Boeing has been awarded a $1.2bn contract for the manufacture and delivery of 10 Lot 9 full-rate production P-8A aircraft, seven for the US Navy and three for the Royal Air Force.

The UK intends to procure 9 of the aircraft in total and had already ordered two. This brings the orders up to 5.

According to the contract award notification:

“Work will be performed in Seattle, Washington (82.6 percent); Baltimore, Maryland (2.6 percent); Greenlawn, New York (2.4 percent); Cambridge, United Kingdom (1.6 percent); North Amityville, New York (0.9 percent); Rockford, Illinois (0.7 percent); Rancho Santa Margarita, California (0.6 percent); Dickinson, North Dakota (0.6 percent); and various locations in the U.S. (8 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2020. Fiscal 2018 aircraft procurement (Navy); and foreign military sales (FMS) funds in the amount of $1,232,654,575 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  

This contract combines purchase for the Navy ($858,242,867; 69.7 percent); and FMS partners ($374,411,708; 30.3 percent). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.”

Recently James Gray, Conservative Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire, has outlined his concerns at the proposed number of P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft the UK is to purchase.

Gray said in response to a question regarding his level of concern at the cuts the Minsitry of Defence is facing:

“More than anything else, the thinking about the possibility of a cold-weather threat is something that we have had and have contributed to NATO for 40 years. This year, at least, we are downgrading it. I am told that the MOD are going to bring it back up again the following year, but I will believe that when I see it, quite frankly. I very much hope they will.

The same applies to maritime patrol aircraft, which are terribly important in all this. All right, we are getting them but only eight [nine] —the P-8s. Will they be enough really to monitor what is happening with Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic?

Our under-ice capability previously was largely to monitor Russian SSBN activity out of Murmansk and elsewhere along the Arctic coast. Without that capability and regular patrols under the ice in the north, do we really know what the Russians are doing with their submarines? Are we allowing the bastion concept, which stretches on the map at least theoretically as far as the Shetland Islands—are we really able to check what is happening there?

I think we risk reducing our capability in the High North. Generals always fight the last war. Everyone is very fussed at the moment about terrorism, counter-insurgency, Syria, Iraq and all that, and quite rightly should be. I’m not knocking that. I just wonder whether we should start to focus our attention back to where the next war will be, or the next area of tension might be, namely the North Atlantic.”

P-8 Poseidon Quick Facts, courtesy of Boeing

  • For the P-8, Boeing uses a first-in-industry in-line production system that leverages the best of Boeing Commercial and Boeing Defense for development and production.
  • The P-8 can fly up to 41,000 feet and travel up to 490 knots.
  • P-8 offers higher reliability – the 737 has a 99.8 percent dispatch rate, with more than 4,000 aircraft flying, and 6,600+ orders.
  • The P-8 is engineered for 25 years/25,000 hours in the harshest maritime flight regimes, including extended operations in icing environments.
  • The P-8 can fly in all flight regimes, and can self-deploy up to 4,500 miles from base without refueling.
  • Dual CFM-56B commercial engines each provide 27,000 pounds of thrust, greatly enhancing climb and flight characteristics over turboprop equipped aircraft.
  • Each engine is equipped with a 180KVA engine driven generator.  Combined with the 90KVA commercial APU, this provides 450KVA of power. P-8 possesses significant growth capacity for equipment with excess onboard power and cooling capacity.
  • P-8 has twice the sonobuoy processing capability and can carry 30 percent more sonobuoys than any maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft currently flying.
  • P-8 has the ability to control unmanned air vehicles (level 2 control-receive) to extend sensor reach.
  • P-8 offers commonality with 737 fleet and other military platforms that use the 737 airframe.

The aircraft are to be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and be used to protect the UK’s nuclear deterrent and new aircraft carriers. The P-8s are also to perform search-and-rescue missions and conduct overland reconnaissance.

