Aircraft manufacturer Boeing on Tuesday delivered the 10th long-range maritime reconnaissance anti-submarine warfare aircraft to the Navy. This is the second of the four additional aircraft contracted under an optional clause in 2016.
The remaining two were expected to be delivered in the last quarter of this year, a defence official said.
The patrol aircraft was an integral part of the Indian Navy’s fleet and had surpassed 30,000 flight hours since its induction in 2013, Boeing said in a statement.
In May, the U.S. State Department approved the possible sale of six additional P-8I aircraft and related equipment, a deal estimated to cost $2.42 billion. In November 2019, the Defence Acquisition Council approved the procurement of six aircraft. The number was cut down from 10 to six due to budgetary constraints as also because the Navy was undertaking fleet rationalisation and deciding to go in for long endurance unmanned platforms.
The Navy had procured eight P-8Is under a $2.2 billion deal in 2009. The aircraft are part of the 312A Naval Air Squadron based at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu. In 2016, the Navy exercised the optional clause for four more P-8Is in a deal worth over $1billion. The Indian Navy was the first international customer of P-8.
The Navy has also deployed P-8Is for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.
Centre at Arakkonam
Boeing is completing construction of a 60,000 sq. ft. training support and data handling centre at INS Rajali, Arakkonam, and a secondary maintenance training centre at the Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology, Kochi, as part of a training and support package contract signed in 2019.
This new indigenous, ground-based training would allow naval crew to increase mission proficiency in a shorter time, while reducing on-aircraft training time, resulting in increased aircraft availability, Boeing added.
At Aero India in February, Boeing announced strategic collaboration agreements with Air Works of India for the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) of the P-8I fleet and the VIP transport fleet of the Indian Air Force.
The six aircraft under discussion will come with extensive upgrades, officials had stated. As reported by The Hindu, the six P-8Is will come installed with encrypted communication systems since India has now signed the foundational agreement Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the U.S.