Australia has committed to buy eight Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft as part of an investment of $A5 billion. These aircraft will maintain the capability currently provided by the AP-3C Orion aircraft, when that aircraft is retired in 2018 after 30 years of RAAF service.

P-8A Poseidon image: Boeing

Until then, the Australian Defence will cooperate with the U.S. Navy to develop upgrades to the P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which has recently entered the early flight testing. The P-8A is being developed for the U.S. Navy. A special version and recently been acquired by India. To fit Australian specific requirements into the development process, the collaboration will focus on ‘Spiral One’ update of the aircraft. This phase represents the first batch of improvements planned through the life of the aircraft. The cooperation will also gain Australia access and influence into the P-8A improvements and support program. Australia is already cooperating with the U.S. on the AEW version of the Boeing 737 which also provides the platform for the P-8A.

The Australian manned maritime patrol and response aircraft is part of  Project AIR7000 Phase 2, to be operated in conjunction with the Multi-mission Unmanned Aerial System, to be acquired under Project AIR 7000 Phase 1. The specific type of such UAV has not been determined yet, after the Australians rejected the proposed RQ-4N Broad Autonomous Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) selected by the U.S. Navy.

The Poseidon will be equipped with advanced surface search radar and optical, infra-red and electronic surveillance systems. With these systems, along with a high transit speed and the ability to conduct air- to- air refuelling, these aircraft will provide a superior capability for rapid area search and identification tasks. They will also provide a highly advanced anti- submarine warfare capability, including the ability to engage submarines using air- launched torpedoes.

Below: The first painted P-8A Poseidon aircraft rolls out of the paint hangar at Boeing?s [NYSE: BA] Renton, Wash., facility, displaying its new U.S. Navy livery. The aircraft, designated T-2, is the third of five test aircraft being assembled and tested as part of the System Development and Demonstration contract that Boeing received in 2004. The first test aircraft, T-1, which successfully completed the program?s first flight on April 25, will be painted in the same gray paint scheme later this summer. T-2 was painted in late April. The Navy plans to purchase 108 P-8A anti-submarine warfare aircraft to replace its fleet of P-3Cs. Initial operational capability is planned for 2013. The P-8A is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems and GE Aviation. Photo: Boeing

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