A small group of reporters was given an unusual look Nov. 15 at some of Boeing’s facilities building the P-8A Poseidon aircraft near Seattle, Wash. The tour, sponsored by Boeing, afforded a rare view of the multi-mission maritime jet in the final stages of construction at the company’s Installation and Check Out (ICO) facility at Boeing Field.
The program has moved from producing test and evaluation aircraft to the low-rate initial production phase, with 24 LRIP aircraft completed or under contract. Patrol Squadron 16, based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., began its transition from the P-3 Orion to the P-8A in July, and will become the first squadron to operate the Poseidon. The squadron and the planes are on schedule to achieve initial operating capabilty (IOC) some time next year.
At the time of the media visit, three P-8As for the U.S. Navy were in the Boeing Field ICO, while a P-8I for India had just been moved out.
Reporters also were taken on an inside tour of the P-8A — a first — but no photos were allowed of the aircraft’s interior at the factory (see below for Navy shots of a test and evaluation aircraft) . Inside, one major evident change from the P-3 Orion is the installation of three rotary launchers for sonobuoys, the sensors that listen for enemy submarines and relay their position back to the aircraft. Sonobuoys are loaded externally on the P-3, while the P-8 crew has easy access to the rotary launchers at the aft end of the main compartment.
Up close, the P-8 is an impressive aircraft, and particularly good-looking in Navy haze grey. Who knew a 737 could look so sexy in a one-tone paint scheme!