Two more Poseidon-8Is for Indian Navy: All about India’s eyes in the sky and where they are being stationed
The Poseidon-8I maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. |  Photo Credit: PTI
- The Indian government inked its first deal with Boeing to supply eight P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft in January 2009. At the time, the contract included a clause providing for the option of an additional four aircraft
- The P-8Is are equipped with the US-made Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes and rockets
- The aircraft is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 789 km/h and a maximum altitude of 12,496 metres
The world’s second-largest fleet of Poseidon-8I maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft just got bigger with India announcing the induction of two more aircraft, in what amounts to a significant boost to its surveillance capabilities in the Indian Ocean. “The Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I aircraft commenced operations from INS Hansa, Goa with two aircraft arriving on December 30.
The aircraft were inducted after fitment of indigenous equipment and flight acceptance trials,” said Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal. The arrival of the two aircraft was welcomed by a MiG 29K formation, he added. The Indian government inked its first deal with Boeing to supply eight P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft in January 2009.
At the time, the contract included a clause providing for the option of an additional four aircraft. In doing so, the Indian Navy became the first export customer for the Boeing-made aircraft. The maiden flight of the first P-8I aircraft took place in September 2011 and following flight test programmes in July 2012, the Navy received its first aircraft in December 2012.
By 2015, all eight aircraft were acquired by the Indian Navy. In November 2019, India’s Defence Acquisition Council approved the procurement of ten more P-8I aircraft, three of which were delivered in November 2020, July 2021 and October 2021, respectively. At a length of 39.47 metres, a height of 12.83 metres and boasting a wingspan of 37.64 metres, the P-8I, based on the Boeing Next-Generation 737 commercial airplane, is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon deployed by the US Navy.
It is equipped with some of the most sophisticated US anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities including a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar system and a state-of-the-art magnetic anomaly detector. The former is not even equipped on the P-8A Poseidons in use by the US Navy. The P-8Is are also equipped with the US-made Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes and rockets.
The aircraft are also fitted with communications systems linking them to Indian submarines, facilitating the sharing of information on enemy vessels. Additionally, the aircraft are also equipped with directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) and electronic support measures (ESM) supplied by Northrop Grumman. The P-8Is are, reportedly, powered by twin CFM56-7 engines produced by CFM International, a joint venture between Snecma Moteurs ad GE Electric.
Each of these engines provides a lift-off thrust of 27,300 pounds with the aircraft capable of reaching a maximum speed of 789 km/h and a maximum altitude of 12,496 metres. The P-8I has a maximum range of 2,222 km with four hours on station.
The growing importance of maritime surveillance in the Indo-Pacific
While the first batch of eight P-8I aircraft are stationed at INS Rajali, Arakkonam, “the second batch of four additional aircraft will be based at Indian Naval Air Squadron 316, to be commissioned at INS Hansa,” said Commander Madhwal. Their position holds strategic importance particularly in view of the increased activity of Chinese naval vessels in the Indian Ocean.
With the new geopolitical framework of the Indo-Pacific taking shape, the Indian Ocean has assumed increased significance given the immense importance of subregions that facilitate international trade. The Indian Ocean connects the Middle East to Southeast and East Asia, as well as the Americas to Europe. Given that three of the world’s seven chokepoints – the Malacca strait between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, the Strait of Hormuz connecting the Persian Gulf to the wider Indian Ocean, and Bab-el-Mandeb strait between Eritrea and the Horm of Africa – are in the Indian Ocean, advanced military surveillance to quell disruptions along trade routes critical in the global energy supply chain is of paramount importance.
Moreover, in recent years, China has also emerged as an influential maritime power with Beijing having set up its first overseas military facility in Djibouti in 2017. China’s Maritime Silk Road (part of its Belt and Road Initiative) and Beijing’s larger ambitions in the Indian Ocean have been a source of shared consternation for several nations including India, France and the United States. What’s more, with Russia having established a new naval base in Sudan in 2020, Moscow now also has access via the Bab-el-Mandeb strait to the Indian Ocean.
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