Integrated with the Harpoon Block II air launched missiles and lightweight torpedoes, the P-8I reconnaissance craft turns into a deadly sub killer that can also launch anti-ship missiles. Credit: Handout.

China may well be building advanced nuclear submarines, but India is will soon have deadly sub-killers, to hunt them down.

India’s long-range anti-submarine, reconnaissance, surveillance and electronic jamming capabilities in the Indian Ocean Region are going to get a further boost with the arrival of four more P-8I multi-mission aircraft from the US next year, The Hindustan Times reported.

India has the option of buying another six from Boeing to be negotiated later in 2021, people familiar with the developments in New Delhi and Seattle said.

The Indian Navy variant of the P-8A Poseidon — P-8I where I stands for India — is essentially designed for maritime patrol, the report said.

Integrated with the Harpoon Block II air launched missiles and lightweight torpedoes, the reconnaissance craft — it can carry 129 sonobuoys to locate subs — turns into a deadly submarine killer that can also launch anti-ship missiles.

The proposed acquisitions come against the backdrop of China’s efforts to militarize the South China Sea and expand its sea footprint, the report said.

In a major military push, Beijing had already acquired a string of ports in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran and east Africa to not only contain the Indian Navy but also challenge the presence of US Central Command forces as well as French and British Navy.

The P8I has a range of about 2,200 km and flies at a maximum speed of 490 knots, or 789 km/h. Credit: Handout.

Beijing has a 70% stake in Kyaukpyu port in Myanmar, which sits in the Bay of Bengal; Hambantota port in South Sri Lanka dominates the Indian Ocean; Gwadar port in Pakistan sits on the mouth of Gulf of Oman; and the port of Jask in Iran is located on the edge of Persian Gulf.

National security planners believed that the possibility of China attempting to replicate its aggressive posture along the Line of Actual Control at a time of its choosing in the Indian Ocean Region was very real, a government official said.

India also inched closer to formalizing the anti-China QUAD — Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — strategic grouping. The United States, Japan and Australia are the other members.

In some measure, the QUAD is already a reality on the high seas due to India signing the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) agreement in September 2019. The P-8I helped.

The pact provided the legal framework for exchange of encrypted communication. P-8I makes this possible with ease, particularly since the aircrafts are interoperable and can communicate securely.

It has a range of about 2,200 km and flies at a maximum speed of 490 knots, or 789 km/h, the report said.

The purchase of six P-8I was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council in November 2019, long before the stand-off with China along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

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