Boeing P-8 Poseidon

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P-8 Poseidon
P-8A Poseidon VX-20 Squadron.jpg
A P-8 from the VX-20 Squadron flies over the Chesapeake Bay
RoleAnti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare
National originUnited States of America
ManufacturerBoeing Defense, Space & Security
First flight25 April 2009[1]
IntroductionNovember 2013[2]
StatusIn service
Primary usersUnited States Navy
Indian Navy
Number built15 as of July 2013[3]
Program costUS$33.638 billion (by FY2013)[4]
Unit cost
US$201.4 million (FY13)[4]
US$275.7M (with R&D, FY13)[4]
Developed fromBoeing 737 Next Generation
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P-8 Poseidon
P-8A Poseidon VX-20 Squadron.jpg
A P-8 from the VX-20 Squadron flies over the Chesapeake Bay
RoleAnti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare
National originUnited States of America
ManufacturerBoeing Defense, Space & Security
First flight25 April 2009[1]
IntroductionNovember 2013[2]
StatusIn service
Primary usersUnited States Navy
Indian Navy
Number built15 as of July 2013[3]
Program costUS$33.638 billion (by FY2013)[4]
Unit cost
US$201.4 million (FY13)[4]
US$275.7M (with R&D, FY13)[4]
Developed fromBoeing 737 Next Generation

The Boeing P-8 Poseidon (formerly the Multimission Maritime Aircraft or MMA) is a military aircraft developed for the United States Navy (USN). The aircraft has been developed by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, modified from the 737-800ERX.

The P-8 conducts anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and shipping interdiction, along with an electronic signals intelligence (ELINT) role. This involves carrying torpedoes, depth charges, SLAM-ER missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and other weapons. It is able to drop and monitor sonobuoys. It is designed to operate in conjunction with the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle. The aircraft has also been ordered by the Indian Navy as the P-8I Neptune, with the Royal Australian Air Force to place an order.



The Lockheed P-3 Orion, a turboprop ASW aircraft, has been in service with the United States Navy since 1962.[5] In the 1980s, the navy began studies for a P-3 replacement, the range and endurance of which was being reduced due to increasing weight and airframe fatigue life limitations. The navy specification required a new aircraft to have reduced operating and support costs. In 1989, the navy awarded Lockheed a fixed-price contract to develop the P-7, however the project was canceled the following year.[6]

A second competition for a replacement aircraft begun in 2000. Lockheed Martin submitted the Orion 21, an updated new-build version of the P-3.[7] Boeing's proposal was based on its 737-800 airliner.[8] BAE Systems offered a new-build version of the Nimrod MRA4, a British jet-powered maritime patrol aircraft. However, BAE withdrew from the competition in October 2002, recognizing that without a US-based production partner the bid was politically unrealistic.[9] On 14 May 2004, Boeing was selected winner of the competition.[10]

In June 2004, the navy awarded a development contract to Boeing.[11] The project was planned to be for at least 108 airframes for the USN.[12] More orders are possible from the other nations operating over 200 P-3s. Project value is expected to be worth at least $15 billion. Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Spirit AeroSystems, GE Aviation Systems, Marshall Aerospace, CFMI, BAE Systems, and Marotta are major subcontractors.[13] In July 2004, the USN placed an order for five MMA aircraft, the first flight-test aircraft was to be completed in 2009.[12] On 30 March 2005, the P-8A designation was bestowed upon the aircraft.[14]

Design phase and testing[edit]

Rollout of the P-8 on 30 July 2009
A P-8A Poseidon flying alongside a Lockheed P-3 Orion, close to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, in 2010

The P-8, based on a proven airframe, is to replace the P-3s.[15] At first, it will be equipped with legacy P-3 systems, later upgrades shall incorporate more advanced technology. The Government Accountability Office credited the incremental approach with keeping the project on schedule and on budget. In 2008, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) deleted the requirement for the P-8A to be equipped with magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment in a weight reduction effort by 3,500 lb (1,600 kg) to improve endurance. Indian Navy P-8Is shall retain MAD. A hydrocarbon sensor detects fuel vapors from diesel-powered submarines and ships.[16]

