Boeing Dismisses Pentagon’s P-8 Poseidon Audit

P-8A arrival to Naval Air Station Patuxent River

PARIS — Executives at Boeing Co. dismissed a recent audit of the P-8 Poseidon program that found the Navy needs to conduct more “critical testing” before buying production models of the submarine-hunting plane.

“I wouldn’t read anything into that,” Chris Raymond, vice president of business development and strategy for Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security unit, said in a June 16 briefing with reporters at the company’s Paris offices before the start of the Paris Air Show. “Between us and the Navy, we still feel like we’re very on track with the flight test program. It’s going well.”

The Pentagon next month plans to hold a meeting to decide whether to begin full production of the Boeing Co.-made aircraft — before testing is completed to determine whether it meets life-expectancy requirements, according to the summary of an audit released this week on the website of the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General.

“Additional critical testing should be completed before the full-rate production (FRP) decision,” according to the summary dated June 10. A decision by the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, to purchase the first 13 production models of the aircraft at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion “based on incomplete test results could result in costly retrofits to meet lifespan and mission and system performance requirements,” it states.

The author of the report wasn’t listed. The Pentagon’s inspector general position has been vacant for months. The office is headed by Principal Deputy Inspector General Lynne Halbrooks.

The overall cost to develop and build 122 of the aircraft is estimated at $34.9 billion, according to figures the Pentagon released in May.

The P-8 Poseidon made by Chicago-based Boeing is based on the company’s commercial 737–800 twin-engine narrow-body passenger jet. The naval version is designed to replace the P-3C Orion made by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp, in conducting long-range missions to hunt submarines, among other ships, and collect intelligence, according to the Navy.

Boeing is already delivering planes built under low-rate production and a training program is already in effect at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, according to Raymond.

“We’re getting P-3 pilots turned into P-8 pilots,” he said. “That program’s very solid right now with the U.S. Navy.”

The IG office recommended for Kendall to buy the aircraft under a contract for low-rate production and delay the full-rate production decision until Capt. Scott Dillon, the Navy’s program manager for maritime surveillance aircraft, demonstrates that the plane will be able to survive its 25-year lifespan without structural fatigue, overcome mission deficiencies, track surface ships and perform other primary missions.

The service may be feeling pressure to keep to the program schedule despite the challenges created by the start of automatic federal budget cuts, Raymond said.

“They’re trying to fit it all in,” he said. “Even production programs that are executing well, I think, we’re going to have to watch over the next four, five years, [to see] how do they sort of modulate production rates as they try to fit all the budget together,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ll totally escape from some of that, but I think that’s all I would read into that.”

The Defense Department faces $500 billion in automatic cuts over the next decade. That’s in addition to almost $500 billion in defense reductions already included in 2011 deficit-reduction legislation. The first installment of automatic cuts began March 1 and sliced about $37 billion from the fiscal 2013 defense budget.

The Navy hasn’t indicated it plans to change its schedule and Boeing is talking to potential customers about selling more exports of the maritime patrol plane, according to Jeff Kohler, vice president of international business development at the company.

“P-8 international is picking up a lot of steam as well,” he said.

 

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • hibeam

    Boeing moved some of it’s manufacturing from Washington a right to loaf state to South Carolina, a right to work state. They are being punished. Maybe Solyndra can build these aircraft?

    • greg

      This is a defense forum not a political forum. Your comments aren’t even on topic or on subject. Care to comment on the article or were you born a troll?

    • Frank

      Say what…. 737 Production has never been moved out of State and is fully invested in a dedicated ITAR compliant line in Renton, Washington. Gezz, get your data straight….

    • blight_

      http://www.boeing.com/boeing/commercial/charlesto

      More specifically, 787 production in SC was consolidated by buying out Vought and Alenia. However, Boeing is still making 787’s in Everett, along with the 747.

      However, Boeing has more than one factory in “Washington”: Everett and Renton.

    • I_am_Me

      737 based Airframes, IE P-8A(I)s, 737AEWs are built in Washington still. The plant in SC was for a second 787 line due to a huge volume of orders for that aircraft. KC-45As will probably be built in WA as well, I believe thats where the 767s were all made, could be wrong though, Boeing does outsource a lot of major assemblies then ship them to their plants.

  • Dr Bees

    “I wouldn’t ready anything into that,” Chris Raymond….

    Do we not proofread anymore?

    • Prodozul

      Granted there’s been some messy writing lately, however I feel this article requires more bees.

      • SJE

        Especially if the bees are surveillance microbots.

  • Tom

    The UK will end up buying this aircraft and it’s a shame they didn’t just spend the billions of pounds they flushed down the drain on the MRA4 early on in this program instead, they could have gotten a workshare on hundreds of planes instead of the handful of planes the MRA4 program built or was going to build.

  • Thomas

    Requiring to replace a single 50yo platform (P-3) with two platforms (P-8 & MQ-4) is such a scam.

  • ParaMarine69

    What is the range of the P-8 and its flying time on station. The P-3 could stay up for over 12 hours or more and run on two turbo props instead of the four it has. A jet burns a lot of fuel. Also the three could turn in a tighter turn to obtain a follow-up on a hit n the boom. A jet takes a lot longer in my view.

  • RunningBear

    The P-8 can continuously patrol large areas at high altitude with greater fuel efficiency. The on-station activities for the P-8 will not require low altitude flights performed by previous patrol a/c. The new High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability (HAAWC) can deliver the new weapons at standoff distances without alerting the subjects of interest. It will be most interesting to see if the ADCap-48 can be added to the weapons inventory.

  • LTSarc

    What extra testing is needed? The airframe itself is well proven, and 90% of the systems come from either the P-3 or the 737 AEW&C used by several other forces. Between the amount of already done testing, and the COTS systems, design faults are unlikely at this point.

    • I_Am_Me

      Dont forget about the problems with the Anti-Ice system due to faulty chinese parts. That I think is part of what they are worried about. Though the aircraft did perform very well at RIMPAC last year as I recal.

  • ronaldo

    As a tax payer, I would like to think that Boeing is readying a P-8 “B” version for future procurements. The B would be the geared fan version of the 737 which will enter certification in two years. It currently has more than 700 units on backlog

    Those who want the additional 25% fuel savings over the baseline 737 based product please step forward.

    • blight_

      Can’t you just re-engine with geared turbofan?