‘Navy may ac­quire more P-8I air­craft’

■ Navy al­ready has eight P-8I air­craft and placed an or­der for four more ■ P-8I, of­ten re­ferred to as the “sub­ma­rine killer”, is the most ad­vanced sys­tem that any of the three In­dian Ser­vices have ac­quired in re­cent years

The Hitavada - - 2ND FRONTPAGE - ■ By Gul­shan Luthra

THE In­dian Navy is con­sid­er­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of more Boe­ing P-8I air­craft for sur­veil­lance and Anti-Sub­ma­rine War­fare (ASW ), ac­cord­ing to Navy Chief Ad­mi­ral Su­nil Lanba.

In an in­ter­view to the mag­a­zine ‘In­dia Strate­gic’, Ad­mi­ral Lanba said that air sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­ity is an im­por­tant sub­set of naval op­er­a­tions and that while the pro­posal was on the ta­ble, he could not dis­close the re­quired num­bers.

His pre­de­ces­sors have spo­ken of a re­quire­ment of 30 Long-Range Mar­itime Re­con­nais­sance (LRMR) air­craft, un­der which the Navy has al­ready in­ducted eight air­craft and placed an or­der for four more.

Be­cause of the over­all tardy process of rou­tine mod­erni­sa­tion of the Armed Forces over the last 30 years, the In­dian Navy has not been able to re­new its in­ven­tory of sub­marines but the ac­qui­si­tion of the P-8I (I stands for In­dia) has given it a very strong of­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­ity to de­tect and hunt hos­tile sub­marines.

In fact, in terms of con­tem­po­rary weapon tech­nolo­gies, the P8I, of­ten re­ferred to as the “sub­ma­rine killer”, is per­haps the most ad­vanced sys­tem that any of the three In­dian Ser­vices have ac­quired in re­cent years. The air­craft was de­ployed in 2013 by the In­dian Navy around the same time the US Navy did.

The De­fence Min­istry has of­fi­cially stated that the P-8I is “ca­pa­ble of thrust­ing a puni­tive re­sponse and main­tain­ing a watch over In­dia’s im­me­di­ate and ex­tended ar­eas of in­ter­est”.

Asked about the grow­ing num­ber of hos­tile sub­marines in the In­dian Ocean, nearer home in fact, Ad­mi­ral Lanba said: “As a pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary force, we con­stantly eval­u­ate the mar­itime se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment in our ar­eas of in­ter­est. We lay a lot of stress on Mar­itime Do­main Aware­ness (MDA). Ac­cord­ingly, we are fully seized of the pres­ence and likely in­ten­tions of all ex­tra-re­gional forces op­er­at­ing in the In­dian Ocean. Our Navy is fully ca­pa­ble and ever ready to meet any chal­lenges that may arise in the mar­itime do­main.”

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the agree­ment for the P-8Is was signed on Jan­uary 1, 2009, within a cou­ple of months of the 26/11 Mumbai ter­ror at­tacks which ex­posed the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the coun­try’s mar­itime de­fences. The at­tack, in fact, trig­gered the Gov­ern­ment to clear quite a few pro­pos­als for the Armed Forces as well as to re­view what should be done to en­sure se­cu­rity of In­dian wa­ters, par­tic­u­larly the coastal belts on the coun­try’s eastern and western seaboards.

The Navy is now the nodal agency for co­or­di­nat­ing sur­veil­lance through satel­lites and air­craft and a net­work of po­lice and small boats has also been in­te­grated into the sys­tem.

The Navy and the In­dian Coast Guard (ICG) also op­er­ate a num­ber of HAL-made Dornier 228 air­craft, while some pro­pos­als for more LRMR and Medium-Range Mar­itime Re­con­nais­sance (MRMR) have been on the ta­ble for the last few years. Ob­served Ad­mi­ral Lanba: “Ev­ery en­deav­our is be­ing made to col­lec­tively en­sure that our mar­itime se­cu­rity, of which coastal se­cu­rity is an im­por­tant sub­set, is ad­e­quately strength­ened.”

“A num­ber of mea­sures have been taken since 26/11 to strengthen mar­itime, coastal and off­shore se­cu­rity by the con­cerned agen­cies in the coun­try. Th­ese mea­sures broadly in­clude in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­i­ties of mar­itime se­cu­rity forces, en­hanced sur­veil­lance and do­main aware­ness of the mar­itime zones, in­creased reg­u­la­tion of mar­itime ac­tiv­i­ties, stream­lin­ing in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent agen­cies and strengthening over­all mar­itime gov­er­nance. There have been sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in the op­er­a­tional re­sponse to de­vel­op­ing sit­u­a­tions at and from the seas,” he added.

At the na­tional level, co­or­di­na­tion of coastal se­cu­rity-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties is be­ing car­ried out by the Na­tional Com­mit­tee for Strengthening Coastal and Mar­itime Se­cu­rity (NCSCMS). The Navy had or­dered eight P-8I air­craft in 2009 for $2.1 bil­lion along with a train­ing pack­age. Weapons and tor­pe­does were ex­tra as needed, and then, un­der the Op­tions Clause, four more air­craft were or­dered in Au­gust 2016.

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