Rare look at Boeing’s new P-8A Poseidon production line (Updated+)

P-8A 168433 is the last of six LRIP 1 aircraft built by Boeing. The first two LRIP 2 aircraft are lined up behind 433 in the Installation and Check Out (ICO) facility at Boeing Field.

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!

The P-8A ICO building was built in the 1960s and modified for the Poseidon program. The aircraft are structurally complete except for the wing tip fillets, installed after the planes are moved through the building's sliding doors.

The Poseidon is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems, BAE Systems and GE Aviation.

The P-8's missions include Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-surface Warfare (ASuW), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).

The P-8A is based on the Boeing 737 passenger jetliner, using the 737-800's basic fuselage and the 797-900's wings. Here, new 737s are on the production line at the company's facility in Renton, Wash. P-8As also begin assemblage here, but on a separate production line not shown to reporters.


A new P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30) sits on the flight line at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, on Nov. 16, along with a P-3C Orion, the aircraft being replaced by the the P-8s. This aircraft was the first production P-8A to be delivered to an operational squadron, and reached VP-30 in March 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Richard Stewart


Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Mark Leavitt, left, gets a brief of the P-8A's cockpit features from Lt. Stephen Bruner, a pilot with VP-30, during Leavitt's visit to NAS Corpus Christi on Nov. 16. VP-30 is the fleet replacement squadron for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF), and trains aircrew and maintainers for both the P-3C and P-8A. U.S. Navy photo by Richard Stewart


Lt. Cmdr. Colette Lazenka, Tactical Coordinator with VP-30, shows Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Mark Leavitt some of the new features of the P-8A Poseidon. The photo looks aft inside the P-8, and Lazenka is pointing to features on one of five interchangeable mission stations fitted on the aircraft's port side. U.S. Navy photo by Richard Stewart


P-8A test flights have been carried out since mid-2010 at the Navy's test site at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Here, a P-8A flying over the base on 31 July 2012 is overtaken by a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35B and the carrier-based F-35C both are undergoing testing at Pax River. (photo by Christopher P. Cavas)

Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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