Australia to join Boeing P-8 MMA progamme

Washington DC
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Australia is to negotiate to join the US Navy's Boeing P-8A Multi-mission Martime Aircraft development programme, after the government gave first-pass approval for the A$4 billion ($3.5 billion) AIR 7000 Phase 2 programme to replace the Royal Australian Air Force's AP-3C Orions.

The 737-based P-8A Poseidon will meet the Royal Australian Air Force's manned Maritime Patrol and Response Aircraft (MPRA) requirement and operate alongside the Multi-mission Unmanned Aerial System (MUAS). Australia has joined the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) programme to meet the MUAS requirement, otherwsie known as AIR 7000 Phase 1.

boeing p-8a poseidon

Together the manned MPRA and unmanned MUAS will replace the AP-3Cs, which are planned to be retired in 2018 after more than 30 years of service.

After Boeing won the MMA competition in June 2004, Australia was offered a stake in P-8 development in return for investing $300 million in the programme, but the Canberra government turned down the offer in late 2005 because of a crisis in funding for defence procurement.

Australia signed up in January 2007 to join the BAMS system development and demonstration programme. A competiton is now under way, with Boeing offering a Gulfstream G550 derivative, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics the Mariner UAV and Northrop Grumman RQ-4N Global Hawk. A decision is due in October.

northrop grumman rq-4n global hawk

Defence minister Brendan Nelson says participation in the proposed cooperative development of the P-8 will provide opportunities for Australian industry.

Boeing and the US Navy recently completed the critical design review on the P-8. Approval to built two test aircraft will be sought later this year. The US Navy plans to buy 108 Poseidons, with deliveries beginning in 2013.