The 100th Boeing P-8 entered final assembly in Renton, Washington in March.
The maritime patrol aircraft is destined for the US Navy in fall 2018 and is part of a string of backorders that Boeing said will keep its P-8 production line running until 2022. The aerospace manufacturer said it has delivered 82 aircraft since the launch of the programme in 2011, and in total has 127 aircraft contracted to the US Navy, Australia, United Kingdom and India.
The company believes it can add more aircraft orders to the programme from current and new customers, eventually extending the total number of the aircraft delivered to 200. Norway signed an agreement for five P-8A's in 2017 and Boeing is bidding to sell aircraft to South Korea, which is expected to decide on a maritime patrol aircraft by the end of 2018.
The P-8 is known for submarine hunting, but in the face of additional competition from aircraft such as the Saab Swordfish Boeing is keen to emphasize that the aircraft’s size gives it extra room for capabilities beyond anti-submarine missions.
“Especially for the countries in the Middle East and a lot of Asia Countries what makes the P-8 interesting is it is a multiple mission aircraft,” said Matt Carreon, global sales and marketing lead for the P-8, noting the jet’s anti-surface warfare, intellgence-collecting, and search and rescue capabilities. “We are able to incorporate new technologies, additional sensors, additional crewmembers which makes it really appealing for our customer who can’t afford another aircraft.”
The company also points out that it has produced more than 10,000 units of the 737 commercial airliner, the airframe on which the P-8 is based, and is able to pass on economies of scale savings onto its military customers. And though the 737 production line is transitioning to accommodate the larger 737 MAX, Boeing remains confident that the P-8 will continue to benefit from its commercial cousin.
“The 737 production line process has supported multiple models of the 737. That process is not changing,” the company said. “The P-8 has benefitted from those efficiencies, which have largely contributed to an overall 30% cost savings and 50% reduction in production time.”
Boeing added that the latest aircraft upgrade, Increment 3, also includes a wideband satellite communications link, which will increase the volume of data the plane can send and receive.