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Indian P-8I kicks off flight trials ahead of 2013 delivery

By: Gareth Jennings Published: 11 Jul 2012

The first Boeing P-8I Neptune maritime multimission aircraft for the Indian Navy (IN) has begun its flight test programme ahead of its 2013 delivery date, company officials announced at the Farnborough Airshow on 11 July.

This maiden test flight, from Boeing Field in Seattle on 7 July, lasted about 50 minutes and took place over a US Navy (USN) test range in Washington State.

According to Boeing, all the test points were successfully completed.

Although based on the P-8A Poseidon that is being developed for the USN, the P-8I differs slightly in that it will be equipped with an aft-facing radar (to operate independently of the forward-facing Raytheon AN/APY-10 surface search sensor), providing full-hemisphere coverage and an aerial target-tracking capability. A magnetic anomaly detection system will also be fitted.

The P-8I will be compatible with the use of depth charges, the AGM-84H SLAM-ER stand-off cruise missile and will be capable of dropping naval mines. India has requested the sale of the Boeing AGM-84L Harpoon II anti-ship missile and the Raytheon Mk 54 lightweight torpedoes for its P-8Is. It is unclear whether the latter would be supplied with the company's Fish Hawk wing-kit to increase their launch envelope and range.

India has ordered eight P-8I aircraft with options on four more. Handover of the first to the IN is on track for 2013, Boeing said, with the rest by the end of 2015. According to senior IN officials, all eight will be deployed to the Eastern Naval Command.

Based on the Boeing 737 commercial airliner, the P-8A/I has a crew of nine (including five mission system operators) and an operating range of more than 2,000 km with a four-hour on-station endurance.