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
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.
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. Indias Bharat Electronics
Ltd (BEL) has already started supplying its Data
Link II system to facilitate P8-Is communications
with Indian space, naval, and land based-assets.
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 Raytheons APY-10
radar and Northrop Grummans Electronic Warfare
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.
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.