New Delhi: Amid the standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Navy Wednesday got its ninth P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, part of the nearly $1 billion deal with the US for four additional planes signed in 2016.
India, which had first signed a contract for eight such aircraft in 2009, is also negotiating a deal for six more P-8Is with the US under the government-to-government route.
Incidentally, the aircraft, the latest of which landed at INS Hansa in Goa early Wednesday morning, is also being used by India in Ladakh for surveillance besides the Indian Ocean Region. It was deployed during the 2017 Doklam standoff as well.
The Indian Navy has been put on complete operational alert and almost its entire Western and Eastern Fleet are out in the Indian Ocean Region as part of India’s response to Chinese aggression.
While the ninth aircraft was scheduled to be handed over to the Indian Navy in July this year, the Covid pandemic delayed plans. The remaining three are scheduled to be handed over to India in 2021.
The Indian fleet of P-8I aircraft, a variant of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft that Boeing developed as a replacement for the US Navy’s ageing P-3 fleet, has surpassed 25,000 flight hours since it was inducted in 2013.
India had become the first international customer for the P-8 aircraft with the conclusion of the nearly $2.1 billion contract on 1 January 2009 for a total of eight aircraft.
India is also the second biggest operator of the aircraft in the world.
The P-8I is equipped for long range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of broad area, maritime and littoral operations.
Incidentally, its communication and sensor suite include indigenous equipment developed by defence PSUs and private manufacturers.
India awarded Boeing a three-year contract to continue supporting the Indian Navy’s P-8I fleet, not only through “field and logistics service representatives” but also “engineering”, “planning” and “robust material support.”
In a statement, Boeing said it is currently completing construction of the Training Support and Data Handling Centre at INS Rajali, Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu, and a secondary centre at the Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology, Kochi, as part of a training and support package contract signed in 2019.
The indigenous, ground-based training is meant to allow the Indian Navy crew to increase mission proficiency in a shorter time while reducing the on-aircraft training time resulting in increased aircraft availability for mission tasking.