The US Navy has completed deals to spend more than $1.7 billion on the first six low-rate initial production (LRIP) copies of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft.

The LRIP-1 investment includes a $1.6 billion contract awarded on 21 January and a $109 million contract for long-lead materials awarded in April 2009.

The navy plans to buy 117 P-8As over the next eight years to replace its ageing fleet of Lockheed Martin P-3C Orions hunting for submarines. Initial operational capability is scheduled during fiscal year 2014. The Indian navy has also ordered six P-8Is for delivery after 2015.

 P-8A flares - NAVAIR
© US Naval Air Systems Command

The P-8A has enjoyed a fairly smooth start so far for a new development programme. Static tests completed in mid-January on the ground-test aircraft validated the structural integrity of the P-8A's design.

The tests increased confidence in the navy's choice of a commercial derivative of a modern jet airliner for the sometimes harsh environment required by the anti-submarine warfare mission. Boeing adapted the commercial version of its 737-800ERX with an internal weapons bay and an on-board mission suite.

Rather than modifying the aircraft for the patrol mission after coming off the assembly line, Boeing is building the P-8A's complete structure and systems in the production line.

The aircraft is also being considered among several options by the US Air Force. Since last year, the service has been studying options for replacing the Northrop Grumman E-8C JSTARS airborne ground surveillance system with a new aircraft. Both the P-8 and upgraded versions of the E-8C are being considered.

Source: Flight International