Aircraft will enhance surveillance capability: Vice-Admiral Verma

The Boeing P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare (LRMRASW) aircraft was greeted with loud claps by naval officers as it hovered around the hangar of the Naval Air Station (NAS), INS Rajali here and later landed on Wednesday morning. The event marks the historic induction of the P-I LRMRASW, following a contract signed by the Indian Navy with the Boeing Company in 2009.

The claps got louder as Harjeet Singh Jhajj, who piloted the plane from Boeing company in Seattle, U.S., stepped down from the ladder on landing, accompanied by co-pilot Vivek Chandrahas and others after flying for 23 hours over three to four days after take off from Seattle on Saturday. They were greeted by Bimal Kumar Verma, Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command.

Announcing the induction of the modern aircraft into the Indian Navy, Vice-Admiral Verma told newspersons that Indian naval aviation had received a major fillip with the arrival of the aircraft at the NAS in Arakkonam. This is the first of eight Boeing P-8I LRMRASW aircraft to be inducted into the Indian Navy. The remaining seven would be delivered over the next two years.

The P-8I aircraft, based on the commercially available Boeing 737-800 (NG) airframe, is the Indian Naval variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing has developed for the U.S. Navy. “The aircraft is equipped with foreign and indigenous sensors for maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine operations and electronic intelligence missions. The aircraft is fully integrated with state-of-the-art sensors and highly potent anti-surface and anti-submarine weapons. The Indian Navy would be enriched with the induction of the P-8I aircraft, which would greatly enhance India’s maritime surveillance capability in the Indian Ocean Region”, he said.

The Eastern Naval Command Chief said that despite the huge payload inside the aircraft, the LRMRASW has the endurance power to fly continuously for nine to 10 hours. “It is an extremely capable aircraft, the best available in the world. It has got anti-submarine and anti-ship equipment, and is a potent aircraft. Maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare are the twin roles of the aircraft”, he said.

“Although we continue to evaluate the threats, ours is capability-based planning and not threat-based. The new aircraft will certainly enhance our surveillance capability”, said Vice-Admiral Verma when asked whether the Navy is capable of tackling the threats it was facing in the Indian Ocean region, and from its neighbours on all sides.

In reply to another question, he said that the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard were working in tandem to detect ships which smuggled contraband goods to and out of the country.

The Boeing P-8I is a Boeing 737 (NG) passenger aircraft converted into a military aircraft, equipped with radar devices which could detect ships and submarines within a radius of 200 nautical miles, while it could be fitted with missiles and torpedoes to attack the enemy submarines and ships within the above radius.

It could accommodate two pilots, five observers and five mission operators. Its performance would be better than the Russian TU 142 planes which form the existing fleet of the Indian Navy. With the induction of the Boeing P-8I aircraft, the TU 142 aircraft would be phased out in the next five years.

Earlier, as the Boeing P-8I aircraft flew in, the TU 142 flew out, symbolically marking the induction of the Boeing and the phasing out of the TU 142 aircraft.

Earlier, Lealand White, Programme Manager, P-8I cell, Boeing Company, Seattle presented the banner to Vice-Admiral Verma, congratulating the Indian Navy on acquiring the new aircraft.

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