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Boeing Dismisses Pentagon’s P-8 Poseidon Audit

by Brendan McGarry on June 17, 2013

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.

 

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

hibeam June 17, 2013 at 7:44 pm

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?

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greg June 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm

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?

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Belesari June 18, 2013 at 3:57 am

Well technically yes however sense any work like the P-8 is taken on by a defense contractor like boeing the truth is politics will come into it eventually.

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hibeam June 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

I am on topic. I explained to you why the Obama admin is punishing Boeing this way. Have you heard of the IRS?

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Dr. Horrible June 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

You're on-topic in the way that RFK, jr's rant about vaccines and autism is on-topic at a screening of Rain Man. If not a troll, at least a fanatic.

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hibeam June 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Or maybe like Obama crying about the sequester cuts while waving goodbye on his way to Africa on his $100 million taxpayer funded vacation.

Frank June 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm

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….

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blight_ June 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm

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.

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I_am_Me June 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

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.

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Dr Bees June 18, 2013 at 6:41 am

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

Do we not proofread anymore?

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Prodozul June 18, 2013 at 11:13 am

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

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SJE June 18, 2013 at 11:28 am

Especially if the bees are surveillance microbots.

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Tom June 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

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.

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USS ENTERPRISE June 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

I am guessing a plus side would be that when the UK gets the Poseidon, it will increase interoperability between US and British forces.

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blight_ June 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm

BAE wants the R&D cheddar; and it's also a hedge against if the American procurement program goes belly up or explodes in cost.

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Tri-ring June 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Britain and Japan had signed a military technology transfer alliance agreement this month. Britain may go for the KHI P-1 license and build it themselves.

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Thomas June 18, 2013 at 9:50 am

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

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SJE June 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

Why? aerial surveillance drones were not around 50 years ago. We are replacing the P-3 with the P-8, and adding drones to increase the reach of our eyes and ears.

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blight_ June 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Yup, replacing biplanes for WW2 with the Hawker Hurricane and the Spitfire didn't work out for someone…(note that the RN was flying biplane torpedo planes at Taranto at the time).

The Triton is "just" a surveillance platform, and we'll need tons of them to cover the ocean more thoroughly than a manned-only fleet ever could, without sacrificing the versatility of manned platforms. I'd love to see a P-8 that could control the drones someday, but we'll see…

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SJE June 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Biplanes carrying torpedoes are what finally got the Bismark!

Anyway, I don't understand your point. How are drones so limited compared to a manned platform? I'd rather have an imperfect platform flying for several days, and able to be sacrified in enemy territory or bad weather.

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USS ENTERPRISE June 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Yeah, until you realize that a drone still lacks the 360 view a pilot has. As fast as a receiver or computer that can be currently put on a drone is, it can't make those split-second decisions that can save the plane, and the pilot's, life.

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blight_ June 19, 2013 at 11:10 am

Indeed, since the transmission of visual information is difficult to compress, especially if in realtime capture mode. Abstracted input from aircraft sensors such as radar will be less bandwidth intensive.

blight_ June 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

SJE: Yup, and they were also used to cripple the Italian fleet at Taranto.

At the moment, I feel drones are limited by our satellite uplink bandwidth, which is why I strongly push for local field control of the platforms. There's also far less latency, and an enhanced situational awareness/context by a local user in lieu of remote.

We will need tons of UAVs to cover the ocean (we would need tons of anything to cover ocean well), and it can be done more cheaply than getting tons of manned aircraft.

The bottleneck is the tech. If the technology is not available to detect submarines from high altitude, then you'll need to develop it.

How /would/ one make an aircraft that could do well at low and high altitudes? Hrm.

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ParaMarine69 June 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm

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.

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J4rH34d June 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

OTOH, time to station is probably quicker. With the right sensor suite, a faster aircraft can sweep more area.

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ParaMarine69 June 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Thanks but still how long on station?

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Curt June 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Requirement is the same for the P8 and the P3, 4hrs on station at 1200nm. So while the P8 is faster, it has longer time on station at 1200+nm but shorter time at lesser ranges, but it is pretty comparable. The P8 also has the capability for AIr to Air refueling while the P3 doesn't.

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Jim June 19, 2013 at 6:28 am

True, but the P-8 has never did inflight refueling. The P-8 has yet to fly with a BRU on a wing station. I am involved in this program and it is being pushed way to fast in fear of budget cuts. With all the pluses I ensure this plane will NOT be the success it's predecessor, the P-3 was.

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tiger June 19, 2013 at 7:13 am

Not to mention, where is the magic tanker to fly from? P8 units & USAF tanker bases tend not to be close to each other.

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RunningBear June 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm

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.

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LTSarc June 19, 2013 at 5:33 am

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.

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I_Am_Me June 19, 2013 at 9:49 am

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.

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ronaldo June 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

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.

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blight_ June 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

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

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ronaldo June 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

No. That would be impossible due to ground clearance considerations that were accomodated during the design mods on the new gen 737. Besides, you would not be takingadvantage of the whole package of system updates that come along for free.

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