Home » News » Money Money Money » The Navy’s Newest Sub-Hunter

The Navy’s Newest Sub-Hunter

by John Reed on March 7, 2012

There you have it, the U.S. Navy’s first production P-8A submarine hunter taking off on its first flight from Boeing’s plant in Seattle on March 6.

The plane flew to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida where it will serve as a training jet, helping the sea service’s sub-hunters get used to flying in equipment that isn’t based on a 55 year-old design (oh wait, the 737 design is almost 50, but at least it’s still in production and the new versions resemble old 737 only in appearances). Anyway, the old sub-hunters I’m talking about are the venerable P-3 Orions, they entered the fleet in the 1960s and are based on the 1950s vintage Lockheed Electra airliner.

In all seriousness, the P-8 is a big leap for the Navy, the plane is going to work with UAV’s such as Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 GLobal Hawk-based Broad Area Maritime Surveillance jet to hunt down subs and probably anything else on the high seas and in the “littorals”.

Let’s hope the Navy’s first operational P-8 doesn’t have any counterfeit parts on it (couldn’t resist).

Click here to learn a little bit more about the jets.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

mgc March 7, 2012 at 11:02 am

these are exactly what we need not f-35's or -22's.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 11:14 am

Kind of thought we needed more transports, but okay.

We may need a transport between C-130 and C-17. We may need larger supertransports; especially if we find ourselves in more inland countries, with no stable port->fort supply routes.


Riceball March 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

But with BAE's proposal for the GCV weighing in at around 60 tons we're going to need a lot of supertransports if we want to be dropping them and M1s in a landlocked nation in meaningful numbers.


Big-Rick March 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm

everything is too big and heavy now days, when our largest transports can carry only single tank that is neither smart nor cost effective way to move things.

What we need to invest in is more fast and ARMED transport ships and preposition assets. The only way to get war materials, to any theater, in any meaningful quantity, is via ships.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

True, but realistically not all of our enemies will be accessible by sea. Afghanistan can only be resupplied by sea through Pakistan. And god forbid, if we have to intervene in Turkmenistan or Kyrgyzstan; which are even more inaccessible than Afghanistan…

tiger March 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Actually we need Tankers more than those dumb fighters. What good are they if they can't refuel?


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I'm sure we can dig out some old 727s from somewhere to replace the old 707s. Tankers will have to live with it.


tiger March 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Yet the Contract to replace the KC-135 & KC-10 still drags on. Live with it? 10 years of refueling combat planes daily have taken a toll. You can only take duct tape & rabbit's feet so far. Money spent on shooters is ignoring the basics like logistics & ASW. I think you meant MD-10's, not 737's?

blight_ March 7, 2012 at 11:55 am

For example: If Iraq was landlocked but open plains, how would we occupy them?

For example, if we invade…Kazahkstan. Decent tank country but it wouldn't be easy to move a division of armor in.


Mastro March 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Don't invade them.

Seriously- other than maybe Bolivia- we don't have any major landlocked enemies other than Afghanistan.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I suppose so. I mean, we didn't *have* to invade Afghanistan. Would we have if they were further inland and far from a Pakistani supply line?


FormerDirtDart March 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm

The US initially "occupied" Iraq through Kuwait and Jordan


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm

And Saudi Arabia. Can't forget the Military Cities in the desert.

In the end our supply lines depend on sealift for the scale of supplies that modern warfare consumes. We don't have much of a response for the hypothetical possibility that those sea routes might be contested.


FormerDirtDart March 7, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I was speaking more to the 2003 invasion, which led to an occupation. The '91 campaign did not evolve into an occupation per se. In 2003 no forces involved in the invasion and occupation came through or from Saudi Arabia.
Plus I should correct my own omission. Despite limiting only non-military specific material to pass through its country, the occupation of Iraq was made possible with the assistance of Turkey.


jamesb March 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm



chaos0xomega March 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm

What we need is airships… the materials/construction cost (once methods, infrastructure, and production lines are established) would be similar to current large transport aircraft, but with a capacity for several hundred tons…


tiger March 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Well the big hanger at Lakehurst is still ready to house them if we do bring them back. Had to pave the Parking lot there about 8 years ago. Hard to picture stuff that big flying back in the day.


