The US Navy clarified today that it will order 36 Boeing P-8A Poseidons during the first three years of production, perhaps further opening the door to accelerating the in-service date by one year.
The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) disclosed the purchasing plans for the first three low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots from 2010 to 2012 on the Federal Business Opportunities web site.
NAVAIR expects to order 10 aircraft in fiscal 2010, followed by 12 in FY2011 and 14 in FY2012. Advance procurement funds for the first batch in FY2010 must be awarded to Boeing next year. Nearly $6.3 billion has been set aside in long-range budget plans for the LIRP phase to buy all 36 aircraft, averaging about $175 million for each P-8A.
The in-service date for the first P-8A unit is scheduled for late 2013, but Boeing promised NAVAIR it could accelerate this schedule by up to one year when the contract was awarded in 2004.
An airframe fatigue crisis facing the Lockheed P-3 Orion fleet has recently forced NAVAIR to publicly consider accepting Boeing’s offer to accelerate deliveries.
Under the LRIP production schedule, the first 10 aircraft should be delivered in FY2012, which may be enough aircraft for the USN to declare the first unit operational.
Five developmental prototypes are now in various stages of assembly, with the first expected to achieve first flight in the fourth quarter of 2009.
The land-based P-8A is being designed primarily to hunt for submarines.