US defence major Boeing has started work on the first P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft for the Indian Navy.
"The Boeing P-8I team began fabricating the first part for the Indian Navy aircraft on December 6 at Wichita, Kansas. This is an important milestone in the programme as we enter the build phase from the design phase," Boeing Defence, Space and Security Vice President Vivek Lall said here.
He said, "the US Navy was investing USD 4.4 billion to design and demonstrate the mission systems of the P-8 programme and the mission systems in the P-8I aircraft meet the requirements of the Indian Navy."
Lall said that during his recent US visit, Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma was also given an update on the programme.
As part of the USD 2.1 billion deal signed on January 1 last year, India had placed orders for eight P-8Is, which are variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing is developing for the US Navy. After placing the initial order, India is also going to order four more aircraft.
Under the agreement, Boeing will supply the first aircraft in 2013 and the remaining would be inducted by the end of 2015.
"We are on schedule and the Indian navy is looking forward to receiving its first plane," Boeing P-8I program manager Leland Wight said.
The P-8I is likely to replace the Indian Navy fleet of Russian-origin Tu-142 and Il-38 aircraft for maritime reconnaissance purposes.