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P-8A Poseidon Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, United States of America




Key Data


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In June 2004, the US Navy announced the selection of the Boeing multimission maritime aircraft, 737 MMA, and awarded a contract to Boeing for the system development and demonstration phase of the programme for the US Navy's next-generation maritime surveillance aircraft. The aircraft was given the designation P-8A in March 2005.

It is expected that up to 117 P-8A MMA aircraft are to be purchased by the navy to replace the fleet of 196 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft which are approaching the end of their operational lives. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of P-8A was achieved in November 2013.

The US Navy started a two-year requirement study in 1997 for the replacement of the navy's P-3C Orion, and the Defense Acquisition Board initiated a number of concept studies during the period 2000 to 2002.

An assessment of the proposals by the USN led to contracts being placed with Boeing and Lockheed Martin in 2002 for the component advanced development phase.

Boeing's and Lockheed Martin's proposals



With the ever-increasing utility of unmanned systems, why is the US Navy still investing billions in a manned aircraft?


Boeing submitted proposals based on the 737-700 aircraft and Lockheed Martin's proposal was based on the Orion 21, a new version of the P3. The industrial team led by Boeing includes Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Smiths Industries, CFM International, GE Aviation and Spirit AeroSystems.

Boeing constructed a 737 BBJ2 (Boeing Business Jet) technology demonstrator aircraft to demonstrate the aircraft and on-board systems capabilities. Two functional mission system consoles were installed on the aircraft.

In December 2003, the aircraft completed a tour of US Navy bases and Naval Air Stations in Brunswick, Maine, Jacksonville, Florida, Norfolk, Virginia, Kaneohe, Hawaii and Whidbey Island, Washington.

The demonstrations included maximum power take-off and climb to 12,500m (41,000ft), manual reversion manoeuvres with no hydraulics, maximum rate of descent at more than 3,050m/min (10,000ft/min), tactical manoeuvres at an altitude of 200ft, simulated single engine manoeuvres and performance landing achieving a stopping distance of less than 610m (2,000ft).

The selection of the Boeing 737 MMA was announced in July 2004 with the contract award covering the manufacture of five trial aircraft during the next eight years. One aircraft each has been allocated for airworthiness tests, static tests and fatigue tests, and two aircraft for testing the mission systems.

The preliminary design review (PDR) was successfully completed in November 2005. The critical design review was completed in July 2007. Boeing began production of the first of five test aircraft in December 2007. The first flight of the P-8A test aircraft T1 was completed in April 2009. The first mission systems test flight of the T2 was successfully completed in June 2010. The test aircraft T3 completed its first flight test in July 2010.

Full-scale static testing on the airframe of the first ground-test vehicle S1 was completed in January 2011. The fatigue tests on second ground-test vehicle S2 began in late 2011. The first P-8A production aircraft completed its maiden flight in July 2011.

Boeing 737-based design

The aircraft design is based on the proven fuselage of the 737-800 and the wings of the 737-900. The P-8A aircraft has increased gross weight capability compared to the 737-800.

"The aircraft design is based on the proven fuselage of the 737-800 and the wings of the 737-900."

In June 2005, Boeing announced that the design of the P-8A's wingtips has been changed from the blended winglet to a backswept wingtip. In June 2006, Stork Aerospace of the Netherlands was awarded the contract for manufacturing the backswept (or raked) wingtips.

The internal weapons bay is installed beneath the forward section of the fuselage. The 737-900-style wings are constructed with hardpoints for carrying air-to-surface missiles.

The 737 MMA is assembled at the Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington. The 737's fuselage and tail sections are built by Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, then transferred to Renton where all the unique 737 MMA aircraft structural features are incorporated in sequence during fabrication and assembly.

The quality and performance acceptance flight testing of the aircraft was conducted from Renton Field and final installations and checkout of the mission system and special flight test instrumentation was conducted at the Boeing Field. The aircraft then ferried to Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, for flight test.

P-8A Poseidon cockpit and flight management systems

"The integral bomb bay can carry free-fall bombs, Raytheon Mark 54 torpedoes and depth charges."

The flight management system and the stores management system were developed by Smiths Aerospace. The Smiths Aerospace flight management system is based on an integrated open architecture and will be compatible with the installation of future upgrade systems.

The cabin is fitted with up to seven operator consoles.

In March 2008, Boeing selected L-3 Communications Wescam to supply the MX-20HD digital electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) multispectral sensor turrets for the P-8A Poseidon. MX-20HD is gyro-stabilised and can have up to seven sensors, including infrared, CCDTV, image intensifier, laser rangefinder and laser illuminator.

The aircraft is equipped with the upgraded APS-137D(V)5 maritime surveillance radar and signal intelligence SIGINT system developed by Raytheon. The system was redesignated AN/APY-10 in June 2006. The AN/APY-10 radar is installed on the enlarged nose fairing.

