Delivery of the four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft is expected to be completed by January 2022

by Franz-Stefan Gady

An Indian Navy P8I Poseidon conducts a low altitude fly by alongside a U.S. Navy guided-missile during a bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean, April 15, 2019

The Indian Navy is slated to begin inducting four more Boeing P-8I Neptune advanced maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft this May, according to Navy sources.

This appears to confirm earlier reports this year that the first of the four aircraft will be delivered in the middle of 2020. “Based on the contract, the first of the four aircraft will be delivered in mid-2020 and the remaining three in 2021” a Boeing Spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Economic Times on February 17.

“These aircraft will also be in the same configuration as the earlier eight aircraft,” the Navy source was quoted as saying by The Hindu on March 18. “Plans are on to install encrypted communication systems on the earlier ones.”

The installation of encrypted communication systems on the U.S.-made aircraft is made possible by the signing of a Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in September 2019.

“COMCASA allows the U.S. military to transfer secure communications and data equipment to India. Prior to the conclusion of the agreement, the United States had to remove advanced communication equipment from all military platforms sold to India such as the P-8I Neptune,” I explained previously. “Additionally, the United States had to place less secure temporary systems on Indian units so the two sides could communicate during bilateral exercises.”

According to the Indian Navy source, the service has already operationalized COMCASA and has exchanged information with the U.S. military. COMCASA reportedly allows P-8I and P-8A Poseidon aircraft, the U.S. Navy variant of the aircraft, to share real-time operational intelligence, including a secure Common Tactical Picture.

The Indian government and Boeing concluded a $2.1 billion contract for the purchase of eight P-8I aircraft in 2009 making India the first international customer of an export variant of the maritime patrol aircraft. The Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) placed a $1.1. billion follow-on order for four additional P-8Is in 2016. The Indian MoD approved the procurement of 10 more P-8Is in June 2019. As I explained previously:

The P-8I is equipped with some of the most modern U.S. anti-submarine warfare (ASW) technology including a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar system and a cutting-edge magnetic anomaly detector The APS-143 is not present on the original P-8A Poseidon in use by the U.S. Navy.

The aircraft is also armed with U.S. weapons systems including Harpoon Block-II missiles, [and] MK-54 lightweight torpedoes [next to others]. The aircraft are all data-linked with Indian submarines in order to have the capability to pass on information about enemy vessels.

The Indian Navy’s P-8I squadron (Indian Naval Air Squadron 312A) operates out of the Indian naval air station Rajali in southern India.