The United States Navy has awarded Boeing with a $2.5 billion contract for the construction of 20 new P-8A Poseidon Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, according to a U.S. Department of Defense press release.
“This contract combines purchase for the Navy ($2,052,571,034; 83 percent); and the Government of Australia ($417,011,961; 17 percent), under a cooperative agreement,” the press release notes.
“We continue to hear feedback from our Navy customer about the incredible capabilities of the P-8A,” said James Dodd, Boeing vice president and program manager of P-8 Programs in a Boeing press release. “The deployed squadrons tell us it’s exceeding expectations – we’re looking forward to providing even more capability to the fleet and to Australia.”
The P-8A, designed and built by Boeing to replace the U.S. Navy’s aging P-3 fleet, is a military modification of Boeing’s Next-Generation 737-800 commercial airplane featuring advanced anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
According to the Boeing website, the P-8A aircraft “has twice the sonobuoy processing capability and can carry 30 percent more sonobuoys than any maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft currently flying.” It can also control a number of reconnaissance drones to extend sensor reach.
The P-8A has a range of up to 7,242 kilometers (4,500 miles) without refueling, reaches speeds of up to 490 knots, and “can fly in the “harshest maritime flight regimes, including extended operations in icing environments,” Boeing boasts.
The aircraft can carry several types of bombs, Raytheon Mark 54 lightweight torpedoes (which are turned into glide bombs and can be launched from up to 9,100 meters), mines, and depth charges, in addition to air-to-surface missiles installed on the underwing hardpoints.
The U.S. Navy’s Poseidons are also slated to to undergo an upgrade in 2016 and be equipped with the Raytheon Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) radar system, one of the world’s most advanced aerial radars, according to experts.
Boeing has so far delivered 33 P-8A aircraft to the U.S. Navy, grouped in four patrol squadrons. Overall, the Navy is slated to receive 78 Poseidons. P-8A aircraft delivery of the recent order is expected to begin in late 2017. Australia will receive its first out of a total of eight P-8A aircraft in late 2016.(Australia’s contract includes the option for four additional aircraft.)
As I reported previously (See: “Indian Ocean: India Deploys New Sub-Killer Planes to Counter Chinese Subs”), in January 2009, India became the first international customer for the P-8I aircraft, an export variant of the P-8A Poseidon with the signing of a $2.1 billion contract for the purchase of eight planes. New Delhi has recently expressed interest in purchasing four more P-8I aircraft.