P-8 Poseidon

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P-8 Poseidon

P-8 Poseidon

Illustration of the P-8A Poseidon, showing the raked wingtip


Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW)


Boeing Integrated Defense Systems

First flight

25 April 2009


2012 (projected)

Primary users

United States Navy Indian Navy

Developed from

Boeing 737

The Boeing P-8 Poseidon (formerly the Multimission Maritime Aircraft or MMA) is a military aircraft currently being developed for the United States Navy. It is intended to conduct anti-submarine warfare, shipping interdiction, and to engage in an electronic intelligence (ELINT) role. This will involve carrying torpedoes, depth charges, Harpoon anti-shipping missiles, and other weapons. It will also be able to drop and monitor sonobuoys. It is designed to operate in conjunction with the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle. The P-8 is to be built by Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems division from the 737-800.


The P-8’s predecessor, the Lockheed P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft has been in service with the U.S. Navy since 1961. In the mid-1980s the Navy began studies for a replacement aircraft for the P-3 which has lost range/time on station capabilities due to increasing weight and is approaching the end of its airframe fatigue life. The Navy specification also required reduced operating and support costs. In 1989 the Navy awarded a fixed-price contract to Lockheed to design and build two prototype aircraft, to be designated the P-7. This project was canceled in 1990 following a $300 million cost overrun by Lockheed and resulting delays.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin were part of a new competition for a replacement aircraft begun in 2000. Lockheed submitted the Orion 21, an updated, new-build version of the P-3 turboprop, while Boeing submitted a proposal centered around their 737-800ERX airliner. BAE Systems offered a new-build version of the Nimrod MRA4, the newest version of the UK’s indigenous jet-powered maritime patrol aircraft. However, BAE withdrew from the competition in October 2002, recognizing the political reality that the failure to find a US-based production partner made the bid unrealistic.

On 14 June 2004, Boeing won the competition. Initial operating capability is expected to be 2013. The project is expected to be for at least 108 airframes for the U.S. Navy alone, and perhaps more to other nations operating over 200 P-3s. Project value is expected to be worth at least $15 billion, or as much as $45 billion. Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Spirit AeroSystems, GE Aviation Systems, Marshall Aerospace, CFMI, BAE Systems, and Marotta are major subcontractors.

The U.S. Navy placed an order for five MMA aircraft on 8 July 2004. The first flight test aircraft is scheduled for delivery in 2009. The first aircraft will be a test aircraft, and will be converted to production standards at a later date.

In U.S. service the Poseidon will be complemented by the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAV system, which will provide continuous surveillance. The system is expected to enter service around 2010. Around 40 UAVs will be used in the program. As of 2005, the Global Hawk, the Mariner and Predator UAVs are being considered for the role.

Due to the cancellation of Lockheed Martin’s Aerial Common Sensor project, Boeing will propose a signals intelligence variant of the P-8 to service the requirement for the U.S. Navy.

In mid-2008, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) deleted the requirement for the P-8A to be equipped with magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment. This was part of a NAVAIR-directed effort to reduce P-8A aircraft weight by 3500 lbs in order to improve aircraft range and endurance. P-8Is destined for the Indian Navy will continue to retain MAD.

The P-8’s first flight occurred on 25 April 2009.

Exports and foreign involvement

The U.S. Department of Defense wants to follow a program template similar to that of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, with international cooperation from prospective MMA users. This would include many of the fifteen nations that currently use the P-3. The MMA project should avoid one of the major problems of the JSF, that of technology transfer. The MMA, while incorporating much high technology, would not include such proprietary and sensitive characteristics as stealth technology.

The Australian Minister for Defence announced on 20 July 2007 that the P-8A MMA had been selected as the preferred aircraft to replace the Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of AP-3C Orions in conjunction with a yet-to-be-selected unmanned aerial vehicle. The last RAAF AP-3C is scheduled to be retired in 2018, after nearly 30 years of service. An MOU will be signed that will help Australia to gain access to classified data and help to input specific requirements. In March 2009, Australia’s Chief of Air Force stated that subject to anticipated government approval, the RAAF will begin to add the P-8A to their fleet in 2016.

Italy indicated interest for a purchase of a total of 14 Wedgetail and MMA aircraft, with fleet support provided by Alitalia in 2004. However, in December 2008 Italy announced the purchase of four ATR-72 turboprop aircraft to replace its aging Atlantic Maritime Patrol Aircraft, which "likely means the Italy’s ambitions to join the U.S. Navy’s MPA program are dead." Canada and Australia may each pay up to $300 million in order to have first-tier participation in the MMA project.

In January 2008, Boeing proposed P-8I Poseidon, a customized export variant of the P-8A, to the Indian Navy. On January 4, 2009, the Ministry of Defence of India signed an agreement with Boeing for the supply of eight P-8I Poseidons at a total cost of US$2.1 billion. These aircraft would replace Indian Navy’s aging Tupolev Tu-142M maritime surveillance turboprops. Each aircraft will cost about US$220 million. The deal not only made India the first international customer of the P-8 Poseidon, but also marked Boeing’s first military sale to India.


The P-8 is a militarized version of the 737-800. The airframe is a similar but longer than the 737-700-based C-40 Clipper. It has the 737-800-based fuselage with 737-900-based wings. The P-8 has a strengthened fuselage and has 767-400ER-style raked wingtips, instead of the blended winglets available on 737NG variants. It also includes 6 additional body fuel tanks, three in the forward cargo compartment and three in the rear, for extended range. These are manufactured by Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge, UK.


  • P-8A – Production variant for the United States Navy.
  • P-8I – Export variant for the Indian Navy.


 United States

  • United States Navy


  • Indian Navy – eight on order


Data from US Navy P-8A Fact File, and Boeing P-8A Specifications

General characteristics

  • Crew: Flight:2 Mission:7
  • Length: 126 ft 6 in (39.47 m)
  • Wingspan: 117 ft 6 in (35.72 m)
  • Height: 42 ft 1 in (12.83 m)
  • Empty weight: 138,300 lb (62,730 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 188,200 lb (85,370 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× CFM International CFM56-7B, 27,000 lbf (120 kN) each


  • Maximum speed: 490 kts (907 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 440 kts (815 km/h)
  • Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,500 m)

Armament Joint missiles, Mines and Torpedoes

Avionics Raytheon APY-10 (APS-137 follow-on) surface search radar and SIGINT package

See also

Related development

  • Boeing 737
  • Boeing 737 AEW&C
  • C-40 Clipper

Comparable aircraft

  • P-3 Orion
  • Hawker Siddeley Nimrod
  • Kawasaki P-1


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  12. India eyes $2b defence deal with US
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  14. Boeing Press Release, January 6, 2009
  15. http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htnavai/articles/20081229.aspx
  16. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aSj3PxUZAebM&refer=us
  17. “New MMA wingtips combat icing”, Flight International, 7 June 2005.
  18. http://news.rediff.com/report/2009/mar/17/india-us-to-ink-arms-deal-worth-rs-10700-crore.htm
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External links