The Indian Navy will get four P-8I advanced maritime reconnaissance aircraft with upgrades starting July 2020, a senior Boeing official said today.
“We are looking forward to delivering the options by July 2020. We also have a long list of upgrades that the Indian Navy is interested in and we are working on that,” Mark Jordan, Chief Engineer of the P-8I programme, said.
He said the first aircraft will be delivered by July 2020, the remaining three will be delivered by the end of 2021.
India, already operates eight of the long range sea patrol aircraft. In July this year, the navy placed an order for an additional four planes and also shared an undisclosed list of upgrades and new features that it requires, a senior Boeing executive said.
While the Boeing official did not share details of the upgrades being discussed, the Indian Navy is also likely to go in for a simultaneous upgrade of its existing fleet of eight planes to the latest standard.
The boost to the Indian fleet will come at a time when the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is seen increasing its footprints in the Indian Ocean.
Boeing officials said the P-8I planes are likely to be certified for aerial refuelling by next year, a move that will enhance its range for maritime missions.
India has been using its P-8I fleet extensively for missions ranging from patrolling and spotting passing submarines and ships to search missions in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
It was also used for search missions of the missing An 32 transporter off the Chennai coast.
India is also looking to placing some aircraft at the strategic Andaman islands to give them more reach to patrol regions of interest.
The P-8I aircraft are being flown by the US Navy and Australia has got deliveries of its first aircraft last week. In addition, the Royal Air Force of the UK is also placing an order for the unique maritime patrol and combat aircraft.