30 COMMENTS

    • Only those who are very much behind the times! Modern Turbofan are powerful and highly reliable. Considering you can book a transatlantic flight on a 737 variant now or travel from the UK to New Zealand on a Widebody twin concerns about not having four engines are rather silly!

        • In what sense? The reliability required of modern Turbo fans fitted to civilian jets is high. When it comes to engines the cross over between civilian and military is high these days especially in the class of aircraft. The two vs four engine argument is petty and not in keeping with reality!

        • Not so much. If it’s combat aircraft sure comparisons are silly but for anything else no its isn’t. As it is for decades many civilian aircraft and there engines have ended up being used in military service and as the needs of the civilians have increased market demand as allowed for civilian R&D to leap ahead of the military in such area’s so why not tap into those already proven reliable aircraft and engines that at times have thousands of active aircraft in service with millions of combined hours of use. For anything short of a combat jet or an air lifter/cargo civilian is the way to go. Australia has done so with the MRTT and E-7A Wedgetail with great success and multiple nations following on with it (Including the UK withthe Voyager) so why should the P-8 be any different?

          As it is the 2 v 4 argument has about as much merit as the 1 v 2 argument for combat aircraft. Engines are more reliable and effective, The days of unreliable engines cutting out on a regular basis are long and gone. The engines are far better and maintenance is even better and only getting better again.

  1. Ideally yes, but synergy with the US is far more important on this occasion.

    Bog standard US Navy spec (weapons and upgrades) is the way to go to keep them affordable and effective over the next 30 + years.

    • They will come wired exactly the same as USN examples so whatever they operate could be potentially fielded by the RAF. Norway will no doubt also want to pay for the integration of NSM on the type. So in effect they will be fitted for but not with AShM with the capability a UOR and a software drop away from the capability.

      If the UK was sensible it should look to getting Brimstone, Spear 3 and possibly Paveway 4 integrated. Maybe some weapon station hang feasibility tests for Stormshadow as well…

      • I was thinking that most of the area that will be patrolled by the Type 31, which will not have an anti ship missile, might, given the UKs empire foreign basing legacy be within what Boeing describe as the P-8s “can self deploy up to 4,500 miles” range. Would be nice if a Type 31 meeting a full fat frigate opponent could whistle up a P-8.

  2. This is a great example of how long the slow path to recovery is once a capability has been removed completely.

    It’s also what bothers me about our entire RN ship building program – too little too slow.

    • The other thing about regeneration is that it is also far more costly than the initial saves (which are probably never quite realised I suspect).

      Our Helicopter and Combat aircraft fleets are down 50%+ since 2010 and our Navy has also been critically depleted. Just look at the Astute programme – great work but the cost has been significantly more as once you lose the skills it takes years to regenerate.

      Ajax, MIV (or is that now Boxer) and the whole Warrior/Challenger upgrade programmes seem to be in disarray and will not provide the numbers required.

      I am afraid this is all down to very poor management by the force heads over the last 20 years. You just have to look at the high volume of UOR’s covering everything from aircraft to side firearms and rifles to see how poorly managed all 3 forces have been.

      Carter is continuing in this mould for the army, but it seems to me the FSL seems to be taking a more radical approach and making some difficult decisions. Only time will tell.

  3. Why don’t we insist on having Rolls Royce engines as opposed to the CFM? We’re not getting much industrial benefit for the amount we are paying for them!

    • Because Boeing would laugh at us and then point out Rolls Royce don’t make an Engine for the 737!

      I suppose at a pinch you could adapt a variant of the RR BR700 family in twin pack form but the development and integration cost of that would be far beyond what it is to just use a CFM56. The RAF already operates two different types using the CFM56 and it is one of the most common and affordable engines on the market.

      As for Rolls Royce and industrial benefit, they have a FAT order book already and don’t need any help or distraction by bodging some of their engines onto the 737. There is a good chance Rolls Royce would say “No thanks not interested” anyway at the whole proposition!

