Indian Navy will begin inducting four P8I aircraft worth $1.1 billion, orders for which were placed in 2016. This procurement is under an option clause as part of the earlier procurement of 8 P-8Is between 2013 and 2015 worth $2.1 billion. The Indian Navy’s P8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) had played an important role in gathering intelligence on Pakistani military deployments and keeping India’s western seaboard safe. More than a year later, the Indian Navy will be inducting more such aircraft, boosting its capability to conduct sustained surveillance and anti-ship and submarine preparedness in the Indian Ocean Region.
The P-8I deals are a sign of India’s increasing weapons procurement from the US, which has touched $17 billion till date. This procurement is under an option clause as part of the earlier procurement of 8 P8Is between 2013 and 2015 worth $2.1 billion. It also comes in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s India visit on February 24, which will focus on strengthening defence cooperation between the two nations. Since induction six and half years ago, the P8-Is clocked 25,000 flying hours in December last year. Based at INS Rajali, a naval air station in Tamil Nadu, the fleet is the navy’s eyes in the sky and gives it a significant edge in the Indian Ocean Region
The Neptune is an export variant of Boeing P-8 Poseidon MPA for the Indian Navy. On 4 January 2009, India’s Ministry of Defence signed a US$2.1 billion agreement with Boeing for eight P-8Is to replace the Indian Navy’s aging Tupolev Tu-142M maritime surveillance turboprops. It was Boeing’s first military sale to India and the P-8’s first international customer. In October 2010, India’s Defence Acquisition Council approved the purchase of four additional P-8Is; contract signature followed in July 2016 with deliveries expected to start from 2020. In 2011, India planned to order twelve more P-8Is at a later date; in 2019, this was cut to eight to ten due to a limited budget. In November 2019, the Indian government approved the procurment of another 6 P-8Is.
The P-8I features two major components not fitted on the P-8A Poseidon , a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar and a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD). The Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) Data Link II communications allows the P-8I to exchange tactical data between Indian Navy aircraft, ships and shore establishments; it also features an integrated BEL-developed IFF system. India has purchased AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles and Mk 54 All-Up-Round Lightweight torpedoes for the P-8I. In July 2012, Boeing began flight testing of the P-8I. On 19 December 2012, the first P-8I was handed over at Boeing’s facility in Seattle; it was inducted into the Indian Navy on 15 May 2013. The Indian Navy inducted the first squadron in November 2015.