Germany Approved for P-8 Maritime Patrollers

 - March 15, 2021, 5:53 AM
The UK’s Royal Air Force was the first P-8 operator in Europe. The fleet relocated to RAF Lossiemouth in October 2020, and now numbers five Poseidon MRA1s, of nine on order. (Photo: Crown Copyright/OGL)

The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to Germany. Congress was notified of this determination on March 12. If the option is taken up, Germany could become the third European nation to acquire the Poseidon. The UK received its first aircraft in 2019, and Norway is due to get its first next year.

Worth an estimated $1.77 billion, the potential sale covers five equipped aircraft and support. Included in the equipment list are Raytheon APY-10 radars with the GPS 524D Precise Positioning System, L3 Wescam MX-20HD electro-optical sensor turrets, AAQ-2(V)1 acoustic system, ALQ-240 electronic support measures, with Tactical Open Mission System software. A comprehensive communications suite is available, including cryptographic systems, Multifunctional Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System 5, and PRC-117G Manpack radios. Defenses are provided by ALE-47 countermeasures dispensers, ALQ-213 electronic countermeasures, and NexGen missile warning sensors. The proposed package includes support equipment, aircraft spares, a spare CFM56 engine, training and training system, logistics and engineering support, and eight U.S. personnel in-country for two years to assist in establishing operations.

If purchased, the P-8As would be expected to enter service in 2024 to avoid a capability gap caused by the scheduled retirement of the German navy’s fleet of Lockheed P-3CUP+ Orions, which have served with Marinefliegergeschwader 3 “Graf Zeppelin” air wing at Nordholz since April 2006. The Orions were bought from the Netherlands to replace Dassault-Breguet Atlantic aircraft.

In July 2015 Germany signed a contract with Lockheed Martin and Airbus to upgrade the Orions, with the U.S. company to build new outer wings, center fuselage and horizontal stabilizers, which would be fitted by Airbus at Manching along with updated cockpit and mission equipment. However, following an economic feasibility study, the main system upgrade program was halted in June 2020, although re-winging continued to ensure that the Orions could meet their revised out-of-service date of 2024.

At the same time that the program cancellation was announced, Germany also stated that it was examining three potential short-term solutions: the Airbus C295 Persuader MPA (maritime patrol aircraft), Rheinland Air Services ATR 72 Sea Eagle, and the Boeing P-8A.

This interim solution must be seen in the context of another program, the Maritime Air Warfare System (MAWS). This is a Franco-German project based on the proposed Airbus A320neo M3A MPA, for which a letter of intent covering joint development was signed in 2018.

The MAWS was initially intended to replace the Atlantique 2 MPAs of the French navy—currently in the process of being redelivered after a major upgrade—and the upgraded German Orions from around 2035. In light of the hastened planned exit of the Orions, the MAWS could not be fielded in time to replace them. If Germany proceeds with the P-8 purchase, this is likely to have a detrimental effect on German involvement in the MAWS program.