Following the recent approval for the sale of 31 MQ-9B high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAVs to India, the Biden administration is now reportedly considering a deal for the supply of six additional P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft to the Indian Navy. This potential deal further underscores the growing strategic partnership between the US and India in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Indian Navy currently operates a fleet of 12 P-8I aircraft, split into two squadrons stationed at Arakkonam and Goa. These Boeing-made planes, based on the 737-800 commercial platform, offer advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW), long-range surveillance, and intelligence gathering capabilities.
The existing P-8I fleet has proven instrumental in detecting and tracking Chinese warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), playing a vital role in safeguarding India’s maritime interests. The addition of six more P-8Is would significantly enhance the Navy’s capabilities in areas such as:
- Enhanced Surveillance: Expanded coverage and improved detection capabilities over the vast IOR.
- Improved ASW: Advanced sensors and weapons systems for effective anti-submarine warfare operations.
- Strategic Cooperation: Deeper collaboration with the US and other regional partners on maritime security initiatives.
Beyond the P-8I deal, the Indian Navy is also exploring the procurement of nine Airbus C-295 based Medium-Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft. These aircraft are specifically designed for ASW, long-range surveillance, and target acquisition, further bolstering India’s maritime defense capabilities.
The potential P-8I deal reflects a growing convergence of interests between the US and India in the Indo-Pacific region. Both nations share concerns about China’s growing assertiveness and seek to maintain a stable and secure maritime environment. This deal would not only strengthen India’s maritime capabilities but also deepen US-India strategic cooperation, potentially deterring adversaries and promoting regional stability.