Boeing will receive a work package from the US Navy to design and incorporate “Increment 3 Block 2” improvements into the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, according to a contracting announcement released on 11 January.

The P-8A was declared operational in 2013, and advanced communications, sensors and weapons capabilities are bring rolled out in three phases, with increments one and two already under way.

This third phase, which targets initial operational capability in 2020, will broadly improve the P-8A’s ability to detect and target submarines and surface vessels as well as its signals intelligence and networking capabilities, the navy says.

The more straightforward tasks are bring incorporated into Block I, and more intricate modifications are being delivered in Block II. According to the notice, Block II will be sole-sourced to Boeing, with work commencing in the third quarter of fiscal year 2016 for completion in mid-2018.

P-8A - US Navy

US Navy

Progress on Increment 3 comes as the navy nears initial production and fielding of the Raytheon AN/APS-154 Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS), an evolution of the APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System radar that provides a more sensitive, next-generation system for identifying and targeting threats on land and at sea.

Naval Air Systems Command disclosed on 30 December that flight trials of the sensor have proceeded successfully since the maiden flight on the P-8A in May. “Successful testing of AAS on the P-8A is a significant milestone, enabling production decisions and leading up to the initial deployment of AAS,” the statement says.

An F/A-18 carries the new Harpoon Block II+

An F/A-18 carrying the new Harpoon Block II+ on 18 November

US Navy

The navy also announced that the first successful end-to-end free flight of the network-enabled Boeing AGM-84N Harpoon Block II+ over-the-horizon anti-ship missile has taken place, launched from a Boeing F/A-18 at the Point Mugu sea range in California on 18 November.

Improvements to the Harpoon introduce a common datalink and new GPS guidance system, and it is a candidate weapon for the Poseidon as new networking capabilities are introduced.

The navy is buying 117 P-8As, Flightglobal's Fleets Analyzer database shows. The aircraft is also operated by India and Australia, while the UK has announced that it intends to acquire nine of the 737-derived type.