Project Alert: P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) Aircraft

Defence program: P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) Aircraft

For Defence Service: Indian Navy

Prime Contractor: Boeing

Category: Buy Global

Quantity: 6 (12 already inducted)

Estimated Cost: $1.8 Billion – $2 Billion

Total Requirement by Indian Navy: 22

Current Status: Price negotiations for the procurement to begin soon

Project Brief: 

Maritime surveillance capability is a critical component of maritime security, both in times of peace and conflict, and plays a critical role in the security of the Maritime Zones of India, as also of the vast coastline.

The Tupolev-142M and the IL38SD aircrafts have been the mainstay of Indian Navy’s Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) capability.

Noteworthy, the TU-142M aircraft served the navy till 2018 and were retired subsequently owing to obsolescence.

As for the IL38SD, the Indian Navy (IN) had inducted five of these aircraft, but as of now only two of them are operational and they are also on the verge of retirement.

The Navy requires at least a fleet of 22 maritime patrol aircraft to augment its capabilities for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance.

Thus, keeping in mind the shortfall in the number of aircrafts for long-range maritime reconnaissance purpose, induction of P-8Is aircrafts has been undertaken by the Indian Navy.

India bought the aircraft from the United States (US) for more than $3 billion, under two separate deals, to sharpen the Navy’s anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities as well as fill critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles in the vast oceans.

Presently, IN has a fleet of 12 P-8I planes, split into two squadrons operating from Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu and Goa, which serve the Navy’s reconnaissance and surveillance needs in the Indo-Pacific region.

Worth mentioning, the P-8I has accumulated more than 40,000 hours of flight time over the last 10 years. The aircraft, with its exceptional maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, versatility and operational readiness, has proven to be an important asset to the Navy. In addition to unmatched maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, the P-8I has been deployed to assist during disaster relief and humanitarian missions.

The Indian Navy was the first international customer for the P-8 and today the P-8 is also operated by the U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

Following are the details of the deals / contracts with regards to P-8I, and also the details of the on-going procurement initiated by Indian Navy for procurement of six (6) more P-8I aircraft.

First Deal: On 4 January 2009, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a $2.1 billion agreement with US based aerospace manufacturer Boeing for eight (8) P-8I aircraft, via Direct Commercial Sale.

These were ordered to replace the Indian Navy’s aging Tupolev Tu-142M maritime surveillance turboprops.

The entire batch of these eight Poseidon aircraft was received by the Indian Navy in 2013.

All these aircraft are part of the 312A Naval Air Squadron based at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.

Second Deal: In October 2010, India’s Defence Acquisition Council approved the purchase of four (4) additional P-8Is.

However, the follow-on contract for the same was signed in July 2016 with deliveries being completed by February 2022.

Notably, out of the 4 additional P-8Is ordered the first was delivered to Indian naval air station INS Hansa, Dabolim Goa on 19 November 2020, followed by another on 13 July 2021, the remaining 2 were delivered on 30 December 2021.

The following provides a summary of the existing orders and Offsets applied.

Noteworthy, Boeing has established production capabilities with Indian firms including Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), and Tata Advanced Strategic Systems (TASL) that have supplied various sub-systems for the P-8I.

Besides, several complex and mission critical P-8I components, parts and services such as the radar fingerprinting system, IFF (I/T) and datalink, speech secrecy system, mobile satcom system and wire harnesses are made in India by supplier partners, including 15 public and private Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Third Deal (Yet to be Signed): Further in 2011, India planned to order twelve (12) more P-8Is on a later date; but in 2019, this was cut down to eight to ten (8-10) due to budget constraints.

But then again, in November 2019, the India’s Ministry of Defence slashed down the additional numbers of aircraft to be procured, and finally approved the procurement of six more Boeing P-8Is worth $1.8 Billion – $2 Billion via a direct commercial sale with Boeing.

The related weaponry, radar, and associated equipment were set to be acquired via the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

Subsequently, in April 2021, the US Department of State approved a possible Foreign Military Sale of six (6) more P-8Is to India pending Congressional approval.

However, after that there was no movement and nor any announcement was made with regards to this procurement.

Eventually, in Dec 2022 it was reported that the Indian Navy has re-initiated the programme to buy 6 more Boeing P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft from the US which stalled after the expiry of the price offer on July 31, 2022.

Further, it was reported that a restated Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) has been sought from US Government.

This was the first public statement from the Indian Navy affirming that the P8I deal is still on the table.

It also provided a clear indication that the decks have been cleared for fresh price negotiations for the procurement of additional numbers of this key force multiplier.

Currently (as of September 2023), Boeing has confirmed that the company is in continued discussions with the Indian Navy about their desire to add 6 additional P-8I aircraft.

About P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) Aircraft

With a first-in-industry in-line production system that leverages the best of Boeing Commercial and Boeing Defence for development and production, the P-8I Poseidon remains one of Boeing’s most advanced aircraft.

Designed for long-range, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, the P-8 delivers highest levels of quality, reliability, and operability.

Further, it has been defined by a unique combination of state-of-the-art sensors, proven weapons systems and is a globally recognized platform and a true multi-mission aircraft.

To be noted that the P-8I is a military derivative of Boeing’s 737-800 commercial aircraft.

Today, the aircraft plays a crucial role in being the eyes of the Indian Navy and carrying out critical maritime operations, providing India’s maritime warriors a significant edge in the strategically important Indian Ocean region.

The P-8I is not just responsible for coastal patrolling but is also used for other critical missions like search-and-rescue, anti-piracy, and supporting operations of other arms of the military.

Operational Readiness

A ~60,000 sq.ft. Training Support & Data Handling (TSDH) Centre is being setup at INS Rajali, with a secondary centre at INS Kochi as part of an agreement between India and Boeing.

The customized training solution for the Indian Navy will offer an integrated learning approach, combining classroom education with simulation. Boeing will also provide all associated courseware to support training activities at the centre.

The indigenous, ground-based training system will allow the Indian Navy crew to increase proficiency in a shorter time, while reducing the on-aircraft training time resulting in increased aircraft availability for mission tasking.

General Characteristics

Propulsion: Two CFM56-7 engines providing 27,300 pounds thrust each

Length: 39.47 meters

Wing Span: 37.64 meters

Height: 12.83 meters

Maximum Takeoff Gross Weight: 85,139 kilograms

Speed: 490 knots (789 km/h)

Range: 1,200+ nautical miles, with 4 hours on station (2,222 kilometres)

Ceiling: 12,496 meters

Crew: 9