The US Navy (USN) has awarded Boeing a USD2.4 billion contract to begin full-rate production of the P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft, the company announced on 25 February.
The deal covers 16 aircraft, and brings up to 53 the total number now under contract. The USN has a programme of record of 117 P-8As to replace its ageing Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion fleet, 13 of which have so far been delivered.
The award of Full-Rate Production Lot 1 for the P-8A follows on the back of four low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts for six, seven, 11, and 13 aircraft. Deliveries began in 2012 with two operational test and five LRIP aircraft being handed over to the USN. In 2013, Boeing produced and delivered eight aircraft to the USN and three to the Indian Navy (the Indian aircraft, designated the P-8I Neptune, has a slightly different configuration).
Speaking during a media tour of the company's P-8 production facility in Seattle in June of last year, Rick Heerdt, vice-president P-8 Program at Boeing, said that 2013 was a year of transition from development to production for the P-8. Full-rate production will see the company build 16 aircraft per year out to 2019.
With the USN looking to buy 117 aircraft, India is under contract for eight, with the option for four more. Australia also recently approved funding for eight aircraft, again with an option for four more. Speaking ahead of the Singapore Airshow on 10 February, Chris Raymond, vice-president of business development and strategy at Boeing Defense Space and Security, said the company is in "significant" discussions with up to five additional potential customers. While he declined to name names, Canada, Italy, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the UK, have all been mentioned with regard to possible future P-8 sales.
With a crew of nine (including five mission system operators), the P-8 has an operating range of more than 2,000 km with a four-hour on-station endurance. Derived from the Boeing 737-800 commercial airliner (but with 737-900 wings), the Poseidon has been built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, GE Aviation, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Spirit AeroSystems.