US Navy awards Boeing US$1.7 billion contract for 7 P-8As


Boeing has won a U.S. Navy contract for seven low-rate initial production (LRIP) P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft.

Boeing received the contract on November 3. LRIP-II is the follow-on to an initial LRIP-I contract awarded in January to provide six Poseidon aircraft. Overall, the Navy plans to purchase 117 Boeing 737-based P-8A anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to replace its P-3 fleet.

As part of the contract, Boeing will provide aircrew and maintenance training for the Navy beginning in 2012, in addition to logistics support, spares, support equipment and tools. The training system will include a full-motion, full-visual Operational Flight Trainer that simulates the flight crew stations, and a Weapons Tactics Trainer for the mission crew stations.
“This contract is the result of the Boeing and Navy team’s hard work and commitment, and moves us a step closer to P-8A full-rate production,” said Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president and P-8 program manager. “We’ve assembled and flown the first LRIP plane and continue to focus on building P-8A aircraft on cost and on schedule.”
“LRIP-II brings the P-8A program one step closer to delivering the Poseidon to the fleet,” said Captain Scott Dillon, P-8A deputy program manager for the Navy.

Boeing completed assembly of the first LRIP-I aircraft at its Renton, Wash., facility this summer. The aircraft subsequently completed a successful first flight July 7, 2011, from Renton Field to Boeing Field, which marked its transition from fabrication and assembly to mission system installation and checkout in Seattle.

The Poseidon team is using a first-in-industry in-line production process that draws on Boeing’s Next-Generation 737 production system. All P-8A-unique aircraft modifications are made in sequence during fabrication and assembly.

The team has built and is testing six flight-test and two ground-test aircraft under the U.S. Navy System Development and Demonstration contract awarded to Boeing in 2004. Four flight-test aircraft — T1, T2, T3 and T5 — are conducting testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The program’s static test plane, S1, completed its test program in January. S2, the fatigue test plane, will begin testing next year. Initial operational capability is planned for 2013.

Boeing expects to sell around 200 P-8As to foreign countries and has so far received one firm order, from India. In January 2009 the Indian Ministry of Defence signed an agreement with Boeing for eight P-8Is at a cost of SU$2.1 billion to replace the Indian Navy’s Tupolev Tu-142M maritime surveillance aircraft. An option for four additional P-8I aircraft was included in the original contract. Indian P-8s will feature a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), which was deleted off the American aircraft to save weight.

The P-8A emerged from the cancelled P-7 Long Range Air Anti-Submarine Warfare Capable Aircraft programme that was begun in 1988, which envisioned an improved P-3. However, cost overruns, slow progress and interest in opening the competition to commercial designs led to the P-7’s cancellation in 1990. It was succeeded by the Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) programme, which was begun in March 2000. In May 2004 Boeing beat Lockheed’s Orion 21 proposal (a new build version of the P-3) with its modified 737-800 passenger jet. BAE Systems also briefly entered the competition with its Nimrod MRA4, but dropped out in 2002 after failing to find a US partner.

The P-8A is based on the stretched 737-800 with 737-900-based wings. It also includes six additional fuel tanks for extended range. As the aircraft’s main role will be anti-submarine warfare and shipping interdiction, as well as electronic intelligence (ELINT), it will carry torpedoes, depth charges, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and other weapons, as well as sonobuoys.