The US Navy has awarded a $2.4 billion contract to Boeing for 16 additional P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine patrol aircraft, bringing to 53 the number of the type on order for the service.
Boeing has already delivered 13 P-8As to the USN, which in December 2013 deployed its first Poseidon patrol squadron at Kadena air base in Japan.
The navy intends to purchase 117 P-8As, which are based on Boeing’s Next Generation 737-800, through fiscal year 2019.
Initial Poseidons have small-area anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems similar to those carried by earlier versions of the navy’s Lockheed P-3C Orion, which the P-8As are replacing, according to a 2013 programme report from the Department of Defense’s office of operational test and evaluation.
The Poseidon’s radar and other sensors also make it effective in unarmed anti-surface warfare missions, says the report. Those systems allow it to detect and classify surface targets in all types of weather at short- to medium-range, and to detect and classify larger targets at long range.
However, initial P-8As do not have the broad-area ASW acoustic search systems that have since been added as upgrades to P-3Cs, says the report.
In addition, the Poseidon’s non-acoustic search abilities “are also very limited for evasive targets attempting to limit exposure to detection by radar or other sensors,” it adds.
The upgraded systems will be incorporated into future P-8As beginning in 2015.
Still, Poseidon offers a “significant improvement in system reliability, maintainability and availability compared to the legacy P-3C aircraft,” says the report.
The aircraft also has greater speed, payload and range, with a mission radius of 1,250nm (2,315km).