Boeing has announced the receipt of a new order for its P-8A Poseidon maritime patroller. Worth $2.4 billion, the contract covers 16 new aircraft for the U.S. Navy. Significantly, the order moves the program into full-rate production, earlier aircraft having been ordered on a low-rate initial production (LRIP) basis. A move to full-rate production had been delayed while Boeing proved that the P-8 could meet its 25-year life, plus other mission-related requirements.
With the latest 16-aircraft order, Boeing has now received orders for 53 Poseidons, which are replacing the aging Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion as the U.S. Navy’s shore-based patroller. LRIP aircraft were ordered in four separate lots in September 2012 (11) and July last year (13). The Navy has an ultimate requirement for 117 P-8As, in addition to six development machines.
So far Boeing has delivered 13 to the U.S. Navy, comprising six development aircraft and nine LRIP machines, and three of the eight-aircraft P-8I order to India. As well as serving with test and evaluation units, the P-8As have been used for training at NAS Jacksonville with patrol squadron VP-30. Initial operating capability was announced late last year, and six aircraft of VP-16 “War Eagles” deployed to Kadena, Okinawa. VP-5 “Mad Foxes” and VP-45 “Pelicans” are the second and third Poseidon squadrons.
Boeing based the Poseidon design on the 737-800 airliner, with 737-900 wings, and draws aircraft from that production line for completion as Poseidons. The principal airframe alterations are the provision of a stores bay, observation windows and additional fuel tanks. The aircraft ordered by India also have a magnetic anomaly detector. Current P-8A deliveries are in the Increment 1 mission fit, which gives them a capability broadly similar to that of the P-3s they are replacing. From 2016, Increment 2 is due to be implemented, with improved capability through a new acoustic system and high-altitude weapons, among other upgrades.
This latest U.S. order comes hot on the heels of the announcement from Australia that it is to buy eight Poseidons. Further to that announcement, the Australian ministry of defense has indicated that it is likely to proceed with the acquisition of seven Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned patrol aircraft to augment the P-8s.