India's Poseidon adventure begins

A foregone conclusion for months now but nicely scooped by the Times of India, Boeing has finally won the Indian Navy's prestigious long-range maritime reconnaisance (LRMR) competition. On the first day of 2009, the Indian Navy signed on the dotted line for eight Boeing 737-based P-8I Poseidon jets. The contract allows India to exercise the option to buy eight more later if required. The Boeing jet -- the first one for the US Navy is still under construction at Renton in the Western United States -- beat the Airbus 319 MPA for the $2.1 billion Indian contract. Incidentally, that photo above is me in a real P-8 cockpit (the first Indian journalist, but who cares!), part of the trailer simulator that the Indian Navy tested the aircraft on. It was just seven months ago that a group of us were at Renton to witness a phase of the construction of one of the most anticipated aircraft in the world today. Built to replace the formidable US Navy legacy P-3 Orion fleet, 108 P-8As will be built for the US forces. The P-8s will likely divide time between INS Hansa in Goa and INS Rajali in Arakkonam (where a new squadron will be raised to house the P-8s alongside Squadron 312), like the Tupolev-142s that they will eventually replace for strategic maritime reconnaisance.

The P-8I is a variant of the US Navy’s P-8A, tailored to meet the exacting requirements of the Indian Navy. The P-8I, according to Boeing, will give India the world’s newest and most technologically advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capability. As India’s new long-range maritime reconnaissance and antisubmarine warfare aircraft, the P-8I will dramatically enhance the country’s anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare capability, providing strategic blue water and littoral undersea warfare capability as well as armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The aircraft’s exceptional range, speed, radius of action, and highly developed sensors will ensure the Indian Navy can meet its strategic requirements.

The P-8I will help maintain the Indian Navy’s prowess as a maritime power well into the 21st century. In addition, the commonality inherent in the P-8I will greatly enhance the interoperability and supportability objectives of both the U.S. and Indian navies. Although Boeing has proposed significant participation for Indian industry in the development of the P-8I, all prospective international customers benefit from the U.S. Navy’s commitment and substantial investment in the P-8A. The U.S. Navy, Boeing, CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Smiths Aerospace are working as a seamless government and industry team to develop a weapon system that provides unrivaled performance.

Boeing builds the Next-Generation 737-800 and is responsible for systems integration and overall program management. CFM will provide the CFM56-7B high-bypass turbofan engines that will power the P-8I. The Boeing team also supplies the aircraft’s electro-optical/ infrared sensor and the electronic support measures system. The team will provide the next-generation capability in maritime surveillance radar, as well as equip the P-8I with a state-of-the-art flight management system and a next generation digital stores management system.

Boeing has established important relationships with suppliers in India and is actively pursuing technical and business partnerships with Indian companies and institutions. The Boeing team, including Rick Buck, who we met in May 2008 in Seattle, says it will deliver to India a fully tested and certified maritime patrol aircraft that meets the demanding needs of the Indian Navy.

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