The US Navy has awarded Boeing a contract worth $800 million to procure long-lead material for the production of P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
The P-8 is a militarised version of the Boeing 737-800 single-aisle passenger jet hardened for long-range ocean missions like surveillance and anti-submarine warfare.
"This modification contract procures long-lead material and activities in support of lot 11 P-8A aircraft production and delivery," the US Department of Defense said in a statement.
Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland, are asking Boeing to buy long-lead components and services for lot 11 P-8A aircraft production.
Long-lead items are difficult and time-consuming to obtain; the Navy pays for these items early in the aircraft design process to keep overall production on schedule. A contract to build the 11 new planes will come later.
The contract comes as Australia continues to build on its Poseidon fleet, with the 12th aircraft arriving last December.
The P-8A is replacing the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion maritime patrol turboprop aircraft. Lot 11 of P-8A production will consist of 18 aircraft – eight for the US Navy, four for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and six for the Republic of Korea Navy.
The US Navy also plans to arm the P-8A with the MK 54 torpedo, which will be fitted with kits to enable the aircraft to release them from altitudes as high as 30,000 feet. The modified torpedoes will glide through the air and enter the water safely to enable the Poseidon to attack enemy submarines from long ranges.
The US Navy plans to buy 108 Poseidon aircraft from Boeing that are being built in Renton, Washington.
The P-8A’s flight management system and the stores management system have been developed by GE Aviation Systems in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The cabin has as many as seven operator consoles.
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Work is expected to be completed by June 2020.