The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by PM Narendra Modi, has approved the purchase of four additional Boeing P-8I Neptune aircraft at a cost of $1 billion (Rs 6,700 crore). They are expected to be inducted into the Indian Navy over the next three years.
India’s 7500-km coastline and its numerous islands are vulnerable to attacks from patrolling enemy submarines and vessels. The P-8I aircraft were chosen for their endurance and state of the art Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability. They have a ferry range of about 2000 km from their base, where they can patrol the seas bellow for four hours, detecting and engaging enemy submarines before flying back to base.
Considering that the P-8Is are based on Boeing’s extremely popular commercial aircraft Boeing 737, they are easy to maintain and availability of spares will not be a concern for the India Navy.
The P-8I Neptune is an India variant of USA’s P-8A ‘Poseidon’ anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and maritime patrol aircraft. The Indian version replaced a lot of the US electronic systems with indigenous versions.
In 2010, the Defence Ministry ordered eight aircraft at $2.1 billion. With all eight aircraft now in service, the Indian Navy is able to greatly project its power across the Indian Ocean.
The four P-8Is are slated to phase-out the eight Russian Tu-142 maritime aircraft bought in 1988.
With the capability to carry 120 sonobouys, depth charges and 6-8 torpedoes internally, these P-8Is can engage a wide variety of underwater and surface threats. Four Harpoon (anti-ship) missiles can be attached externally to the wings of the aircraft.