border with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), stealthily reconnoitring Chinese positions and picking up PLA deployments in rear areas.


“With this delivery of the P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, we continue to nurture this partnership [with India] and are fully committed to working closely with India’s defence forces to deliver the right value and capabilities to meet their operational needs,” said Surendra Ahuja, formerly an Indian Navy admiral and now heading 

Boeing Defence India (BDI).


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


These include a 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 destroyed by on-board Harpoon missiles or Mark 54 torpedoes. Alternatively, the targets are 'handed on' digitally to friendly warships, or submarines, which finish the job.


BDI – Boeing’s local subsidiary in India -- supports the Indian Navy’s growing P-8I fleet by training flight crews, providing spare parts, ground support equipment and field-service representative support. Boeing’s integrated logistics support has enabled a high state of fleet readiness at the lowest possible cost.


Several complex and mission critical P-8I components such as the radar fingerprinting system, IFF (I/T) and datalink, speech secrecy system, mobile satcom system and wire harnesses are made in India by supplier partners, including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) located across the nation. 


Boeing says it has strengthened its supply chain with more than 275 partners in India and a joint venture to manufacture fuselages for Apache helicopters. Annual sourcing from India stands at $1 billion. Boeing currently employs over 3,500 people in India, and more than 7,000 people work with its supply chain partners.


Boeing is also setting up a Training Support and Data Handling Centre at INS Rajali, Arakkonam, in Tamil Nadu, the primary base from which P-8I missions are launched to monitor the Indian Ocean.


In addition, Boeing is establishing a secondary centre at the Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology, Kochi, as part of a training-and-support package contract signed in 2019. That will allow navy P-8I crews to increase mission proficiency quickly, and reduce the on-aircraft training time, freeing aircraft for mission tasking.


Over the years and during joint naval exercises with partner countries, such as Exercise Malabar, Indian P-8I crews have developed joint drills and communication protocols with their counterparts that enable them to take swift and lethal action against hostile warships and submarines.


To enhance this interoperability, India has concluded joint agreements with partner countries, such as the US. These include the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geospatial co-operation (BECA).


In any war with China, the P-8Is will play a crucial role in tracking ships and submarines of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N), while they attempt to move from the South China Sea into the Indian Ocean.


To forestall this, the Indian Navy’s P-8Is would patrol and mount surveillance over four major Southeast Asian straits – Malacca, Lombok, Sunda, and Ombai-Wetar.

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