      Considering Rolls Royce gave up their share of the IAE V2500 to P&W would rather show there lack of interest in participating in the Narrow Body market segment anyway!

      Now Rolls Royce has expressed some interest in developing a Trent variant for the 757 replacement middle of the market segment. That makes plenty of sense for them as it would only require them to adapt a variant of the Engine they already offer for the 787 and A350.

      Rolls Royce also sold their share in the RTM322 which is now entirely a French engine and the latest AH64E Apache Guardian that are being purchased for the British Army will use General Electric T700-GE-701D. This is being done for exactly the same reason the UK is not going to mess around changing the engine fittes to the P-8a!

      • Thanks for clarification on the engine issue but we are seeing far too much of our procurement going to the US with limited benefits to UK industry. Ajax in Spain, P8 with little UK content, engine overhaul of F35 to Turkey. Meanwhile BAE are manufacturing in Turkey (how long will it be that they move production of Hawk to India altogether and close Brough? BAE is the biggest problem for the MOD as they have us over a barrel (not forgetting Lockheed Nartin). Make the Type 31 at Camill Laird, Babcock or A&P. Let’s keep as much as we can in this country for once!

  4. So we save money by buying an off the shelf American product for billions but get back less than 2% UK input and absolutely no chance of then having a product to sell to third parties and benefit our economy?
    All around the world countries are aiding their development by insisting that the military kit they buy is assembled locally or uses local parts or transfers technology. We on the other hand are saving a bit of money by voluntarily giving up both an indigenous industry and the future exports it uses to generate.

    • We tried making are own one and it was a complete Spinning Bow-tie clown car of a disaster!

      Even if we had seen sense and used a more common new commercial airframe it would still have been expensive and given the choice (as has already been shown) most nations who want a long range ASW type and are friendly with Uncle Sam will just buy the P-8 and be done with it!

      We do actually get some return on our investment into Nimrod 2000/MRA4, the mission system fitted to the P-8a is derived from the one that we paid Boeing to develop for the MRA4. The operation of the mission system is so similar that by all accounts the RAF crew who had been training to use the MRA4 were able to start using it with barely any transition training required.

      • To be fair to the Nimrod team, whilst it was massively overcost and delayed (like everything else the public sector buys pretty much), if they had continued at it, i wonder if the total cost of getting them into service, would have compared to the costs involved with cancelling the contract and then the additional costs involved with buying the p8’s along with new weaponary to go with it.

        The decision to cancel them, was more about a convenient target for cuts, than a thought out capability assessment or value decision.

        No doubt the p8 is better than nothing, but its impossible to know if it was value for money or a capability improvement.

        • p.s. my assumption based on no information, is that the contracts are put out at the lowest possible upfront costs to look like the item will cost less, with the full knowledge that the inappropriate penalties etc have been included, because they would have cost more upfront to include. I base this on every political decision pretty much being based on short term-ism.

        • Haddon Cave doomed the Nimrod MRA4, it wasn’t just about it being a convenient target for cuts. The sunk cost alone made it very cancellation resistant, the unfortunate truth is at cancellation she was still facing some serious issues when it came to systems fit and basic flight worthiness. The MRA4 had some serious handling issues and BAE Systems were in effect offering some rather Heath Robinson solutions!

          • The P8 is a fine aircraft replacing another fine aircraft in the P3C. It has greater speed, weapons load and range than both the P3C and Nimrod.

            No doubt an upgrade path of the P-8 will be commenced by Boeing and the US Navy’. There is little doubt Australia will piggy back on these upgrades. This will reduce costs of life of type.

            As for the UK, an upgrade of the Voyager fleet to permit inflight refuelling of the P8 should be a priority.

          • I didn’t understand why we didn’t order the boom at the outset, it’s not like our allies use boom refuelling?! Still I suspect if they do have them retro fitted we might then look at purchasing some F35A’s for the Airforce strike capability.

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