The P-8's first flight was on 25 April 2009.[1] The second and third P-8s had flown and were in flight testing in early August 2010.[17] On 11 August 2010, the US approved the P-8 for low-rate production.[18][19] A P-8 released sonobuoys for the first time on 15 October 2010, dropping six sonobuoys in three separate low-altitude passes.[20] In 2011, it was found that the P-8's ice detection system was defective due to counterfeit components used; allegedly these parts had been poorly refurbished and sold to subcontractor BAE Systems as new by a Chinese supplier.[21]

The first production P-8A was handed over to the navy on 4 March 2012. It flew to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, for training with the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30).[2] On 24 September 2012, Boeing announced a $1.9 billion order for 11 aircraft.[22] On 10 June 2013, a DoD Inspector General (IG) report noted that the navy should delay full-rate production over a lack of key information to assess if the P-8 meets operational requirements. Additional testing was also needed to guarantee a 25-year lifespan.[23] Boeing executives dismissed the report, saying the flight test program is on track.[24] In 2013, full-rate production was delayed until the aircraft can demonstrate it can survive its 25-year lifespan without structural fatigue, overcome mission-limited deficiencies, track surface ships, and perform other primary missions.[25]

On 24 June 2013, a P-8 successfully scored a direct hit with a live AGM-84D Block IC Harpoon anti-ship missile during weapons integration testing.[26] On 1 July 2013, an initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) report found that the P-8A was "operationally effective, operationally suitable, and ready for fleet introduction." Six test and nine low-rate initial production aircraft had been delivered at that point.[3] On 31 July 2013, Boeing received a $2.04 billion contract to build 13 P-8As in the fourth low-rate initial production lot, for a fleet of 37 aircraft by the end of 2016. Long-lead parts components for 16 P-8As in the first full-rate production lot were also funded.[27]

As of September 2013 it is intended to replace all navy P-3s with 117 P-8As by 2019, but budget cuts may delay this by two years.[28] On 3 January 2014, the Naval Air Systems Command proceeded with full-rate production of the P-8A. Increment 1 systems include persistent anti-submarine warfare capabilities and an integrated sensor suite; in 2016, Increment 2 upgrades will add multi-static active coherent acoustics, an automated identification system, and high-altitude anti-submarine weapons.[29]

Halving of USN orders from 16 aircraft per year down to 8 in 2015 due to expiration of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 are expected to be partially offset by commercial sales of the 737s and foreign buys of the P-8.[30]

Increment 2 in 2016 will include sensor and software improvements and a glide kit for Mark 54 torpedoes to allow launch from 30,000 ft. Increment 3 in 2020 will enable "net-enabled anti-surface warfare".[31]


In 2010, Boeing proposed to replace the United States Air Force's Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS fleet with a modified P-8 at the same cost Northrop Grumman proposed for re-engining and upgrading the E-8s.[32][33] The proposed P-8 Airborne Ground Surveillance (AGS) would integrate an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and have ground moving target indicator (GMTI) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capabilities.[34]

The main distinguishing feature of the P-8 AGS is a pod-mounted radar on the lower centerline of the fuselage; the pod is lowered so the engine nacelles do not interrupt the radar's line of sight. Two aft ventral fins increase aircraft stability. The P-8 AGS reuses the P-8A's Raytheon AN/APY-10 multi-mission surface search radar.[34][35] In 2010, the Air Force launched an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) of the JSTARS platform.[36] At a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on 20 March 2012, the Air Force representative announced it did not have the resources to buy a new business jet based Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform.[37]

Boeing has proposed repackaging P-8 systems in the smaller and less expensive Bombardier Challenger 600 series business jet, named the Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA).[38]


External images
P-8 Poseidon cutway showing weapons bay
Cutaway of P-8 from
Crewmembers at their work stations inside the cabin of a US Navy P-8

The P-8 is a militarized version of the Boeing 737-800 with 737-900-based wings.[39] The fuselage is similar to but longer than the 737-700-based C-40 Clipper transport aircraft in service with the USN. The P-8 has a strengthened fuselage and Boeing 767-400ER-style raked wingtips, instead of the blended winglets available on 737NG variants.[40] The five operator stations (two naval flight offiers plus three enlisted Aviation Warfare Operators/naval aircrewman) are mounted in a sideways row, along the port side of the cabin. None of these crew stations have windows. One observer window is located on each side of the forward cabin.

