Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Sept 2015 Contents 13
Development. The MOU includes the establishment
of a cooperative office, known as the Joint Project
Office (JPO), at Naval Air Station Patuxent River,
in Maryland, USA. The JPO are responsible for
acquiring the P-8A aircraft, and associated support
systems, on behalf of both Australia and the USA.
“Currently, 15 Australian staff are embedded
directly into the JPO, performing key roles in the
areas of Engineering, Logistics Support, Test and
Evaluation, Requirements Development and Project
Management. This Australian contingent comprises
nine uniformed RAAF officers and six Australian
Public Service staff, three from the Capability
Acquisition and Sustainment Group and three from
the Defence Science and Technology Group.
“The cooperative nature of the JPO gives Australia
a very high level of access to information regarding
P-8A production and sustainment, and the opportunity
to influence program decision making and the future
development of the P-8A systems.
“Whilst embedded within the JPO, Australian team
members have proposed a number of significant
design changes to the P-8A which will now be
incorporated on both USN and RAAF P-8A aircraft.
This includes the addition of a Search and Rescue
(SAR) Kit, that allows the P-8A to drop inflatable
rafts and survival supplies to maritime vessels
and individuals in distress. The JPO has agreed
that Australia will lead the design, development,
procurement and testing activity for the SAR kit,
which will be used by Australian and USN aircraft.
This level of Australian involvement, and potential for
Australian Industry to design and supply equipment
to the USN, has been enabled directly by the
“Australian staff have also been instrumental in
developing the logistic arrangements to support the
USN P-8A aircraft, which are already in service, and
the future plans to support the joint Australian and
USN fleets which will take effect from the first delivery
of an Australian P-8A. Australia’s insight into the
USN’s real-life experiences operating the P-8A has
allowed a significantly more advanced understanding
of the future sustainment requirements for RAAF
P-8A aircraft than would have been possible in
a conventional Foreign Military Sales or Direct
Commercial Sales acquisition.
“Experienced RAAF aircrew are currently
undertaking flight training on the P-8A in the United
States. Once their training is complete, they will be
embedded within the USN training squadron for three
years, providing instruction to USN and Australian
crews on the P-8A operation.”
During a recent Boeing media tour to Seattle to view
the P-8 program, James Detwiler, Director Business
Development from the company’s Military Aircraft
division provided an update on the program. Possibly
the most important points are that the aircraft is on
time, on budget and according to USN figures has
already saved $2.1 billion compared with the original
cost estimate. The main reason is that Boeing can
draw on the synergies and experience of their adjacent
two commercial 737 production lines. Speaking of
which: Boeing are delivering an extraordinary two
737s a day — and this will increase as more orders for
the next generation 737 Max come in.
Once delivered, ‘Poseidons’ are proving to be
efficient to operate because the aircraft are modified
commercial 737-800s and so use two exceptionally
efficient CFM56-7BE jet engines. In addition they
have a smaller crew than the aircraft they are
replacing; they have better low altitude performance
than predicted — and even though they have the
same endurance as a P-3C, they can stay on station
for much longer because of their much higher transit
speed. A ‘Poseidon's’ cruising speed is close to
its top speed of 490 knots (more than 900 km/h)
compared with the maximum speed of a P-3C of
around 600 km/h.
‘Poseidons’ are being delivered at one per month,
which will soon be stepped up to 18 per calendar
year as they move from low rate to full rate production.
Because each aircraft needs a two-year lead time to
be completed, work has already commenced on
the fuselage of the first RAAF jet. It is scheduled to
make its first flight in mid-2016 and be delivered to
the RAAF in 2017. The USN requires a total of 117
‘Poseidons’, with 53 on contract, of which 27 have
been delivered under Low Rate Initial Production
(LRIP) batches 1—5 . There are now 3 full USN
squadrons, based at Jacksonville in Florida and
undertaking deployments around the globe.
According to Defence, Australia is seeking to
purchase our eight P-8A aircraft in LRIP Lot 6 and Lot
7, also known (confusingly for the author) as Full Rate
Production II and III respectively. The main points are:
• The procurement is being conducted under
a Cooperative Program Memorandum of
Understanding between the USA and Australia.
• The USN is negotiating directly with the Prime
Contractor (Boeing), on Australia’s behalf, for
the purchase of RAAF P-8A aircraft in these lots.
Australia will review and approve the draft contract
before authorising the USN to sign on our behalf.
• Australia will receive the same price basis as the
According to Boeing, negotiations on Lots 6 & 7
will be completed “soon” — but the company would
not be drawn on exactly what that means. Logically, it
will need to be before the end of the US Fiscal Year,
which is September 30.
According to Boeing, the P-8As in service are
performing all of the missions they were designed
for, including anti-submarine warfare in the Western
Pacific area of operations (presumably the South
China Sea) and search and rescue efforts for missing
MH-370 in the southern Indian Ocean. For this latter
The JPO has agreed that Australia will lead the design, development,
procurement and testing activity for the SAR kit, which will be used by
Australian and USN aircraft.
A P-8A Poseidon aircraft departs Boeing Field in Seattle for Naval Air Station
Jacksonville, Fla., where it will join other Poseidon aircraft as part of the War
Eagles of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16, the Navy's first operational P-8A squadron.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing Aircraft/Released)
20/08/2015 4:54:12 PM
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