India's P-8I Flies For First Time

IN-320, THE FIRST P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft for India, lifts off from Renton, Wash., on Sept. 28 on its first test flight. (Boei...

IN-320, THE FIRST P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft for India, lifts off from Renton, Wash., on Sept. 28 on its first test flight. (Boeing)

The first of at least eight Boeing P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft being built for India made its initial flight Sept. 28, performing a series of systems checks to validate the airframe.

India is the first P-8 international customer to have one of its planes take to the air. The aircraft already has begun low-rate initial production (LRIP) for the U.S. Navy as the P-8A Poseidon.

The Indian aircraft, IN 320, flew for 2 hours and 31 minutes during the test flight and reached a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet, Boeing said in a news release. The test flight included engine accelerations and decelerations and autopilot flight modes.

The aircraft took off from Renton Field south of Seattle, where it was assembled, and landed at nearby Boeing Field. Next week, IN 320 will enter the installation and checkout (I&CO) facility at Boeing Field to begin the process of installing the aircraft's mission equipment.

More than a year of work lies ahead before the P-8I's scheduled delivery to the Indian Navy in the first quarter of 2013, Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey said.

The January 2009 agreement between India and Boeing provided for the purchase of eight P-8Is, along with an option for four additional aircraft. Ramey said Sept. 29 he expected negotiations to exercise the option for four more planes could begin "in the not too distant future."

Also at Boeing, work continues on the U.S. Navy's P-8As. The first of six LRIP aircraft is also at the I&CO facility, joining T-6, the last of six test aircraft.

T-4, T-5 and T-6 all will participate in Navy initial operating test and evaluation tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., set to start in summer 2012.

T-4 just returned to Boeing Field from Pax River for planned system modifications, Ramey said. T-5 is set to head to Pax River before the end of this year, while T-6 will fly to Maryland in the first part of 2012.

Test aircraft T-1, T-2 and T-3 all remain at Pax River.

Two nonflying ground test vehicles, S-1 and S-2, were also constructed for the program. A total of 154 tests, including major stressing of the wings, were conducted on S-1 before that airframe's test program ended last January. Fatigue tests on S-2 are to begin next year, Ramey said.

Meanwhile, the second LRIP aircraft is undergoing assembly at Boeing's commercial aircraft facility in Renton, Wash.

P-8 airframes are initially put together alongside commercial 737 airliners at Renton. The P-8 is based on the Boeing Next-Generation 737, using the fuselage of the 737-800 and the wings of a 737-900.

The P-8A is being developed by a Boeing-led team that consists of CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, GE Aviation and Spirit AeroSystems.

The U.S. Navy plans to buy a total of 117 operational P-8As.

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