India is buying eight U.S. P-8 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, for
about $220 million each. This deal has been stalled for months, but the growing
expense of maintaining their Russian Tu-142M aircraft, and the need for a more
capable recon aircraft, has made the P-8 buy certain. The first P-8I will
arrive in 2014.
India received another Russian built Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Beginning in 1988, when it received three of these aircraft, India has bought
more and now has a fleet of eight in service. The Tu-142, which was introduced
in the 1970s, is the patrol version of the Tu-95 heavy bomber. This aircraft
entered service 51 years ago, and is expected to remain in service, along with
the Tu-142 variant, for another three decades. Over 500 Tu-95s were built, and
it is the largest and fastest turboprop aircraft in service. Russia still
maintains a force of 60 Tu-95s, but has dozens in storage, which can be
restored to service as either a bomber or a Tu-142.
The 188 ton
aircraft has flight crew consisting of a pilot, copilot, engineer and radioman,
and an unrefueled range of 15,000 kilometers. Max speed is 925 kilometers an
hour, while cruising speed is 440 kilometers an hour. Originally designed as a
nuclear bomber, the Tu-142 version still carries up to ten tons of weapons
(torpedoes, mines, depth charges, anti-ship missiles, sonobuoys) and a lot more
sensors (naval search radar, electronic monitoring gear). There are two 23mm
autocannon mounted in the rear of the aircraft. The mission crew of a Tu-142
usually consists of eight personnel, who operate the radars and other
electronic equipment. Patrol flights for the Tu-142 can last twelve hours or
more, especially when in-flight refueling is used. Maximum altitude is 45,000
feet, although the aircraft flies much lower when searching for submarines.
India requires aircraft like these for patrolling the vast India ocean waters
that surround the subcontinent. India wanted to upgrade the electronics on its
Tu-142s, but has been put off by the high price, and low performance, of what
the Russians have offered.
Poseidon is based on the widely used Boeing 737 airliner. India will get a version customized for their
needs. Although the Boeing 737 based P-8A is a two engine jet, compared to the
four engine turboprop P-3, it is a more capable plane. Cruise speed for the 737
is 910 kilometers an hour. This makes it possible for the P-8A to get to a
patrol area faster, which is a major advantage when chasing down subs first
spotted by sonar arrays or satellites. The P-8 has a crew of 10-11 pilots and
equipment operators, who operate the search radar and various other sensors.
The 737 has hard points on the wings for torpedoes or missiles.
The B-737 is
a more modern design, and has been used successfully since the 1960s by
commercial aviation. The Boeing 737 first flew in 1965, and over 5,000 have
been built. The P-8A will be the first 737 designed with a bomb bay and four
wing racks for weapons. The U.S. P-8
costs about $275 million each.