Australia OKs Extra Funds for P-8A Project
Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced the signing of the $73.9m Increment 3 Project Arrangement with the United States Navy for the P-8A aircraft, the replacement of the AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.
The signing formalises Australia’s participation in the development of the Increment 3 P-8A Aircraft and marks Australia’s continued commitment to the $5 billion project to acquire a new manned Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
The P-8A is a fundamental element of Australia’s future maritime patrol and response strategy in replacing the current AP-3C Orion fleet, due for withdrawal around 2019. The Air Force currently operates 19 AP-3C Orion aircraft, with two having been on operational deployment in the Middle East.
The P-8A is a modern, highly reliable aircraft based on the commercially-proven Boeing B737, modified to incorporate the latest maritime surveillance and attack capabilities.
It has an unrefueled range of over 4000 nautical miles (7,500km) or the ability to remain on station conducting low level Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) missions for over 4 hours at a range of more than 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km) from base.
The P-8A is also air-to-air refuelable from the boom of tanker aircraft such as the KC-30A, pushing its endurance out to over 20 hours – making it possible to patrol Australia’s isolated Southern Ocean territories.
The P-8A has 11 weapon hard points (five in the bomb bay, four under the wings and two under the fuselage) and can carry over 22,000 pounds (10,000kg) of weapons. All the hard points have digital weapon interfaces. The aircraft has an extensive communications suite of over 10 separate radios and data links across the VHF, UHF, HF and SATCOM spectrums.
Like the Orion, the P-8A has advanced sensors and mission systems. These include advanced multi-mode radar, a high definition electro-optic camera, an acoustic system (that has four times the processing capacity of the current AP-3C Orion’s system) and an advanced electronic support system.
The Increment 3 Project Arrangement falls under the Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development Memorandum of Understanding between Defence and the United States Navy, which was signed in March this year and provides the framework by which the P-8A will be acquired, sustained and developed thought it service life.
The Increment 3 Project Arrangement is the first planned upgrade to the Australian P-8A fleet and aims to provide a range of new upgraded capability to the Increment 2 aircraft, including a networked maritime strike weapon, air-sea rescue kit and enhanced target tracking.
This Project Arrangement represents the first real opportunity for Australia to influence the future capability of the P-8A, as Australia will be involved in the Increment 3 upgrade from the requirements determination phase.
Source: Australian Department of Defence News - 05 October 2012
Photo: The Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Aircraft (Photo by NAVAIR)