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Deputy Defense Secretary Inspects P-8A Final Assembly Facility

April 11, 2016 | BY Cheryl Pellerin

During the final stop on his trip to the Pacific Northwest last week, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work inspected the final assembly facilities of the Boeing 737 and its derived military marine patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon.

At the Boeing Co.’s facility in Renton, Washington, where it manufactures all of its 737 commercial aircraft, Work met with Boeing leaders before touring the company’s facilities.

“I went there to check on the two big wide-body efforts that they’re doing for us,” Work said.

The P-8A, now in full production in Renton, has capabilities that include long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, maritime patrol, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and search and rescue.

The other military aircraft is the Air Force’s KC-46A Pegasus, Work said, derived from the commercial version of the Boeing 767. The tanker is built at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, facility, but Work was able to see four aircraft at Boeing Field that are involved in the Boeing test program.

“The test program is going really well,” the deputy secretary said.

The Navy’s P-8A

The P-8A is the Navy’s replacement platform for the P-3 Orion, a 1960s-era four-engine turboprop aircraft built by Lockheed Martin, according to an internal Boeing publication. It can fly up to 41,000 feet and travel up to 490 knots, according to a Boeing fact sheet. It also can fly in all flight regimes and can self-deploy up to 4,500 miles from base without refueling.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work signs a canvas at the P-8 specific final installation bay in Renton, Wash., April 7, 2016. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work signs a canvas at the P-8 specific final installation bay in Renton, Wash., April 7, 2016. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work signs a canvas at the P-8 specific final installation bay in Renton, Wash., April 7, 2016. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen
Signing a Canvas
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work signs a canvas at the P-8 specific final installation bay in Renton, Wash., April 7, 2016. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen
Photo By: Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen
VIRIN: 160407-D-LN567-194

The P-8 also has twice the sonobuoy processing capability and can carry 30 percent more sonobuoys than any maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft now flying, Boeing officials said.

Going from the P-3 to the P-8, Work said, “is like going from the old diesel boats to nuclear boats.”

“It’s a big difference,” he added.

Another difference, and one that aligns with the advanced- technology approach that is part of what the deputy secretary calls the third offset strategy, is that the P-8 is an open-architecture networked aircraft that has the ability to control unmanned air vehicles to extend sensor reach.

Manned and Unmanned

The in-development operation of the land-based manned P-8A Poseidon with an MQ-4C Triton drone -- manned and unmanned systems that operate together -- is an example of third-offset technology that enables human-machine combat teaming, Work said in a November interview.

During the tour of the Boeing 737 and P-8 final assembly facilities, Boeing officials said the company has a contract for 80 Navy P-8As and that the funded allocation program is for 109 of the aircraft. Unless the Navy increases its buys, the last P-8s will be delivered in 2021 or 2022, the official said.

Economies of Scale

Work said the P-8 comes straight off the 737-800ERX commercial production line, where special teams prepare certain places on the aircraft to receive sensitive or classified equipment, and then the aircraft is flown to another Boeing facility 15 miles away where the Navy systems are installed.

“We get an enormous economy of scale, because they’re building 42 [737s] a month and building to 57 a month,” the deputy secretary said. “And we’re going to have worldwide logistics at work [because thousands of 737s are flying around the world] to support it so there’s a lot of interest from our allies.”

The Royal Australian Air Force has bought P-8As and the Indian Navy has purchased and received eight P-8I variants, Work noted. In November, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. was interested in buying P-8's, and other nations also have expressed interest, the deputy secretary added.

This week Work will travel with British Minister for Defense Procurement Philip Dunne to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, home to the Navy’s Integrated Training Center, which trains flight crews on the P-8A.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)