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Is Boeing Proposing a P-8-Lite?

by John Reed on February 14, 2012

So Boeing says its considering shrinking the P-8 Poseidon submarine hunter into a smaller airplane to replace P-3 Orion fleets around the world, according to a Defense News article from the Singapore Air Show.

My question is, what aircraft does Boeing have in mind? I mean, the company has spent a ton of time over the last couple of years pitching the 737-based P-8 as an ideal long range ISR platform for a ton of missions beyond sub hunting; almost a manned-UAV. But that aircraft sounds like it might be too big for the mission, based on what Boeing tells DN. Company officials say that Poseidon-lite, if you will, doesn’t need to have the torpedoes and other antisubmarine gear that the P-8 carries. Instead, the plane simply needs ISR gear. Wait, that sounds like a UAV, more specifically, like Northrop Grumman’s BAMS.

So what does Boeing have that’s smaller than a 737 (not including fighters)?

The V-22 Osprey? Perhaps, but that feels like a stretch. I’d guess the company is hoping to use someone else’s airplane and charge the government to “integrate” the ISR systems aboard the jet, kind of the way that Northrop Grumman does with Boeing-made 707s that serve as the E-8 JSTARS.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“We are looking hard at either a mid-sized platform or scaling down the P-8, and hopefully we will make a decision [whether to proceed] later this year,” said Jeff Kohler, vice president of Boeing Military Aircraft, ahead of the Singapore Airshow opening Feb. 14.

The Boeing executive said his company is in discussions with two or three potential platform providers in the regional jet size market.

Boeing is currently developing the 737-based P-8 for the U.S. Navy and export customer India but said a smaller offering would better suit nations that do not require all the capabilities Poseidon will have to offer when it enters service in 2013.

“P-8 has tremendous capabilities, but not every country has requirements for anti-submarine warfare or torpedoes,” Kohler said. “They need ISR. The entire mission system is a Boeing product … The U.S. Navy is working with us to improve essentially something you can scale into different size aircraft.”

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