The P-8 Poseidon is a new ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft based off the Boeing 737 airframe, and is being produced for the U.S. Navy and the Indian Navy. the P-8 Poseidon is the replacement for the P-3 Orion which has served in the U.S. Navy and several other navies since 1962.
In 2000 the Navy announced the Multimission Maritime Aircraft competition for a replacement for the aging P-3. Boeing and Lockheed were the original two competitors, but BAE Systems later entered as well, Boeing submitted a design based on the 737 airliner, Lockheed submitted a a modified version of the P-3, and BAE Systems submitted a new build version of the Nimrod MRA4. BAE later pulled out of the competition because it had a very small chance of winning the contract, as BAE is based of the UK and the U.S. military purchases most of it's equipment from U.S-based companies.
The P-8 has a range of at least 2222 kilometers (1381 miles), a top speed of 907 kilometers per hour (564 MPH), and a max altitude of 12.5 kilometers (41,000ft). The P-8 has an endurance of 4 hours on station, and a crew of nine. The P-8 can carry a range of weaponry including, Mk 54 anti-submarine torpedoes, AGM-86 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, SLAM-ER land attack missiles, and possibly air-to-air missiles. The P-8 is equipped with a sonobouy launcher, a magnetic anomaly detector, and several other types of ASW sensors.
The U.S. Department of Defense is planning to follow a plan similar to that of the F-35, by getting help from potential P-8 users. In 2008 Boeing proposed the P-8I for the Indian Navy to replace the Indian's aging Tu-142s (ASW version of the Tu-95 "Bear"). In 2009 the Indian Navy signed a contract for 8 P-8Is, and later signed a contract for an additional 4 P-8Is. Australia has shown some interest in the P-8 to replace their aging AP-3 Orions, and signed a memorandum of understanding that would allow them to gain access to the program and make suggestions about the program. The U.S. Navy is planning to buy up to 108 P-8s with full scale production starting in 2013.
It will be interesting to see in the next few years what other countries purchase P-8s, especially the UK since the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 leaves a large gap in the UK's ASW and maritime surveillance capabilities. It also be interesting to see how the P-8 performs against increasingly quiet Chinese submarines.
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy