Boeing's Poseidon reaches another milestone

The Boeing Company and the United States Navy (USN) have formally unveiled the service's newest maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, during a ceremony near Seattle on 30 July.The Boeing Company and the United States Navy (USN) have formally unveiled the service's newest maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, during a ceremony near Seattle on 30 July.

1st Jul 2009


Boeing's Poseidon reaches another milestone

The Boeing Company and the United States Navy (USN) have formally unveiled the service's newest maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, during a ceremony near Seattle on 30 July.

Speaking at the ceremony Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems said:

"The P-8A Poseidon will equip the U.S. Navy with the most advanced multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft in the world. The Poseidon is also the latest in a decades-long Boeing tradition of working closely with the Navy and other customers to deliver a wide range of platforms that meet their most critical mission requirements, including commercial-derivative military planes, fighters, rotorcraft, and attack, electronic warfare and unmanned aircraft."

As the replacement for the Navy's P-3C Orion aircraft, Boeing say the P-8A will provide greater payload capacity, significant growth potential, unprecedented flexibility and interoperability, and advanced mission systems, software and communications. The aircraft benefits greatly from its commercial roots, especially when it comes to reliability and ease of maintenance. Boeing say that by June 2009, the 737 airplane family reached 8,217 orders and 6,080 deliveries for 251 diverse customers worldwide.

"The P-8A program is an outstanding example of evolutionary acquisition at work," said Capt. Mike Moran, U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft program manager. "The team has worked hard to stay on schedule and within cost in this development effort, and we all should be extremely proud of the results."

At an earlier briefing to APDR during a media tour to Seattle, senior Boeing officials outlined progress on the aircraft and its suitability for customers such as Australia, which is being considered for purchase as part of Air 7000. While Australia has not formally committed to the aircraft, there do not seem to be any realistic alternatives emerging in the next decade.

The international marketing prospects for the P-8A were given an important boost earlier this year when India broke with a long tradition of operating European and Eastern Bloc aircraft by agreeing to purchase 8 of the aircraft. Boeing would not comment on the price of the order, though Indian media reports repeat a figure of US $2.1 billion. This figure seems to match up with a reported amount of US $600 million worth of offset work placed in India that is believed to be associated with the P-8A order. On top of that, Boeing has developed commercial links, including partnerships, with a number of major Indian aerospace and electronics companies, including TAL Manufacturing Solutions, Tata, Bharat Electronics and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (better known as HAL). Subsequent to the briefing, Boeing explained that their involvement with Indian industry is not driven by the complexity of particular offsets requirements but is motivated by a desire to establish long term ‘win-win’ relationships.

By contrast, Boeing say they have so far had no direct discussions with Australian industry concerning a possible purchase of the P-8A, saying that whatever was taking place was being handled at a Government level. Whether Australia will eventually secure a level of industrial participation similar to India’s appears to rest in the hands of bureaucracies.

In detailing the aircraft, Chuck Dabundo (Deputy Program Manager) and John Pricco (Vice President P-8A Program) spoke enthusiastically about its performance compared with P-3Cs, highlighting performance and reliability. Asked by APDR about the difficulties for potential customer nations like Australia to integrate their weapons of choice, the verdict from Boeing was this would not be a problem. The explanation – which will strengthen the P-8A’s international appeal – is that the aircraft uses an open architecture digital data bus and so the use of non-US weapons is possible. This might have been a requirement for India, though Boeing did not comment specifically on that.

The Poseidon also has an existing connection with Australia and the RAAF through the Wedgetail AEW&C contract. The air-to-air refueling system developed for the Wedgetail 737s is now the one being used for the P-8A, and the electrical systems of the 2 aircraft apparently have a great deal of commonality.

The P-8A is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems and GE Aviation. The team currently is assembling and testing the first five P-8As as part of the program's System Development and Demonstration contract, awarded in 2004.

The integrated Navy/Boeing team will begin formal flight testing of the P-8A later this year. The United States Navy plans to purchase 117 P-8As, and initial operational capability is planned for 2013.

APDR at a glance