Splitpi March 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm

P3 Ferry Range = 8,934 km
P3 Cruise Speed = 610 km/h
P3 Useful Load = 57,800 lbs
P3 Fuel Capacity = ~60,000 lbs = ~8,837 Gals
P3 Loiter Time = ~10 hrs
————————- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_P-8_Poseidon
P8 Range = 2,222 km
P8 Ferry Range = ~2.50 * 2222 =5555 km = 62.2% of P3 Range
P8 Cruise Speed = 815 km/h = 134% of P3 Speed
P8 Useful Load = Max – Max = 189,200 – 138,300 lbs = 50,900 lbs = 88% of P3 Load
P8 Fuel Capacity = ~6,875 Gals = 77.8% of P3
P8 Loiter Time = 4 hours = 40% of P3
50% fuel consumption / Loiter
P8 = (0.5 * 6875) / 4 hrs = 859.4 Gallons / hr
P3 = (0.5 * 8837) / 10 hrs = 441.9 Gallons / hr

So the P8 has significantly less range and less carrying capacity than a P3, significantly less loiter time and consumes more fuel thus making it nearly twice as costly to operate on station from a fuel stand point.

I fail to see why this is a better plane other than Avionics, which can be upgraded on either.


Splitpi March 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm

From a fuel usage stand point at $5.50 a gallon, the P8 will cost $47,267 for 10 hours of station. The P3 will cost $24,304.5 for 10 hours on station. Thus the P8 costs $22,962.5 more in fuel.

If I assume 50% yearly coverage, a P3 will cost:
0.5 * 8760 * 441.9 * 5.5 = $10,681,827.75 a year in fuel cost
If I assume 50% yearly coverage, a P8 will cost:
0.5 * 8760 * 859.4* 5.5 = $20,702,946 a year in fuel cost

You can buy quite a bit of avionics for that difference and have a wash financially.


jamFRIDGE March 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm
Splitpi March 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Perhaps, but there are significant differences here. And a 737 design will only allow so much fluctuation in ability. The only advantage is that the P8 can arrive on station 30% faster.

I am unsure on the operational cost, but it has to be cheaper if you compare it with new air frame purchase cost.

My point being, if the P8 is supposed to be a better air frame for that role, it is not shown by statistics alone. Why my post is being down rated for showing the raw statistics and deriving a conclusion from the statistics rather posting opinion is unclear to me. Frankly, I see this purchase as a waste of tax dollars, not a waste in that we need to spend it on an improvement, but a waste in that we were sold an inferior product. If someone disagrees, please show me the math.


passingby March 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Your post is being down rated because of an obvious reason – US military fan boys don't like to hear the truth if it's negative. You can easily verify this by performing a simple experiment – post a false but positive / favorable review on a new piece of equipment.

These military fan boys are no different from most college football fans.

tiger March 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Would you accept the excuse The P-3 replacement is long overdue & there is not a long line of contenders?

Mastro March 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

The US really doesn't have any turboprop manufacturers – all Brazil and Canada.

Like Boeing needs more subsidies…


Joseph Tan April 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm

You have forgetten Italian/France – (junk) ATR 72 (just crashed in Siberia killing more than 10) and China – MA 60/ MA 600/ MA 700, Yun – 8, Yun – 9 etc.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 6:29 pm

So the P-8 is faster, and in exchange has less range, less useful load and less fuel capacity and far less loiter time.

Is the P8 much cheaper? Then again, if one aircraft tends to operate at higher altitudes than the other, it'll definitely affect fuel economy…


Jacob March 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Well either the Navy knows something that we don't (hopefully), or the admirals are being derelict in their duty.


CRWCHF01 March 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm

OH,yeah-forgot the part about parts availability. 5K+ of the type in service and all sorts of people making parts (no jokes please). How many people are commercially flying P-3's right now. Need to include maintenance cost per hour in your calculation. Older (aircraft not in production) doesn't always mean cheaper when you have to find no longer manufactured or supported systems.


Splitpi March 8, 2012 at 9:31 am

P-3 is still in production and under license by Kawasaki.

But yes, that does factor in,but is smaller factor than requiring 2.5 air crews to cover the same time on station as a P3. So ineffect, your requiring more ground activity and doubling of the flight crew to ensure that over twice as many planes are ready for the P8 to do the same job as a P3. As well as the operational cost increased fuel.


Mastro March 8, 2012 at 9:56 am

"P8 Useful Load = Max – Max = 189,200 – 138,300 lbs = 50,900 lbs = 88% of P3 Load"

Maybe that's not a big deal- I guess more torpedoes is good- but the question is how often do you max out the load on a patrol plane?


Lance March 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm

There is NOTHING wrong with the P-3. But this plan is better looking and looks like a cool new sub hunter and a pleasure to fly in.


