India's US-made strategic multi-mission maritime aircraft P8-I is gearing for its final launch flight as the second of the eight ordered flying machines rolled inside the Boeing production line here.
The P8-I will add to the strategic reach of the Indian Navy, sharpening its long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities to effectively dominate its 7,500-kilometre coastline.
The P8-I is named on the pattern of the US Navy's similar version aircraft P8-A (Poseidon). The P8-I aircraft, to be equipped with the deadly Harpoon missiles, has been a dependable asset for the US Navy since the last few years and India is the first international customer of this variety of US defence product.
The second P8-I, with the Indian flag and the Arakonam based INS Rajali's Albatross insignia on its cockpit, has joined the production-line at the US aviation giant's mission systems installation and checkout facility here.While the first P8-I has already taken its test flight earlier this year, the second has also undergone its initial flight at the Boeing's Renton field.
At present, two P8-A Posiedon of the US Navy stand ahead of the Indian jet in the production-line. The second Indian aircraft will soon be ready for weapon's and systems checking and then it will begin its final test flights.
The first batch of three P8-I aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to India by next year and the Navy is expected to base them at its base in Arakonam near Chennai.'We are on track and will deliver the first aircraft to India by May next year,' Leland Wight, P-8I programme manager (Boeing Defence, Space and Security) said inside the cradle factory of the P8 Posiedon aircraft.
India had awarded the contract for manufacturing eight such aircrafts to the US aviation giant in 2009 for a sum of USD 2.1 billion.
The aircraft has been ordered by the Indian Navy to boost its maritime reconnaissance in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean which witnesses 60 per cent of shipping traffic.
The P-8I is being built on the platform of the Boeing's 737-800 commercial airplane with upgraded avionics.The Indian flying military machine will be armed with torpedoes (to destroy enemy submarines), depth bombs and the deadly harpoon missiles along with a host of snoop gathering gadgets like radars.The aircraft also boasts of advanced sensors and weapon control technologies and is being prepared by a Boeing-led industry team that supplies important parts for the aircraft which can fly for long-haul military and search operations.On-board the aircraft are various indigenous systems and gadgets that gather intelligence and information and have been manufactured by firms like the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), Tata and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
These gadgets equip the aircraft with speech secrecy, mobile satellite system and data link facilities.
The aircraft will have a nine-member crew and can be expanded by few more personnel in case of an special requirement. The Navy jet can also drop sonobuoys and floating sonar detectors in order to gather specific snoop information on and under the sea.
Asian Defence News