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UK's Boeing P-8 purchase gets US tick of approval

The UK has moved a step closer to filling a maritime patrol void left by the retirement of the Nimrod MR2 in 2010 after being approved by the US State Department to acquire nine torpedo-carrying Boeing P-8A Poseidons for the Royal Air Force.

Estimated to be worth $3.2 billion, the deal is unlikely to face opposition from Congress during the 30-day notification period as the advanced, radar-carrying submarine and surface ship hunter is already being exported to Australia and India.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced approval of the pending foreign military sale on 25 March, just four months after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the P-8A plan as part of a £178 billion ($270 billion) investment in new military hardware.

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Nimrod MR2

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The Ministry of Defence opted to sole-source the nation’s lapsed maritime patrol need to the Boeing 737-based P-8 over European and Asian alternatives, such as a C295-based solution put forward by Airbus Defence & Space and the Kawasaki P-1.

Since divesting the Nimrod and abandoning its intended replacement, the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4, the UK has retained its airborne maritime patrol and reconnaissance competency by embedding RAF crews with Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and American forces.

A Nimrod replacement “has remained the United Kingdom’s highest priority unfunded requirement,” DSCA notes.

If the acquisition in finalised, the top-tier contractors will be: ViaSat, GC Micro, Rockwell Collins, Spirit AeroSystems, Raytheon, Telephonics, Pole Zero, Northrop Grumman, Exelis, Terma, Symmetrics, Arnprior Aerospace, General Electric and Martin Baker.

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Boeing 737-based P-8A

US Navy

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