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The P-8A Poseidon is the aircraft picked by the U.S. Navy to replace their aging land based maritime patrol aircraft.
It was around 1985 when the U.S. Navy asked aircraft manufacturers for bids on a new aircraft to be used for anti submarine warfare, anti surface shipping, and reconnaissance. Ideally it would have lower operating costs than the aircraft it was replacing. Bureaucratic issues delayed serious consideration of the aircraft for about 15 years.
The competitors for the new aircraft contract were BAE, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. Another four years passed before Boeing was selected to produce the new aircraft designated the P-8A Poseidon. The Navy changed the requirements for the aircraft, and that produced further delays. It was not until 2009 that the first P-8A prototype took to the sky. Testing of the aircraft was completed and the Navy officially received it on March 4, 2012.
The new aircraft has the latest avionics and computerized sensor systems. It is capable of being armed with depth charges, torpedoes, and anti-shipping missiles.
Rather than produce an entirely new aircraft, Boeing used the fuselage and wings from existing 737 models for the P-8A. To save money, the new aircraft is being built with all structural military modifications on the same production line as commercial aircraft. In the past, completed commercial aircraft would be sent to another facility for structural changes and to install their military equipment.
The P-8A Poseidon differs from its commercial cousin in that it has sensors, weapons, a bomb bay, and military avionics. The air frame of the P-8A is reinforced and lengthened. The wingtips are also different than the base aircraft. Additional internal fuel storage is provided in six fuselage tanks.
As of this writing 16 aircraft have been produced. The Navy hopes to gradually replace their current maritime aircraft with the P-8A Poseidon as they become available. The Navy would like to eventually deploy 117 of the new aircraft.