• Credit: Boeing
    Credit: Boeing

The Indian Navy took delivery of the 10th of at least 12 Boeing P-8I Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft on July 13 and regional demand appears to be steady, with Australia, New Zealand and South Korea to receive aircraft over the coming three years.

India ordered eight P-8Is, originally named Neptune in Indian Navy service, via a Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) contact with Boeing in January 2009, becoming the first international customer for the aircraft outside the US Navy.

The aircraft delivered yesterday was the second of a follow-on order placed in July 2016 and, on April 30 2021, the US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) announced Congressional approval for a further six aircraft, under a US$2.42 billion deal.

If this latest deal goes ahead, India will become the second-largest operator of the P-8A behind the US Navy, which has a program of record of 128 aircraft (of which 108 have been delivered) and an as-yet unfunded requirement for an additional 10 aircraft. 

The P-8I differs from the baseline US Navy P-8A with the addition of a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar, a CAE magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) and India-specific communications systems. The aircraft are today operated by Indian Naval Air Squadron 312 (INAS 312), based at Indian Naval Station Rajali, in Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu and the fleet has recently surpassed a total of 30,000 flight hours since being inducted in 2013.

Elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific region, the P-8A is replacing P-3 Orion maritime patrol variants with a number of high-end Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operators: Australia (a co-operative partner with the US Navy on P-8A development) announced an order for two more P-8A Poseidons in December 18 and when they are delivered in 2024 they will bring the total number in RAAF service to 14 aircraft.

In July 2018 the New Zealand Government announced an order for five P-8As under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract with the US Navy, with deliveries set to begin to the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 2022; and the Republic of Korea Navy is expected to begin receiving the first of at least six P-8As in 2023, again purchased through the FMS process.

The P-8A is also replacing high-end ASW capabilities within some NATO countries, with the Royal Air Force receiving five aircraft from an order for nine to date, and the Royal Norwegian Air Force (KNL) is expected to receive the first of five P-8As on order later this year. Most recently, Germany’s Bundestag has approved the purchase of five aircraft and the German Ministry of Defence confirmed it had signed FMS letters of offer and acceptance (LOA) with the US Government on June 30, 2021. 

ADM Comment: Although the German Government is not yet on contract for its five aircraft, it would appear to guarantee the continuation of P-8 production until at least 2025, and even further if the additional US Navy and Indian Navy requirements translate into firm contracts.

While Boeing commercial 737 production has now been switched from the 737NG (on which the P-8A is based) exclusively to the 737 MAX, the manufacturer has previously indicated it will continue to build P-8s for as long as there are orders. With no high-end ASW competitor in production the western world (SAAB has reportedly shelved marketing for its proposed Swordfish, based on the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet), and the submarine threat increasing around the globe, there is a better than even chance P-8 numbers in our region will increase over the coming years.

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