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Boeing ahead of schedule with P-8A programme
By Nick Cook JDW Aerospace Consultant
Boeing believes it is on course to deliver an initial operational capability (IOC) on the P-8A Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) a year early - in 2012 - in response to "alarming" problems associated with the fatigue life and mission readiness of the US Navy's P-3C fleet of anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare patrol aircraft.
"The P-3 is 30 to 40 years old, it has reached its fatigue life and aircraft are retiring at an alarming rate," said Tim Norgart, Boeing's director of business development for the P-8 programme. "One of the big advantages of [the P-8A MMA] is that we have a plane already. We took the world's most successful commercial aircraft and turned it into a war-machine."
Deliveries of the P-8A are due to begin in April 2009 and first flight will follow before the end of that year. Boeing points out that the P-8A exceeds the navy's requirement in a number of key areas. Its transit speed is 31 per cent faster than that specified, its dash speed is 20 per cent faster and it travels 21 per cent further than the aircraft the navy asked for. Thanks to its commercial heritage, the P-8A will cost USD5,000 per hour to operate against USD11,000 per hour for the P-3. It has a self-deployment range of 5,000 n miles and a radius of action of 1,300 n miles with more than four hours on station.
The navy plans to buy 108 P-8As. The aircraft is expected to be a major command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance contributor to the navy's FORCEnet network-centric operational environment.