Navy gets its second maritime air surveillance squadron: INAS 316... the Condors - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 30 March 2022

Navy gets its second maritime air surveillance squadron: INAS 316... the Condors

Over the years, Indian P-8I crews have developed joint drills and communication protocols with their foreign counterpart navies


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 30th Mar 22


Indian Naval Air Squadron 316 (INAS 316), the navy's second squadron equipped with four Boeing P-8I aircraft, was commissioned into the Indian Navy in Goa on Tuesday. 


INAS 316 has been christened “Condors”, after one of the largest flying land birds with a massive wingspan, excellent sensory capabilities and powerful talons that symbolise the aircraft’s capabilities. The new squadron’s insignia depicts a 'Condor' searching over the vast blue expanse of the sea.


The Indian Navy's first P-8I squadron was set up with eight aircraft at INS Rajali in Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu, in November 2015. India was the first international customer for the P-8I in January 2009, when it signed a contract with Boeing for eight P-8I for $2.17 billion, according to a Comptroller & Auditor General report.


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.


In 2016, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracted for four more P-8Is under an options clause in the first contract. These aircraft have been operating from INS Hansa since their delivery in December 2021.


The commissioning ceremony in Goa was addressed by the naval chief, Admiral R Hari Kumar, who stated: “India is the 'Preferred Security Partner' in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). This reflects our country's ability to play an effective strategic role in the region, and the need to expand its operational reach.” 


The Boeing P-8I Poseidon aircraft that INAS 316 will operate is a long-range maritime reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare (LRMR ASW) aircraft, that is equipped with a range of air-to-ship missiles and torpedoes. 


The aircraft, 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, that make it is a potent platform for maritime surveillance and strike, electronic warfare missions, search and rescue and providing targeting data to other weapon platforms. It is also the platform of choice for detecting and neutralising enemy ships and submarines in Indian Ocean Region. 


P-8I Poseidons have 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.


The aircraft’s sensors 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.


Over the years and during joint naval exercises such as Exercise Malabar, Indian P-8I crews have developed joint drills and communication protocols with their foreign 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).


INAS 316 is commanded by Commander Amit Mohapatra, a Boeing P-8I pilot with extensive operational experience. 

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