Australia has signed a A$73.9 million ($81.1 million) agreement with the US Navy to participate in the further development of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).

The signing formalises Australia's participation in the development of the Increment 3 P-8A Aircraft and marks Australia's continued commitment to the project to acquire a new manned MPA, says Australia's Department of Defence.

"The P-8A is a fundamental element of Australia's future maritime patrol and response strategy in replacing the current [Lockheed Martin] AP-3C Orion fleet, due for withdrawal around 2019."

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operates 19 AP-3C Orions. It has yet to announce a formal order for the P-8A.

"The Increment 3 Project Arrangement falls under the production, sustainment and follow-on development memorandum of understanding between [the DoD] and the US Navy, which was signed in March this year and provides the framework by which the P-8A will be acquired, sustained and developed throughout its service life," it adds.

Increment 3 will also include a networked maritime strike weapon, air-sea rescue kit and enhanced target tracking.

Minister for defence Stephen Smith and minister for defence materiel Jason Clare made the announcement at RAAF Amberley, where they welcomed a visit by three US navy EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. The aircraft are in Australia to familiarise pilots with its capabilities.

In August, Canberra announced that it would convert 12 of its 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets into EA-18G Growlers. It estimates that the conversion will cost A$1.5 billion, including conversion kits, support equipment, spares and training.

Source: Flight International