A P-8 maritime patrol aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has arrived in Goa on a reciprocal visit a little a month after the Indian Navy over one of its P-8Is to Darwin in the part of Australia for coordinated anti-submarine operations.
P-8 is a long-range submarine-hunting aircraft developed by Boeing. Apart from India and Australia, the aircraft is also in service with the United States Navy and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.
“Coordinated activities like these are key to enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities and building maritime domain awareness,” RAAF Air Vice-Marshal Meredith had said in April this year, after the Indian Navy P-8I arrived in Australia for the “first time…outside of a routine military exercise”.
In recent times, increased interaction between the two maritime nations, through bilateral and multilateral exercises at sea, has enhanced inter-operability and fostered bridges of friendship. The P8 aircraft, with their demonstrated long reach, have operated jointly during Malabar and AUSINDEX exercises , and have a common understanding of operating procedures and information sharing,” the Indian Defense Ministry had said.
Darwin is close to some of the chokepoints that Chinese Navy warships and submarines use to enter the Indian Ocean.
In May, India La Observe a P-8I to the Réunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean on a five-day mission to undertake coordinated operations with French Navy warships in the region.
It was not the first time that an Indian Navy P-8I has been to the Island of Réunion, an overseas department of France. A P-8I aircraft of the Indian Navy participated in a joint patrol with France from the Réunion Island in 2020. French Navy personnel were onboard the Indian Navy aircraft during the patrol in the southwest Indian Ocean.
India was the first international customer of the P-8 aircraft. Twelve of these aircraft are already in service with the Indian Navy, with the latest one delivered in February this year. The Navy commissioned its second squadron of P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft earlier this year.
The Indian Navy, reports say, plans to have a total of 22 of these aircraft in the next few years to keep an eye on Chinese movements in the Indian Ocean region, most notably its submarines.
Over the last few years, India has repeatedly used the surveillance aircraft to track Chinese deployments along the Line of Actual Control.
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