GUEST March 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Apart from the fact that they are almost falling apart due to extreme old age?


Splitpi March 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm

How so? That is a pretty dramatic statement.
On 12 March 1999 Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems, Marietta GA, was awarded a $30,205,495 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to conduct Phase II and III of the service life assessment program (SLAP) being conducted for the P-3C aircraft.

Goal was to maintain flight readiness through 2015. If I account for inflation and add 15% then that would be about $45 M in 2011 dollars. Or roughly the fuel difference 3 P8's compared to P3's operating around the clock. The US has 130 P3's in its fleet. If I compare that to Lockheed's cost, it certainly does not imply that "wings are falling off".


CRWCHF01 March 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Guess you haven't looked at any other pictures of the P-8. Should have a UARRSI (Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation). Range limited by oil level and crew endurance.


Dan Gao March 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Great plane, and it's been a pretty smooth program as well, no huge overruns or technical SNAFUs. Glad to see them come to life.


tiger March 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm

About 20 years late for the P8. On the bright side, the Russian sub force is a shambles that can not put boats to sea. http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htsub/articles/2


Matt March 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Iran and DPRK both have sub forces that patrol the waters near their shores.
China is increasing its sub force as well. End of one enemy, rise of another.


passingby March 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Who wrote that article on strategypage.com?

The LA class SSNs are probably more of a liability than an asset now.

The US is repeating the footsteps of the former USSR.


Jack Webb March 7, 2012 at 9:18 pm

"The LA class SSNs are probably more of a liability than an asset now"

Could you explain this? Thanks.


passingby March 7, 2012 at 10:02 pm

nothing complicated – they are somewhat analogous to the older versions of the F-15s and F-18s in the USAF.

new generation of attack subs, torpedoes and other weapon systems from Russia and China have rendered the LA class SSNs easy preys – they have never been as quiet as they were claimed to be when they were launched. And they are nearing retirement age.

Morty March 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Does IRAN have subs?!


tiger March 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Yes, But they don't travel far from home waters.


jamesb March 7, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Thanks Spiliti…..

More $$$
For Less!



Oudin March 8, 2012 at 1:22 am

I think P-8 poseidon, more faster more advanced tech to hunter sub than P-3 orion.


tom mccoy March 8, 2012 at 10:57 am

What's that old adage about……Iron men and wooden PLANES?


tom343 March 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Is the 737 airframe going to infest everything that flies?


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FormerDirtDart March 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I'll be keeping an eye out too. just wonder if we'll be mistaking C-40As as a P-8. I think at least most of the Navy's C-40As are painted in admin-white liveries, but not sure about all of them.


Splitpi March 8, 2012 at 9:27 am

True that is a good reason to replace the P3 and I agree it is why the RFP was created to begin with. However, the solution statistically from an operational stand point is inferior.
On 12 March 1999 Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems, Marietta GA, was awarded a $30,205,495 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to conduct Phase II and III of the service life assessment program (SLAP) being conducted for the P-3C aircraft.

That was an effort to ensure aircraft remained functional till 2015. It cost $30 Million. If I account for inflation and add 15%, that would be around $45 Million today. Which is the cost of about one P-8 airframe or the fuel cost difference of 3 50% of the year on station. The US has 130 P3's, so $30 Million for sustainability of 130 aircraft is not that bad in my opinion.

I am not saying the P3 is a greatest plane, what I am saying is that the P8 is inferior to the same capabilities that the P3 had. And as a tax payer, I am at a loss to justify it. The DoD needs to cancel this, and rebid for a new plane that can match the P3 capabilities in my opinion. Quite frankly, it would save us millions if they did by fuel cost alone.


TMB March 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Couple questions to throw out there:

What does the airframe wear and tear look like on the P3 fleet? What are the costs and maintenance hours per flight hour?
Could the P3 support whatever new gadgets they're going to put in the P8?
Was the SLEP meant to keep the P3s going until all the P8s are built?
Are there any open source documents on the P8s operational capabilities vis a vis the P3?

These questions would help answer whether or not the P3 needs to be replaced. Whether the P8 was the right one to do it is out of my expertise.


LEN December 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm

The thing to do would be to put the P3 back into production. With a current generation turboprop and more efficient prop it would have more range and loiter time than it does now. Plus with the knowledge of the airframe it could be improved before production. All new avionics, all new airframe, all new engines. Sometimes the simple solutions are just too easy for our Congress and military complex.


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