The Indian Navy is considering the acquisition of more Boeing P-8I aircraft for surveillance and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), according to Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.
In an interview to the magazine ‘India Strategic’, Admiral Lanba said that air surveillance capability is an important subset of naval operations and that while the proposal was on the table, he could not disclose the required numbers.
His predecessors have spoken of a requirement of 30 Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft, under which the navy has already inducted eight aircraft and placed an order for four more.
Because of the overall tardy process of routine modernisation of the armed forces over the last 30 years, the Indian Navy has not been able to renew its inventory of submarines but the acquisition of the P-8I (I stands for India) has given it a very strong offensive capability to detect and hunt hostile submarines.
In fact, in terms of contemporary weapon technologies, the P-8I, often referred to as the “submarine killer”, is perhaps the most advanced system that any of the three Indian services have acquired in recent years. The aircraft was deployed in 2013 by the Indian Navy around the same time the US Navy did.
The Defence Ministry has officially stated that the P-8I is “capable of thrusting a punitive response and maintaining a watch over India’s immediate and extended areas of interest”.
Asked about the growing number of hostile submarines in the Indian Ocean, nearer home in fact, Admiral Lanba said: “As a professional military force, we constantly evaluate the maritime security environment in our areas of interest. We lay a lot of stress on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). Accordingly, we are fully seized of the presence and likely intentions of all extra-regional forces operating in the Indian Ocean. Our Navy is fully capable and ever ready to meet any challenges that may arise in the maritime domain.”
Significantly, the agreement for the P-8Is was signed on January 1, 2009, within a couple of months of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks which exposed the vulnerability of the country’s maritime defences. The attack, in fact, triggered the government to clear quite a few proposals for the armed forces as well as to review what should be done to ensure security of Indian waters, particularly the coastal belts on the country’s eastern and western seaboards.
Boeing’s earlier contract was due to expire in October 2017.
The Indian variant has certain Indian components, including communication software and IFF (Identify Friend or Foe), to align with Indian naval and Air Force aircraft and net-centric systems.
It has 360-degree radar view, thanks to Raytheon’s AN/APY-40 forward looking radar’s 240-degree coverage and the rest from Telefonics aft-looking radar.
Built on the Boeing 737 frame, the P8-I is capable of detecting and destroying hostile submarines deep under the water. It has 11 hard points for carrying Harpoon anti-shipping missiles and depth charges, and five stations in the weapons bay for Raytheon-supplied Mk-54 torpedoes. Two hard points upfront are for Search and Rescue equipment.
There are five operator stations, and windows for outside views. All the systems are integrated with the onboard Mission Computer and Display System for control and data distribution in high speeds with ultra-high resolution. The APY 10 radar is developed keeping in mind not just the land but waters of the vast oceans as well, be it day or night. It is capable of tracking even small vessels in littoral and high seas environments.
The Indian variant also has the Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) which measures minute variations and disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field caused by the underwater movement of steel-encased submarines.
India has already acquired a number of Harpoon Block II missiles for use both by the Navy and IAF, which also conducts maritime patrols.
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