Earlier this year the US. Navy received its 100th P-8A aircraft from Boeing as the global fleet, which also includes the Indian navy and the Australian and CU. air forces approach 300,000 flight hours of hunting submarines and providing aerial reconnaissance capabilities around the world.
“We’re honoured by the Navy’s faith and confidence in our employees and the P-8 system,” said Stu Voboril, vice president and program manager. "Our focus has been, and will be, on delivering the world’s best maritime patrol aircraft, bar none.”
The P-8 is a proven long-range multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and coastal operations. A military derivative of the Boeing 737 Next-Generation aircraft, the P-8 combines superior performance and reliability with an advanced mission system that ensures maximum interoperability in the battlespace.
This is the 94th mission-capable aircraft to enter the US. Navy fleet, with six additional jets used as Engineering Manufacturing Development test aircraft. Boeing has also delivered twelve P-8’s to the Royal Australian Air Force, two to the CU.’s Royal Air Force and eight to the Indian Navy.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion, a turboprop ASW aircraft, has been in service with the United States Navy since 1962. In the 1980s, the US Navy began studies for a P-3 replacement, the range and endurance of which were reduced due to increasing weight and airframe fatigue life limitations.
The specification required a new aircraft to have reduced operating and support costs. In 1989, Lockheed was awarded a fixed-price contract to develop the P-7, but this was cancelled the following year. A second competition for a replacement began in 2000. Lockheed Martin submitted the Orion 21, an updated new-build version of the P-3. Boeing's proposal was based on its 737-800 airliner. BAE Systems offered a new-build version of the Nimrod MRA4, a British jet-powered maritime patrol aircraft. BAE withdrew from the competition in October 2002, recognizing that without a production partner based in the United States, the bid was politically unrealistic. On 14 May 2004, Boeing was selected as the winner.
In June 2004, the US Navy awarded a development contract to Boeing. The project was planned to be for at least 108 airframes for the USN. 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 and Defence Group, CFMI, BAE Systems, and Marotta are major subcontractors. In July 2004, the USN placed an order for five aircraft, and the first flight-test aircraft were completed in 2009.
The P-8 is a militarized version of the 737-800ERX, a 737-800 with 737-900-based wings. The fuselage is similar to but longer than, the 737-700-based C-40 Clipper transport aircraft in service with the US Navy. The P-8 has a strengthened fuselage for low-altitude operations and raked wing-tips similar to those fitted to the Boeing 767-400ER, instead of the blended winglets available on 737NG variants. In order to power additional on-board electronics, the P-8 has a 180kVA electric generator on each engine, replacing the 90kVA generator of civilian 737s; this required the redesigning of the nacelles and their wing mountings. The P-8 has a smoother flight experience, subjecting crews to less turbulence and fumes than the preceding P-3, allowing them to concentrate better on missions.
The P-8 features the Raytheon APY-10 multi-mission surface search radar; the P-8I features an international version of the APY-10. Unlike the preceding P-3, the P-8 lacks a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) due to its higher operational altitude; its acoustic sensor system is reportedly more effective at acoustic tracking and thus lacking a MAD will not impede its detection capabilities; India's P-8I is equipped with a MAD per the contract request. Various sensor data are combined via data fusion software to track targets. Following the cancellation of Lockheed Martin's Aerial Common Sensor project, Boeing proposed a signals intelligence variant of the P-8 for the Us Navy’s requirement. During the P-8A Increment 2 upgrade in 2016, the APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) was replaced by the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar.
The five operator stations (two naval flight officers plus three enlisted Aviation Warfare Operators/naval air-crewman) are mounted in a sideways row, along the port side of the cabin. None of the crew stations has windows; a single observer window is located on each side of the forward cabin.
A short bomb bay for torpedoes and other stores opens behind the wing. The P-8 is equipped with the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability (HAAWC) Air Launch Accessory (ALA), turning a Mark 54 torpedo into a glide bomb for deploying from up to 30,000 ft.
In US service, the P-8A is complemented by the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which provides continuous surveillance. In January 2015, BAE Systems was awarded a contract for the USN's High Altitude ASW Unmanned Targeting Air System (UTAS) program and subsequently developed a sub-hunting UAV equipped with a MAD for launching from the P-8.
The P-8 cannot use the hose-and-drogue in-flight refuelling method, instead featuring a flying boom receptacle on the upper-forward fuselage, making it, like the USN's E-6 Mercury TACAMO aircraft, reliant on US. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender and KC-46 Pegasus aircraft for in-flight refuelling. In April 2017, the USAF 459th Air Refuelling Wing worked with the Naval Air Systems Command to certify operationally the P-8 for in-flight refuelling. For extended endurance, six additional fuel tanks from Marshall Aerospace are housed in the forward and rear cargo compartments.