Eight P-8A Poseidon aircraft are planned to replace the AP-3C Orion by 2017-18 (the Orion will reach its ‘life of type’ around 2019, by when it will have been in service with the Air Force for over 50 years).
The P-8A is built from the ground up as a military aircraft. It is based on the proven commercial designs of Boeing’s 737-800 fuselage, but is substantially structurally modified to include a bomb bay, under wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons, as well as increased strengthening to allow for continued low level (down to 200ft) operations and 60° angle of bank turns.
An internal fuel capacity of almost 34 tonnes, gives the P-8A an unrefuelled range of over 4000 nautical miles (7,500km) or the ability to remain on station conducting low level Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) missions for over 4 hours at a range of more than 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km) from base. The P-8A is also air-to-air refuelable from the boom of tanker aircraft such as the KC-30A, pushing its endurance out to over 20 hours – making it possible to patrol Australia’s isolated Southern Ocean territories.
The P-8A has 11 weapon hard points (five in the bomb bay, four under the wings and two under the fuselage) and can carry over 22,000 pounds (10,000kg) of weapons. All the hard points have digital weapon interfaces. The aircraft has an extensive communications suite of over 10 separate radios and data links across the VHF, UHF, HF and SATCOM spectrums.
Like the Orion, the P-8A has advanced sensors and mission systems. These include an advanced multi-mode radar, a high definition electro-optic camera, an acoustic system (that has four times the processing capacity of the current AP-3C Orion’s system) and an advanced electronic support system that is a derivative of the system fitted to the EA-18G Growler.
Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the P-8A is scheduled for the period FY17-18 through FY19-20.
For more information you can view the Defence Materiel Organisation P-8 Poseidon Project pages here.
The relevant Department of Defence Media Release is available here.
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