Components for the first Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft for the RAAF are already in production ahead of the aircraft’s first flight in mid-2016, Boeing says.
The fuselage for the first RAAF P-8A, dubbed ‘Aussie 01’, should arrive at Boeing’s Renton factory to begin final assembly by early 2016, James Detwiler, Boeing Military Aircraft’s director of business development for maritime projects, told Australian journalists in Seattle on Monday.
“We’ve already begun production on the first aircraft. Aussie 01 is in production right now in a very long-lead advanced procurement state,” Detwiler said.
“The first fuselage will be complete by the end of the year … and that first Australian [fuselage] will be here [Boeing’s mission systems integration line adjacent to Boeing Field in Seattle] in the first part of 2016.”
That would lead to a first flight in “mid-year 2016,” Detwiler said.
The Australian government announced approval of the RAAF’s acquisition of eight P-8As with options on a further four in February 2014. The first Australian aircraft is due to be delivered in early 2017 and all eight are expected in service by 2021. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at the time that acquiring the four optioned aircraft would be considered as part of the new Defence White Paper, which is due to be released in coming weeks.
To date Boeing has delivered 27 production P-8As to the US Navy out of a requirement – project of record – for 117. Fifty-three P-8As have been contracted for under low rate initial production (LRIP) batches 1 through 4 and the first full-rate production batch. Currently Boeing and the US Navy are finalising contracts for full rate production batch two and long-lead items for full rate production batch three, which will include all eight Australian aircraft. A contract for long-lead items covering the first four RAAF aircraft was signed last August.
So far India and Australia are the only confirmed P-8 export customers – but Detwiler said Boeing anticipated that further international orders would take total P-8 production beyond 200 units.
“We’re looking at numbers that would bring a fleet size in the 200 ballpark, maybe more,” Detwiler said.
India is acquiring eight P-8Is, a variant of the P-8A featuring a different communications suite and a digital magnetic anomaly detector (MAD). Seven of the eight Indian P-8Is have already been delivered.