The Indian Navy has commenced Boeing P-8I Neptune maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) operations from Indian Naval Station (INS) Hansa, Goa-Dabolim, after the first two examples arrived at the base on December 30, 2021.
These initial two aircraft were inducted into operational service at INS Hansa after they were both fitted with indigenous equipment and had completed their respective Flight Acceptance Trials. The two P-8Is were welcomed to the base by a pair of Indian Navy-operated Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K Fulcrum-Ds.
According to India’s Press Information Bureau (PIB), a total of four Neptunes will be based at INS Hansa, where they will be operated by the soon-to-be commissioned Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 316. India formally inducted the P-8I into operational service on May 15, 2013. The air arm has since received ten examples of the type and an additional two aircraft remain on order.
AirForces Intelligence data states that the first batch of eight P-8Is were ordered by India on January 1, 2009. These aircraft are operated by INAS 312 ‘Albatross’ at INS Rajali in Arakkonam. On July 1, 2016, the Indian Cabinet Committee approved the purchase of a second batch of four Neptunes, which were formally ordered that same month. These four examples will be operated by INAS 316 from INS Hansa.
The first P-8I of the second batch (serial IN328) was delivered to the Indian Navy on November 18, 2020. This was followed by the second example (serial IN329), which arrived in India on July 13, 2021. The remaining two Neptunes of this batch have yet to be delivered.
In June 2019, the Indian government approved the acquisition of ten more P-8Is. A Letter of Request for the first six additional aircraft was issued to the US government in July 2020. On April 30, 2021, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced that the US State Department had approved the sale of six more Neptunes to India in a deal worth an estimated $2.42bn. However, a formal contract for these aircraft has yet to be signed.
The Indian Navy was the first export customer for the P-8 Poseidon and remains to be the largest operator of the platform outside of the continental US. It replaced the Indian Navy’s ageing Tupolev Tu-142ME Bear-F MPA fleet, which was retired on March 29, 2017.
Unlike other operators of the P-8 – such as the Royal Air Force (RAF) – the Indian Neptunes are equipped with the CAE-produced AN/ASQ-508A magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) system for use in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The P-8I fleet is also fitted with indigenously developed Indian technology, such as the BEL Data Link II communications system, Avantel mobile satellite system and a speech secrecy system from the Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL).