Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR October 2010 Contents 16 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
The US Navy had also previously invited Australia, Canada and Italy to
participate in the project System Development and Demonstration (SDD)
phase of the P-8A programme. This would have required each country
contribute US$ 300 million for the privilege, but the idea did not bear fruit.
Meanwhile, because Phase 2B was also looking at refurbishing the Orion
in lieu of replacement, Australian Aerospace began looking at the former
solution towards the end of the last decade. In late 2008 the company
briefed the Defence Materiel Organization on a proposal to structurally
refurbish the AP-3C, replacing the known areas of fatigue (outer wings,
centre section and horizontal stabilizer) thereby extending the PWD
beyond 2018. In addition, three separate studies were conducted by
Australian Aerospace and BAe Australia to look at extending the PWD to
2021, 2024 or 2027 should the need arise.
In March last year, just prior to the Avalon Airshow, former Defence
Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced that Australia would not proceed in
the next partnership phase of BAMS and would defer the acquisition of
the unmanned component. Fitzgibbon said that the delivery schedule
had slipped out to 2015 at the earliest and would therefore clash with the
Australian manned aircraft introduction. “Introducing such an advanced
new aircraft at this time would have caused incredible workforce pressures
on the Australian Defence Force, particularly given the requirement to
transition the Air Force’s AP-3C Orion fleet to a new manned surveillance
aircraft in the same time period”. He said, “Blindly pushing on with
the program would have placed a huge and unnecessary strain on our
personnel in trying to potentially manage three separate airframes at the
one time and I was not prepared to place this unnecessary burden on our
men and women in uniform.”
By this time, the world was in the midst of the Global Financial
Crisis, and this may have also played a big part in Fitzgibbon’s decision.
Certainly Northrop Grumman appears to think so. In a media release
immediately after the announcement, John Brooks, the President of
Northrop Grumman International said, “We are not yet aware of the details
of the Australian decision, although we understand that financial pressures
on the Australian defence budget were a major factor, we also appreciate
that the Australian government remains committed to utilizing unmanned
surveillance to complement its manned surveillance assets.”
In response to questions about the future of Phase 1B and the possibility
of Global Hawk being selected, a ‘Defence Spokesperson’ told APDR that
“Defence will develop AIR 7000 Ph 1B for Government consideration
beyond 2019 and continues to monitor the development of potential
contenders. The RQ-4N ‘BAMS’ Global Hawk remains a strong contender
and Defence will continue to monitor its progress. Other comparable UAS
that enter the marketplace may also be considered although no specific
platforms are currently under investigation.”
Shortly after this, hopes of refurbishing the Orion fleet were dashed once
and for all when Fitzgibbon announced the signing of a MoU with the
US Navy to co-operatively develop upgrades to the P-8A and its support
systems. In effect this buys Australia into the Increment Two (formerly
Spiral One) development path of the Poseidon, which will come into
service with the US Navy from 2013. Of note is the $5 billion price tag
mentioned in the media release, up from the $4 billion mentioned at First
Pass in 2007.
Present timing for Phase 2B is for Government to consider the case for
acquisition in the period FY2013-14 to FY 2015-16.
BOEING P-8A POSEIDON
Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon is based upon the commercially successful 737
airliner and the structure is basically a 737-800 with the structurally
enhanced wings of the -900 .
It has five Mission Tactical Wor kstations in the mid cabin but the
number of crew may vary, dictated by the mission requirement workload.
The baseline crew will consist of 2 TACCOs, 2 Acoustic Operators, 1 Non-
Acoustic Operator and one In-Flight Technician (IFT). By comparison
the current USN P-3 complement is around 11. A Tactical Display is also
incorporated into the flight deck.
Equipment includes the Rockwell-Collins Joint Tactical Radio System
( JTRS), Link 22 Datalink and a spinning DF antenna (the same as that fitted
to the EA-18G Growler) is mounted under a radome in the belly to provide
ESM. Three Automated Rotary Launchers are installed in the cabin,
aft of the wing, with attendant sonobuoy racks capable of housing 126
sonobouys. There are four 1450lb rated weapons stations in the weapons
bay aft of the wing and a further two under the forward fuselage. Four
underwing pylons are each rated to 3000 lbs.
Sensors include the Raytheon APY-10 Inverted Synthetic Aperture Radar
(with colour Weather Radar capability) in the nose and a Wescam MX-20
EO/IR sensor in a retractable turret under the fuselage. A CAE Magnetic
Anomaly Detector had been specified in the baseline design but now
deleted for US Navy aircraft, as Boeing says the acoustic system meets its
performance parameters without it.
Baseline USN weapons will be the Mk.54 torpedo and Boeing’s AGM-84H
SLAM-ER missile. A standard range of naval mines can also be carried.
Performance requirements are for a 1200 nautical mile range with four
hours on station. The P-8A is capable of in flight refuelling using the USAF
boom and receptacle method.
The US Navy initially ordered 108 P-8As, with a further five used as test
aircraft. It has since increased the number to 117 (and eight test aircraft)
and six similar P-8Is are on order for India (interestingly retaining the
MAD), which are due for delivery from 2013.
USN P3-Cs Credit: USN
P-8 Poseidon Credit: USN
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