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US delivers 9th Poseidon P-8i surveillance aircraft to India

Indian Navy Boeing P-8I Neptune Poseidon (Clemens Vasters/Wikimedia Commons)
November 21, 2020

On Wednesday, India’s Navy added another asset to its maritime surveillance capability by getting its first Boeing P-8i Poseidon under four aircraft deal signed by both nations worth $1.1 billion, according to The Economic Times. Overall, this is the ninth aircraft in the Indian Navy fleet – the remaining three will be delivered by end of the 2021 fiscal year.

Naval aircraft are an important component for the Indian Navy, specifically the maritime reconnaissance aircraft Boeing P-8i Poseidon, built and designed on the Boeing’s long-body, twin-engine passenger carrier Boeing 737-800ERX.

Built initially for the U.S. Navy, India became the first international customer of this aircraft in 2013, ordering eight planes on customized requirements. As a result, Boeing’s original P-8A Neptune for the U.S. Navy got extensive customization with additional installation of the AN/ASQ-508A Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) and a Telephonics APS-143C(V)3 multi-mode aft radar, which concluded with making different variants for Indian export purposes, or as it’s known today, the P-8i Poseidon.

India uses P-8i to conduct tactical to strategic surveillance and reconnaissance in deep seas and over land during dire situations. P-8i has the ability to conduct anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and deep-sea routes, monitoring roles with the help of various onboard equipment and weapons. The aircraft is armed with torpedoes, harpoon anti-ship missiles and the ability to drop sonar buoys to conduct underwater and subsurface acoustic signature monitoring.

The Indian Navy has a history of using this aircraft to track Chinese submarine movement in the Indian Ocean, plus the aircraft was used to track Pakistani movement in the sea after the Pulwama attack. P-8i gives the Indian Navy an edge over other adversaries in the Indian Ocean in surveillance capability, giving India real-time tracking ability of hostile ships. The Indian Navy has based these aircraft on its western command base in Goa, INS Hansa, and plans to base another fleet on eastern command to effectively bring an entire ocean under its tracking range.

Recently, P-8i aircraft were extensively used to keep track of Chinese movement over Ladakh, since the Indo-China stand-off heated up with aggressive military buildup by both sides on LAC.

With recent delivery, the Indian Navy now operates a total of nine P-8i aircraft while the remaining three aircraft are stated to be delivered by next year-end, according to a deal made in 2016 that added six more aircraft cleared for procurement from the acquisition deck last year by the Indian Ministry of Defense.