In June 2004, the US Navy announced the selection of the Boeing multi-mission maritime aircraft, 737 MMA, and awarded a contract to Boeing for the system development and demonstration phase of the programme for the US Navy’s next-generation maritime surveillance aircraft. The aircraft was given the designation P-8A in March 2005.
It is expected that up to 117 P-8A MMA aircraft are to be purchased by the Navy to replace the fleet of 196 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, which are approaching the end of their operational lives. The initial operational capability (IOC) of P-8A was achieved in November 2013.
For the first time in 50 years the US Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) is transitioning to a new aircraft type. Since 1962, the MPRF has relied on the Lockheed P-3 Orion for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) operations.
Now, the P-3s are reaching the end of their lifecycle after an unprecedented fifty years in service. The replacement will be Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon, which won the Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft programme contract in 2004. A total of 117 P-8As will eventually be delivered and are expected to remain in the US Navy for 25 years.
With the exponential growth of unmanned air systems (UAS) and the US military’s focus on unmanned capabilities across all domains, why has the US Navy and Boeing invested so much in the P-8A – a manned platform with operational concepts that date back 50 years?
The answer lies in the P-8’s significant operational capabilities, which includes UAS networked operations, and how Boeing has reduced development and manufacturing costs to meet the US Navy’s stringent demands.
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 early warning self-protection (EWSP) ability, otherwise known as electronic support measures (ESM).
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Boeing P-8 Poseidon Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft or MMA