The P-8 features the Raytheon APY-10 multi-mission surface search radar.[41] The P-8I will feature an international version of the APY-10.[42] A short bomb bay for torpedoes and other stores opens behind the wing. The aircraft also includes six additional body fuel tanks for extended range from Marshall Aerospace; three of the tanks are located in the forward cargo compartment and three in the rear. In-flight refueling is via a receptacle on top of the forward fuselage, just aft of the cockpit. This receptacle will receive a flying boom that is typically used to refuel United States Air Force aircraft, as opposed to the hose-and-drogue system used by other USN aircraft. In order to power the additional electronics, the P-8 has a 180kVA electric generator on each engine instead of the 90kVA generator found on civilian 737s. This required a redesign of the nacelles and their mountings to the wings.[43]

In U.S. service, the Poseidon will be complemented by around 40 Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system to provide continuous surveillance. Because of the cancellation of Lockheed Martin's Aerial Common Sensor project, Boeing will propose a signals intelligence variant of the P-8 to service the requirement for the USN.[44]

Operational history[edit]

P-8A Poseidons of VP-16 from NAS Jacksonville, FL, refueling at NAF Atsugi, Japan while forward-deployed to the Pacific Fleet in Dec 2013
A VP-16 P-8A at Canberra International Airport during a visit to Australia in 2014

United States[edit]

In February 2012, the P-8 made its mission debut during "Bold Alligator" 2012, an annual littoral warfare exercise.[45] In April 2012, the aircraft took part in Exercise Joint Warrior, flying out of RAF Lossiemouth.[46] During RIMPAC 2012 in the Hawaiian area, two P-8As participated in 24 exercise scenarios as part of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VX-1) while forward deployed to Marine Corps Base Hawaii (former MCAS Kaneohe Bay).[47] U.S. Navy P-8s may rotate through bases of American allies such as "...the Philippines or Thailand to help those nations with maritime domain awareness."[48]

On 29 November 2013, the P-8's inaugural deployment began when squadron VP-16 departed its home station of NAS Jacksonville, Florida, for Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan and forward deployment with the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six aircraft and 12 air crews were deployed to supplement Regular Navy and Navy Reserve P-3Cs already deployed to/based out of Kadena AB.[49][50] The deployment was pre-planned as an enhancement of ISR and anti-submarine capabilities for the Pacific re-balance, but occurred shortly after the Chinese announcement of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, which heightened tensions in the region.[51]

During exercises in 2012-2013 and an overseas deployment to Japan, the aircraft reportedly exhibited radar, sensor integration, and data transfer problems; leading to additional testing being performed. In January 2014, the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation office called the P-8A 'ineffective' for large area ISR and anti-submarine warfare missions, and said that the initial aircraft were not ready for deployment.[52] The same report found that the P-8 was effective at the small-area search mission, and with much better range, speed, and reliability than older aircraft.[53] Pentagon acquisition undersecretary Frank Kendall has disputed the report, saying that although its findings are factual, it did not acknowledge future capability upgrades for anti-submarine and wider-area surveillance.[54]

A second squadron, VP-5, completed its transition to the P-8 in August 2013 with its next overseas deployment slated for mid-2014.[49] A third squadron, VP-45,[55] began its transition to the Poseidon in July 2013.[49]

On 13 March 2014, a U.S. Navy P-8A participated in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[56][57] On 27 March 2014, a second U.S. Navy P-8A, stationed in Okinawa, Japan deployed to Perth, Australia to participate in the search.

