SEATTLE — Boeing expects India’s P-8I order to increase to as many as 30 units, citing the Indian navy and coast guard’s interest in multimission aircraft.

Under a $2 billion contract signed in 2009, Boeing will deliver eight of the long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft to India starting in the first half of 2013, with an option for four more. India has been the first international customer for the P-8I, which is a variant of the U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon.

“With 7,500 kilometers of coastline, and with three aircraft carriers, the Indian navy is going to have a tremendous need for . . . maritime and surveillance aircraft. . . .So we expect that once the navy starts using the P-8I the demand may go up to 30 or more,” says Carl Lang, Boeing’s P-8I program manager.

The P-8A Poseidon, based on a Boeing 737-800 airliner, is set to replace the U.S. Navy’s P-3 Orion turboprop. The U.S. Navy has ordered an initial batch of 13 and ultimately plans to buy 117 jets. The first ones are set to enter operational service next year.

The Indian version has two unique components not on the P-8A—an aft radar and a magnetic anomaly detector fixed on the tail that can distinguish between an enemy submarine and a whale, Lang says.

The P-8I’s enhanced internal fuel tanks will allow it to fly 1,100 km (683.5 mi.) to a patrol area, remain on station for up to 6 hr., and then fly back to its base.

Two P-8s meant for India already have undergone test flights and weapon trials are expected shortly. Anti-ship Harpoon missiles, Mark 82 depth bombs and Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedoes will be mounted on the aircraft.

According to Boeing officials, Harpoon production already has begun and the weapons will be delivered in June/July 2013. Weapons trials are likely to begin in the second quarter of 2013.

The P-8Is will operate from INS Rajali, a naval base at Arakonam, near the southern city of Chennai.