Boeing will complete the delivery of three of the first batch of eight P-8I long-range sophisticated anti-submarine warfare aircraft to Indian Navy by the end of this year, said Leland Wight, Boeing’s P8I program manager who detailed plans of the handing over of these maritime aircraft which can also be used in anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacities. The aircraft is capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations.
Boeing delivered the first P8I aircraft to India in Seattle in December 2012 and would complete the delivery of entire batch of eight by 2015 as part of a $2 billion contract signed in 2009.
Wight said while detailing the plans for the delivery of the three aircraft this year that the aircraft spares would be delivered in the first quarter of 2013, while the first test program of the aircraft would be completed in Goa by June this year. He said the second and the third aircraft would be delivered to the Indian Navy by September and December, respectively. Indian Navy has also planned to place an order for four more P8Is even as the Indian Navy is looking at a squadron of 37 such aircraft by the year 2020.
Wight said plans entail setting up a flight simulator of P8I to train Indian Navy aviation personnel as part of pilot and air crew training and maintenance to ensure that the Indian Navy subsequently remains independent while ensuring the upkeep of the aircraft.
Indian Navy procuring the P8I is being viewed as a significant development considering that Pakistan has handed over its southern coast-based port of Gwadar (west of Karachi) to China. There is much speculation about how China is developing the port (whether on industry lines or with military intentions). But with defence minister AK Antony expressing “real concern” about the volatile situation in India’s immediate neighborhood while addressing the media after the inaugural session of Aero India 2013, the importance of procuring a modernized maritime surveillance aircraft is easily understood.
The significance of getting this aircraft is also seen in the background of the November 26, 2008, attack on Mumbai by seaborne terrorists who hoodwinked the Coast Guard to gain entry into the financial capital of India.
The P8Is that India is getting will be armed with anti-ship Harpoon missiles, Mark-82 depth bombs and Mark-54 anti-submarine torpedoes. However, it will not have what Boeing terms it as the "Warfighter's Weapon of Choice", the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM). This is a low-cost guidance kit produced by Boeing which converts unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided, near-precision smart weapons. It consists of a tail section that contains a Global Positioning System (GPS)/Inertial Navigation System which helps the bombs home into the target with deadly accuracy.
JDAM falls under USA’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program which prohibits certain categories of weapons from being directly sold to foreign governments directly.