Exports and foreign involvement[edit]

The U.S. Department of Defense wants to follow a program template for the P-8 similar to that of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, with international cooperation from prospective MMA users.[58] Boeing publicly identified New Zealand as a potential customer.[59] Italy indicated interest in purchasing MMA aircraft, with fleet support provided by Alitalia in 2004.[60] However, in December 2008, Italy announced the purchase of four ATR 72 turboprop aircraft to replace its aging Atlantic Maritime Patrol Aircraft,[61] possibly as a temporary solution because Italy remained interested in the P-8.[62][63]


The Australian Minister for Defence announced on 20 July 2007 that the P-8A MMA had been selected as the preferred aircraft to replace the Royal Australian Air Force fleet of Lockheed AP-3C Orions in conjunction with a yet-to-be-selected unmanned aerial vehicle. The last RAAF AP-3C is scheduled to be retired in 2018, after nearly 30 years of service.[64][65] In March 2009, Australia's Chief of Air Force stated that subject to anticipated government approval, the RAAF would begin to add the P-8 to its fleet in 2016.[66]

In October 2012, Australia formalized its participation in the program with a commitment of A$73.9m (US$81.1m) in an agreement with the USN.[67] Australia plans to order eight P-8 aircraft to replace the RAAF's AP-3C aircraft by 2017–18, and reach operational capability by 2019.[68][69] Air Marshal Geoff Brown, head of the Royal Australian Air Force, has said Australia is considering purchasing more P-8s, and purchasing fewer MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft than originally planned.[70] On 21 February 2014, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced Australia's intention to purchase eight P-8s plus options for four more, with development work to be carried out in South Australia. Aircraft deliveries are planned to occur from 2017 to 2021.[71][72]


A Boeing P-8I of the Indian Navy

In January 2008, Boeing proposed the P-8I, a customized export variant of the P-8A, for the Indian Navy.[73] The P-8I variant features two major components that aren't fitted on the P-8A, a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar and a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD).[74] On 4 January 2009, India's Ministry of Defence signed an agreement with Boeing for the supply of eight P-8Is at a total cost of US$2.1 billion. These aircraft would replace Indian Navy's aging Tupolev Tu-142M maritime surveillance turboprops.[75][76] Each aircraft has an average cost of about US$220 million.[77] The deal makes India the first international customer of the P-8, and also marks Boeing's first military sale to India.[78] In October 2010, India's Defence Acquisition Council of the Ministry of Defence approved the purchase of four additional P-8Is.[79][80] In March 2011, it was reported that India was to order four additional P-8s from Boeing later in the year.[81] India plans to order another 12 P-8Is at a later time.[82][83]

The Data Link II communications technology was produced by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for the P-8I; the system is capable of exchanging tactical data between Indian Navy aircraft, ships and shore establishments.[84][85] The P-8I also features an integrated BEL-developed IFF system.[86] India has purchased AGM-84L Harpoon Block II Missiles and Mk 54 All-Up-Round Lightweight Torpedoes for the P-8I.[87] In July 2012, Boeing began flight testing of the P-8I.[88] On 19 December 2012, the first P-8I was handed over to an Indian naval team at Boeing's Seattle facility.[89][90] The Indian Navy inducted its first P-8I on 15 May 2013.[91] The second and third P-8Is were received on 16 and 22 November 2013 respectively.[92][93] The aircraft are based at INS Rajali, in Tamil Nadu.[94] In one its first operational deployment by the Indian Navy, three aircraft conducted search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, two from INS Utkrosh, and one later deployed to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.[74][95]


In August 2012, AirForces Monthly reported that "Boeing sees the UK as a prime market for its P-8A Poseidon"[96] following the cancellation of Nimrod MRA4. However, the UK has indicated it is not interested in a "silver bullet" solution like the P-8.[97]

The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported in March 2014 that the Norwegian Navy is looking at the possibility to lease the aircraft directly from Boeing. The Navy currently has six P-3 Orions, but is having increasing difficulty keeping them operational.[98]




 United States

Specifications (P-8A)[edit]

A P-8A of VP-16 dropping a torpedo

Data from U.S. Navy,[103][104] Boeing,[105][106] and others[107]

General characteristics




See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



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  • Endres, Günter. The Illustrated Directory of Modern Commercial Aircraft. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1125-0.
  • Norris, Guy and Mark Wagner. Modern Boeing Jetliners. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Zenith Imprint, 1999. ISBN 0-7603-0717-2.
  • Shaw, Robbie. Boeing 737-300 to 800. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 1999. ISBN 0-7603-0699-0.

External links[edit]