Boeing P-8 Poseidon in the Mix for New Zealand Requirement

 - May 2, 2017, 4:56 PM
The Royal Australian Air Force is on contract to acquire 12 P-8A Poseidons for delivery through March 2020. (Photo: Mike Yeo)

The U.S. has cleared the Boeing P-8A Poseidon for sale to New Zealand, as that country moves toward the next phase of acquiring a new maritime patrol aircraft to replace its Lockheed Martin P-3 Orions. Several manufacturers are eyeing the requirement.

The Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress on April 28 that the State Department has approved the possible foreign military sale of four Boeing 737-based P-8As and associated support to New Zealand for approximately $1.46 billion. The proposed sale includes additional equipment and support, such as tactical open mission software, AN/AAQ-2(V)1 acoustic system, Raytheon AN/APY-10 radar, foreign liaison officer support and contractor engineering technical services.

New Zealand earlier issued a request for information (RFI) to a number of manufacturers for a new maritime patrol aircraft to replace its six P-3K2 Orions. A 2016 defense white paper noted that the Orion’s replacement is needed to conduct “air surveillance of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone and maritime domain, respond to illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries activity, and undertake search and rescue tasks.”

Among manufacturers that responded to the RFI were Saab, with the Swordfish platform; Leonardo, with a C-27J maritime patrol variant; and Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries, with the P-1 maritime patrol aircraft, AIN understands.

Saab’s Swordfish offering is based on the Bombardier Global Express 6000 business jet with a Finmeccanica-Selex ES Seaspray 7500E multi-mode radar and mission systems developed for the GlobalEye airborne early warning and control aircraft. The Swordfish “offers a level of performance that exceeds the P-8 at a fraction of the acquisition and operating cost,” Richard Hjelmberg, Saab Asia-Pacific head of marketing and sales for airborne ISR, said during the recent Avalon Airshow in Australia. Saab offers every customer the opportunity to adapt and modify the aircraft to its own national needs, and to upgrade and support the system throughout its entire lifespan, he added.

Italy’s Leonardo has proposed a maritime patrol version of its C-27J airlifter as a lower-end solution to complement any higher-end solution New Zealand may select. That would tie in with New Zealand’s concurrent search for a strategic and tactical airlifter, said Giovanni Timossi, an executive with Leonardo’s aircraft division.

Sources close to the maritime patrol aircraft program expect New Zealand will issue a request for proposals in the second half of this year, in order to have a new aircraft in service by the time Orion airframe lives are due to run out in the mid-2020s.