After completing its first fight in April, late last month Boeing and the U.S. Navy formally unveiled the P-8A Poseidon at Boeing's facility in Renton, WA. A derivative of the Next-Generation 737-800, the P-8A is a long-range antisubmarine warfare, antisurface warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime, and littoral operations.
Spirit AeroSystems is building the P-8A's fuselage on its existing 737-800 production line. Also built at its facility in Wichita are the airframe tail sections and struts, which are all shipped to Renton for final assembly. Boeing says that the P-8A is its "first military derivative aircraft to incorporate structural modifications to the aircraft as it moves through the commercial line." While the aircraft has the fuselage of -800, its wings are that of a -900.
Other members of the Boeing-led team include CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and GE Aviation. The team currently is assembling and testing the first five P-8As as part of the program's System Development and Demonstration contract, awarded in 2004. Two of those aircraft have undergone first flight, powered by CFM's CFM56-7 27,300-lb-thrust engines.
As the replacement for the P-3C Orion aircraft, the Navy's requirements for the P-8A included greater payload capacity; growth potential; flexibility and interoperability; and advanced mission systems, software, and communications.
Some of those requirements were seen to by GE Aviation, which is supplying both the flight-management and stores-management systems. The flight-management system offers an integrated open architecture that is CNS/ATM (communications, navigation, and surveillance/air-traffic management) compatible and upgradable. The stores-management system allows for comprehensive, electronic control of integrated weapons management.
An upgraded AN/APY-10 maritime surveillance radar and SIGINT (signal intelligence) technologies are being provided by Raytheon, which is also offering other electronics such as its GPS Anti-Jam, Integrated Friend or Foe, and Tow Decoy Self-Protection suites. Northrop Grumman is providing the directional IR countermeasures system and the electronic support measuring system. It will also develop data links for the P-8A.
An integrated Navy/Boeing team is scheduled to begin formal flight testing later this year after the installation of additional flight-test instrumentation.
The Navy plans to purchase 117 P-8As, and initial operational capability is planned for 2013.