The Indian Navy has received its ninth P-8I Neptune long-range maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the manufacturer Boeing informed on Wednesday.
The aircraft has been an integral and efficient platform with the service since its induction in 2013 and has surpassed 25,000 flight hours.
“Our focus has been, and will be, on delivering the world’s best maritime patrol aircraft to the Indian Navy,” said Surendra Ahuja, managing director of Boeing Defence India. “The P-8I, with its exceptional maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, versatility and operational readiness, has proven to be an important asset to the Indian Navy. We remain committed to supporting the modernization and mission readiness of India’s defense forces.”
The aircraft is the first of the additional four aircraft ordered by the Indian Government in 2016. According to the company, the Indian Navy was the first and currently the largest international export customer of the P-8 platform.
Boeing is also involved in building support and maintenance infrastructure along with the training of Indian Navy crews. The company is currently completing construction of the Training Support & Data Handling Centre at INS Rajali, Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu, and a secondary center 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 will 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,” it said.
India has used these aircraft in a variety of roles including battlefield survey and reconnaissance and the P-8 has gained a respectable operational history with the service. It has been deployed to most of the recent standoff conflicts the country has been engaged in the past seven years, including the Doklam standoff and near its borders with Pakistan.
In February 2020, the Indian Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat stated, “I came to know about the capabilities of the P-8I anti-submarine warfare planes after they were deployed in Doklam for surveillance.” The planes are also deployed in Ladakh during the ongoing standoff with China.
The P-8I “Neptune”
An India-specific variant of the P-8A was proposed by Boeing to the Indian Government, designated the P-8I ‘’Neptune’. This export variant included two additions not featured in the USN’s P-8A, which are a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar and a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD).
After analyzing Boeing’s proposal, the Indian Navy was impressed and the government signed a US$2.1 billion agreement with the company for eight P-8Is to replace the Indian Navy’s aging Tupolev Tu-142M maritime surveillance turboprops. It was Boeing’s first international sale to India.
The indigenous Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) Data Link II communications allow the P-8I to exchange tactical data between Indian Navy aircraft, ships and shore establishments; it also features an integrated BEL-developed IFF system. India has purchased AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles and Mk 54 All-Up-Round Lightweight torpedoes for the P-8I.