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Indian Navy to induct 24 Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft


By Gulshan Luthra Published: December 2011

New Delhi. The Indian Navy will acquire 12 more Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft in addition to the 12 Boeing P8-I already ordered or being ordered.


Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma told India Strategic in an interview that the Navy was satisfied with the progress of the first eight Indian P8-Is being built by Boeing under a 2009 order and that the second order for four more aircraft was being processed to be placed within the current fiscal ending March 2012.

The Government had cleared these 12 aircraft already as requested by the Navy, and at a later date, it was being planned to acquire 12 more LRMRs for offshore surveillance and protection of the Indian waters and interests, bringing the total to 24, he said.

The exact type of the 12 additional aircraft would be worked out later.

India has a large coastline exceeding 7500 km and several island territories and economic interests in both its east and west.

Notably, the Indian Navy has been using old, Soviet vintage maritime reconnaissance aircraft but after the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai from Pakistan, the Government cleared the first eight P8-Is within three months of the horror. Four more were cleared earlier in 2011.

In fact, it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself who had asked the Ministry of Defence to ensure modernization of the Navy after the 26/11 attacks, in which 10 Pakistani terrorists easily managed to infiltrate into Mumbai (Bombay) and murder nearly 166 persons and injure more than 300.

It may be noted that there had been a virtual paralysis in the Government on defence modernization after the V P Singh Government instituted inquiries in 1989 over the controversial Bofors gun deal with Sweden. The Kargil War over Pakistani occupation of strategic Himalayan heights inside India triggered the first round of modernization, and the 26/11 terror attack, the second.

Admiral Verma said that the P8-I is the most advanced LRMR platform with capability to observe even small boats and destroy hostile submarines. India is the first export customer for this US aircraft, and the advantage is that India will benefit from the hi-tech systems being developed for the US Navy, (which has ordered 117 aircraft).

Most of the specifications of the US Navy and the Indian Navy are reportedly common but details are understandably being kept secret.

There would be some Indian components though, thanks to the offsets and Transfer of Technology (ToT) requirements. India’s Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has already started supplying its Data Link II system to facilitate P8-I’s communications with Indian space, naval, and land based-assets.

The US aircraft, designated P8-A Poseidon Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA), has the capability for broad area surveillance and launching Harpoon anti-ship and land attack missiles, depth charges and torpedoes against submarines and underwater unmanned assets. The aircraft can also perform electronic intelligence (ELINT) missions with its highly sophisticated Raytheon’s APY-10 radar and Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Warfare (EW) systems.

The first Indian P8-I, which had the first test flight on Sep 28 in the presence of Indian naval officials, is due to be delivered in January 2013. The first US Navy P8-A flew in April 2009 and is due to be delivered mid-2012.

Admiral Verma said that he expected all the P8-Is to be delivered in about six to seven years but did not give the planned schedule.

The P8 aircraft is a next-gen military version of Boeing 737-800 fuselage with wings from 737-900. The engines are also from the same CFM family used on commercial 737s but more powerful permitting the aircraft low level cruise over the waters and launch sonobuoys to detect submarines.

There are five stations for systems and weapons operators, and the aircraft can be in the air for several hours.

According to a Boeing statement, “All sensors contribute to a single fused tactical situation display, which is then shared over both military standard and internet protocol data links, allowing for seamless delivery of information while simultaneously providing data to everyone on the network.”


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