India’s maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities will achieve a major boost as Boeing readies the first of the P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft this month for India. The U.S aviation major Boeing has begun the final assembly of the P-8I aircraft and India is its first international customer.
The contract for the delivery of eight Poseidon P-8I aircraft, with an option for four additional aircraft, was signed in 2009. According to Boeing, the first P-8I aircraft will be delivered within 48 months of contract signing, and the remaining seven by 2015. Boeing has revealed that they have begun installing systems, wires and other small parts onto the fuselage, while the anti-submarine aircraft's engines and wings will be installed later this summer.
The P-8I will provide the much-needed reliability and speed to give a decisive edge to India’s maritime reconnaissance capability. The P-8I aircraft is a military derivative of the Boeing Next-Generation 737 commercial airplane, and it is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing is developing for the US Navy. The P-8I is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations. The P-8I combine’s superior performance and reliability with an advanced mission system that ensures maximum interoperability in the future battle space.
India has been in need of good maritime reconnaissance aircraft and anti-submarine aircraft in the light of increased operational requirements and India's enhanced maritime role. India has to counter the distant emerging threats and protect extended ‘Sea Lines of Communication’ (SLOC). India needs P-8I aircraft and medium range naval reconnaissance and anti Surface/submarine warfare aircraft to protect its SLOCs and immediate region.
According to defence analysts, P-8I could be the world’s most capable aircraft of its category, far surpassing the P3Cs of Pakistan’s Navy. P-81 aircraft will give India the capability to monitor the Chinese ports coming up in Myanmar and Sri Lanka and Indian maritime capability would reach Australia as well. It is felt that once aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (re-furbished Admiral Gorshkov) is introduced along with MIG 29 K by Indian Navy, the combination of P-8I aircraft from Boeing and the MiG-29 K will be lethal in terms of maritime reconnaissance.