Major assembly has started on the Royal Australian Air Force’s first Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft at Spirit Aerosystems.

Boeing unit Spirit produces the fuselage for the 737 airliner, upon which the P-8A is based on. In a statement, it says that the first RAAF P-8A fuselage will be delivered to Boeing’s Renton, Washington assembly line in early 2016.

"Our new P-8 will be the first of a new generation of maritime surveillance for Australia,” says RAAF Air Cdr Adam Brown on a visit to Spirit’s Wichita factory. “We're particularly excited and proud to get what we think is the best maritime patrol aircraft in the world coming to service in our air force," said RAAF Air Commodore Adam Brown.”

Canberra has ordered eight P-8A aircraft, and has options for four additional examples. It’s first examples are due for delivery in 2017.

The type will replace the RAAF’s fleet of Lockheed Martin P-3 aircraft. Flightglobal’s Fleets Analyzer shows that the RAAF operates 15 P-3Cs, the average age of which is 33.5 years.

Canberra also intends to obtain the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned air vehicle to complement the new type.