Boeing and Lockheed Martin offer designs for adapted anti-submarine warfare weapon for US Navy's future P-8As

Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) as practised by the US Navy is adapting with new weapons and strategies that could make better use of the future Boeing P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA).

One aim is to re-examine tactics for the current Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion fleet dictating surveillance sweeps from medium altitude, then a rapid descent to low altitude to launch torpedoes. The frequent diving interrupts the surveillance tracks and puts a heavy maintenance burden on the P-3s and is likely to affect the service life of the 737-800ERX-derived P-8s.

The Naval Undersea Warfare Center is responding by calling for a new version of the Raytheon Mk54 torpedo, to be modified with a wing kit, precision guidance package and a datalink, with Boeing and Lockheed Martin offering designs. Boeing is basing its offer on a wing kit borrowed from the Standoff Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) programme, and a Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kit. Lockheed Martin is responding with a LongShot wing kit used for the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser – Extended Range (WCMD-ER) bomb, but equipped with a GPS link and a UHF wireless interface. The Boeing datalink would be adapted from the Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement (AMSTE) programme.

Both designs and perhaps others are expected to be integrated with an Mk54 torpedo for a demonstration flight this year. In theory, the adapted torpedo – the High Altitude ASW Weapon Concept (HAAWC) – could be dropped by the P-8A at cruise altitude, then glide dozens of kilometres to the target while being fed updated tracking co-ordinates from the aircraft's radar.

The MMA programme has been in development for nine months. The USN plans to field the weapon in 2013, but Boeing promises to deliver the first operational MMA squadron by the end of 2012. The planned purchase of 108 aircraft was based on an adjunct order of about 50 unmanned air vehicles under the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance programme.

The MMA fleet can be adjusted based on the eventual purchase of the BAMS fleet, says Capt Chris Easterling, MMA programme manager. BAMS is currently delayed five years from 2008 to 2013.


Source: Flight International