Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR_Feb2012 Contents P-8A in flight
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team’s hard work and commitment, and moves
us a step closer to P-8A full-rate production,” says
Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice-president and P-8
programme manager. He adds: “We’ve assembled
and flown the first LRIP plane and continue to focus
on building P-8A aircraft on cost and on schedule.”
Initial operational capability is scheduled for 2013.
Boeing completed the manufacture of the first
LRIP-1 aircraft last year at its Renton, Washington,
facilities and conducted the first flight on 7 July from
Renton Field to the Boeing Field, Seattle. The three
hour first flight marked the aircraft’s completion
of final assembly and transition to mission system
installation and checkout in Seattle. For the P-8A,
Boeing is using a first-in-industry, in-line production
process that draws on the manufacturer’s Next
Generation 737 production system whereby all
aircraft modifications unique to the P-8A are made
in sequence during fabrication and assembly.
Previously, commercial aircraft were sent to
modification centres where they were taken apart
and rebuilt to meet military specifications. The
P-8A’s 737-800 fuselage is built in Wichita, Kansas, then sent to Boeing’s
final assembly facility in Renton where all aircraft structural features
unique to the P-8A are incorporated. Aircraft quality and performance
acceptance flight testing takes place at Renton Field and final installation
and checkout of the mission system and special flight test instrumentation
is conducted at Boeing Field.
LRIP-1 is scheduled to be delivered to the USN this year. “This is the first
P-8 that will go directly to the fleet in Jacksonville, Florida, so the aircraft’s
first flight is an important milestone for the Boeing team and our Navy
customer,” Dabundo said at the time of the first flight. “We’re on plan to get
LRIP-1 to the Navy in 2012,” he added.
In total, six flight test and two ground test aircraft have been
manufactured under the USN System Development and Demonstration
(SDD) contract, which was awarded in 2004. SDD includes developing and
integrating all of the necessary software and onboard mission systems and
developing training systems. Four flight test aircraft – T1, T2, T3 and T5 –
are conducting testing at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The first test
aircraft started USN formal flight testing at Boeing Field in late 2009 and
was ferried to Patuxent River in April 2010 for completion of the flight test.
The programme’s static test aircraft, S1, completed its test programme a
year ago. The fatigue test aircraft, S2, is due to start testing this year, says
In addition to the US order and Australian participation in the
programme, India has ordered eight P-8I – a derivative specifically designed
for the Indian Navy. India, the first international customer for the P-8, is
scheduled to receive its aircraft by 2015.
Australia is expected to make a final decision on the maritime patrol
and response platform in the period 2013-14 to 2015-16, with the new
aircraft to be operational in the 2017-18 to 2019-20 timeframe. The new
aircraft will be required to undertake maritime intelligence, surveillance,
reconnaissance and response (MISSR) tasks, as well as supporting overland
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and electronic support roles.
Australia has already been closely involved in the P-8A programme
through a memorandum of understanding signed in May 2009 with the
USN for the Spiral One or Increment Two co-operative development
of the aircraft. Increment Two included a number of upgrades to the
baseline aircraft, including advanced explosive echo ranging multi-
static acoustic detection capability, high-altitude torpedo delivery; an
automatic identification system to provide shipping identification data;
and an intelligence broadcast system for increased situational awareness.
Australia has provided project management and technical staff to the Joint
Program Office, who are currently assisting with project management and
systems integration. The Australian Department of Defence notes that the
programme has achieved all of its key milestones on schedule.
The Government says the latest intermediate pass approval allows
Defence to expand the co-operation with the USN, including establishing
a Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development MoU. That MoU
has been negotiated and agreed by both the US and Australia, says the
Australian Department of Defence. The MoU is currently being processed
through the US Government for approval and is expected to be signed
in the first quarter of this year. This will allow Australia to participate in
the Joint Program Office with the USN for the management of the P-8A
acquisition, support requirements and any future development planning.
It will form part of the second pass acquisition business case to be
presented to Government.
The USN plans to acquire 117 P-8As to
replace its P-3C fleet, with a US $1.6 billion
contract for low-rate initial production
(LRIP) of the first six aircraft awarded early
India, the first international customer for the
P-8, is scheduled to receive its aircraft by 2015
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