The AN/APY-10 radar provides the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode capability for imaging, detection, classification and identification of stationary ships and small vessels and for coastal and overland surveillance, as well as the high resolution imaging synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) mode for imaging, detection, classification and tracking of surfaced submarines and small, fast moving vessels that operate in coastal waters.

The SAR provides multiple resolution strip map and spot SAR operation, and allows high resolution for target identification, battle damage assessment and weapons targeting.

Periscope detection uses high scan speeds, high pulse repetition frequency and high resolution mode with advanced sea clutter rejection.

Raytheon is offering the new global positioning system anti-jam, integrated friend or foe and towed decoy self protection suites along with a broadcast information system (BIS) and secure UHF satellite communications.

The P-8A is also fitted with the CAE advanced integrated magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) system. The aircraft carries a rotary sonobuoy launcher with pneumatic ejection, being developed by EDO Corporation. The data links are being developed by Northrop Grumman Information Technology Division in Herndon, Virginia.

Weapons on the multimission maritime aircraft

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The integral bomb bay can carry free-fall bombs, Raytheon Mark 54 torpedoes and depth charges. Air-to-surface missiles are installed on the underwing hardpoints.

The US Navy armed the P-8A with a development of the MK 54 torpedo that can be fired from high-altitude. The first MK 54 torpedo was successfully test fired by the P-8A Poseidon in October 2011.

Countermeasures of the P-8A Poseidon

Northrop Grumman is supplying the electronic warfare self-protection (EWSP) suite which includes Terma AN/ALQ-213(V) electronic warfare management system (EWMS), Northrop Grumman directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) set, Northrop Grumman radar warning system and BAE Systems countermeasures dispenser system.

Aircraft performance and engines

The aircraft can cruise at high altitude at nearly 926km/h (500kt) and loiter at a speed of 333km/h (180kt) over the sea at a low altitude of 60m.

The aircraft has two CFM International CFM56-7B27A high-bypass turbofan engines, each rated at 120kN.

The same model CFM56-7 engines power the Boeing 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, in production for Australia and Turkey, and the US Navy's C-40 Clipper transport.

The engine has logged more than 30 million flight hours and maintains a proven high reliability figure of merit of 0.003% in-flight shut down rate per 1,000 hours of flight.

Additional fuel tanks are installed in the aft baggage hold providing a total maximum fuel capacity of 34,096kg.

P-8A aircraft orders and deliveries

In July 2007, the Australian Government was given 'first pass approval' to participate in the cooperative development of the P-8A Poseidon. The P-8A would replace the Royal Australian Navy's fleet of P-3C Orion aircraft. An MOU was signed for production and development of the aircraft in March 2012.

"The US Navy armed the P-8A with a development of the MK 54 torpedo that can be fired from high-altitude."

In January 2009, India placed an order for eight P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The P-8I is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon that will be custom built for India. Boeing opened a new production facility at Seattle in November 2010 to support the manufacturing of the P-8A and P-8I. The production of the P-8I began in December 2010. Deliveries to Indian Navy began in December 2012 and will conclude by 2015.

In January 2011, the US Navy placed a $1.6bn low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract for six P-8A aircraft. The contract also includes provision of spare parts, logistics and training devices. Boeing was awarded a $1.7bn LRIP contract for seven aircraft in November 2011. A $1.9bn contract for 11 P-8As was placed by the US Navy in September 2012.

The first aircraft was delivered to the US Navy in March 2012. Boeing delivered six P-8A aircraft by January 2013. The US Navy received 14 P-8A aircraft by July 2014.

In February 2014, Boeing received a $2.4bn contract from the US Navy for the delivery of 16 P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

Defence Technology


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In June 2004, the US Navy selected the Boeing Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) as the next generation maritime surveillance aircraft.
The The P-8A Poseidon will replace the US Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.
The MMA design is based on the fuselage of the 737-800 and wings of the 737-900.
Boeing constructed a 737 BBJ2 (Boeing Business Jet) technology demonstrator aircraft to demonstrate the aircraft and on-board systems capabilities.
The contract award covers the manufacture of five trials aircraft over eight years.
The 737-900 style wings are constructed with hardpoints for carrying air-to-surface missiles.
The aircraft can cruise at high altitude at nearly 926km/hr and loiter at a speed of 333km/hr over the sea at a low altitude of 60m.
The P-8A MMA is equipped with the AN/APY-10 maritime surveillance radar and signal intelligence SIGINT system from Raytheon.
The aircraft has two CFM56-7B27A high-bypass turbofan engines, each rated at 120kN.
The P-8A Poseidon achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in November 2013.