The first P-81 aircraft for the Indian Navy has successfully completed its initial flight in the US as Boeing Company assures India that the P-81 program is progressing well. Indian Navy is to receive eight P-81 long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft from Boeing as part of a contract awarded in January 2009. Indian Navy has decided to go for four additional P-8I aircraft besides the earlier eight which is expected to make the contract worth $ 3.1 billion. Boeing Company has transitioned to P-8I production and plans to deliver the first aircraft to the Indian Navy in 2013.
As for the initial flight of the P-81 maritime aircraft, it was carried out from Renton Field, Washington to Boeing Field, Seattle and the aircraft was taken to an altitude of 41,000 feet. The Boeing test pilots conducted airborne system check, engine acceleration/deceleration as well as auto-pilot features of the P-81 aircraft. Boeing will now undertake mission systems installation and various other technical works on the aircraft at a company facility near Boeing Field in Seattle. According to Boeing, the team is using a first-in-industry, in-line production process that draws on the company's Next-Generation 737 production system. The P-81 is based on Boeing Next-Generation 737 commercial airplane.
The P-8I is the Indian Navy variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing is being developed for the U.S. Navy. As for the Indian Navy, it is keenly observing the developments on the maritime reconnaissance aircraft as it wants the P-81 to join the fleet at the earliest. The P-81 will provide Indian Navy with the necessary speed and combative edge for maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare requirements. One of the distinguishing features the Indian version is the CAE-supplied AN/ASQ-508A magnetic anomaly detector which lies above the APU exhaust in the tail cone. Additionally, the Indian version will differ from the US aircraft through the incorporation of belly-mounted radar, which once combined with other sensors will afford the aircraft a 360 degree surveillance capability against airborne targets.
The P-8I is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit Aero Systems, BAE Systems and GE Aviation. The salient features of the aircraft include open system architecture, advanced sensor and display technologies. The industry team with its global network will assure supply of spares and equipment and maintenance services.
Besides the P-81 aircraft from Boeing, India is also acquiring the C-17 Globemaster III for its strategic and tactical airlift needs from Boeing as well. Boeing Company’s presence in India is ever-expanding as it forges relations with local manufacturing firms in the aerospace business. It has also opened a Research and Technology center in Bangalore to collaborate with India's technical talent for research in aero structures, materials and network systems. Boeing also has an Analysis & Experimentation Center (AEC) in Bangalore in partnership with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) which provides modeling, analysis capability and defense experimentation in support of the Indian Armed Forces.