Indian Navy is expected to order the next lot of six Boeing P8I maritime surveillance aircraft in 2021.
Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said at press conference in New Delhi on December 3 that “six P8I will be done next year”.
Indian Navy has been using the Boeing P8I planes since 2013 and now has fleet of nine such planes, three more are on order and deliveries are expected to be done in 2021. Besides this, six additional ones means the fleet goes up to 18 and could be deployed over wider areas and longer periods.
The signing of key agreements with the US like the COMCASA means information and data is shared across the Indian P8I and P8-A used by the US.
India is keen on more P8I as Chinese submarines continue to make a foray into the Indian ocean.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the apex decision making body of the Ministry of Defence in India on November 28, 2019 okayed the need for six more P8I. It had considered the proposal. A statement of the MoD said: “The DAC also approved procurement of Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) Anti-Submarine Warfare P8I aircraft for the Indian Navy”. These aircraft would greatly strengthen the Navy’s capabilities for maritime coastal surveillance, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Vessel (ASV) strike, the statement added.
The Boeing P-8I is a derivative of the P-8A used by the United States Navy. The aircraft is developed by Boeing Defence, Space & Security, modified from the commercial planes 737-800ERX.
The planes are used for patrolling the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC’s) extending east and west of peninsular India. The plane is potent for maritime reconnaissance and at the same time has capability for anti submarine and anti ship warfare and various operations.
Indian Navy has an expanded role especially with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Act east policy’ and to check on an increasing deployment of Chinese warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean.