The P-8 Poseidon is an aircraft designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It is capable of broad-area maritime operations. It is a derivative of the Next-Generation 737-800. It combines superior performance and reliability with an advanced mission system that ensures maximum operational capabilities in the future battle space.
The P-8I aircraft is based on the Boeing Next Generation 737-800 aircraft. The forward section of the under-fuselage houses an internal weapons bay. The wings are fitted with hardpoints for carrying air-to-surface missiles. The aircraft measures of 39.47m in length, has a wingspan of 37.64m and is 12.83m high. The maximum take-off gross weight of the P-8I is around 85 tons.
In 2009, India signed a US$2.1 billion deal with Boeing for the supply of eight P-8Is to replace the Navy’s aging Tupolev Tu-142M surveillance aircraft. Each aircraft has an average cost of about US$220 million. In late 2010, Government of India approved the purchase of four additional P-8Is, bringing the total number of aircraft to 12. India plans to order another 12 P-8Is at a later time.
The P-8I aircraft can fly at a maximum speed of 789 km/h at a maximum altitude of 12,496m. The aircraft has a maximum range of 2,222 kms with four hours on station. This exceeds the navy’s requirement in the Request for Proposal (RFP) that asked for a radius of action of 600 miles with a time on station of six hours. The range can be further boosted by mid-air refuelling.
The flight crew of the P-8I comprises of a pilot and copilot. However for missions, it needs an additional team of 7 to monitor the radar and weapons systems. The cockpit is integrated with primary flight display, multifunction displays, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), flight management system and stores management system.
The P-8I is intended to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and shipping interdiction and to engage in an electronic intelligence (ELINT) role. This will involve carrying torpedoes, depth charges, SLAM-ER anti-ship missiles, and other weapons. It will also be able to drop and monitor sonobuoys. The aircraft is equipped with a CAE AN/ASQ-508A magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) system, APS-143C(V)3 multimode radar and a global version of the Raytheon APY-10 surveillance radar. The APY-10 radar provides precise information in all weather, day and night missions. The internal weapons bay can house Mark 54 torpedoes, depth charges and free-fall bombs. The under-wing hardpoints can be armed with air-to-surface missiles. In December 2010, India requested a sale of AGM-84L Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles and associated equipment. The Harpoon Block II carries a 226kg blast / fragmentation warhead. It can be fired against land and sea targets.
Most aircrafts detect submarines using their Magnetic Anomaly Detectors (MAD). One thing that separates them from the P-8 Poseidon is that it does not have a Magnetic Anomaly Detector.
It uses, among other things, passive sonar via dropped sonobouys to detect submarines. All submarines make some noise which depends upon the frequency of their electrical system. There exist gigantic databases of noises made by almost each and every submarine. This helps to distinguish between the types of submarines and their allegiance.
These sonobuoys are powered by ocean water activated batteries and self scuttle after a pre-determined period of time. An aircraft may launch a field of sonobuoys to detect and track a submarine and once the submarine is located the buoy field will be advanced in the proper direction to maintain contact with the target submarine
The Indian Navy has inked a deal to acquire four of these P-8 Poseidon aircrafts for around $1 billion. The Navy already has eight P-8 aircrafts presently. Currently, the eight aircraft are based at INS Rajali and are operated by Indian Naval Air Squadron 312A.
Armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges, these aircrafts are India’s hawk eyes over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). It has achieved a number of operational milestones which includes participation in the search effort for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, the first successful firing of air launched Harpoon Block II missile in the world, torpedo firing and active participation in major naval exercises across the globe. With a maximum speed of 907 km/h and an operating range of over 1,200 nautical miles, the aircraft will be able to detect threats and neutralize them if required, far before they come anywhere near Indian shores.
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