Boeing delivers first production P-8A submarine killer to Navy

Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012, 11:17am PST

The first production P-8A, based on the workhorse 737 passenger aircraft, will be flown to a Navy base in Jacksonville, Fla., where it will be used for training.

The P-8As, designed to search for and destroy submarines and surface ships, are to replace the U.S. fleet of 154 Lockheed P-3s, four-engine turboprop planes based on the 1960s-era Lockheed Electra. Four squadrons of P-3s now operate from Whidbey Island, and the distinctive four-engine P-3s can often be seen on training exercises over Puget Sound.

Currently, P-8As are rolling off the Renton assembly line at a rate of about one a month, said Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey.

The just-delivered P-8A aircraft is the first of 13 that Boeing has contracted to build under two “low-rate initial production” Navy contracts worth $3.3 billion, the most recent of them awarded in November, Ramey said.

Boeing already has delivered six test P-8As, but the Navy won’t deploy those into operations, Ramey said.

The Navy eventually plans to acquire 117 P-8As. While some defense analysts believe some deliveries may be delayed as a result of Department of Defense budget cuts, the program is considered relatively secure because some of the aircraft being replaced are 50 years old.

The fuselages arrive from Wichita from the same Spirit AeroSystems line that produces 737 fuselages for Boeing's commercial line. The fuselages destined to be turned into P-8As arrive strengthened, without windows, and include a weapons bay.

After each aircraft is built in Renton, pilots fly them to Boeing field for final outfitting and testing.

STEVE WILHELM covers manufacturing, aerospace and trade for the Puget Sound Business Journal. Phone: 206-876-5427 | Email: | Twitter: stevewilhelm108 Click here to sign up for the PSBJ Daily Update.

Steve Wilhelm covers manufacturing, aerospace and trade for the Puget Sound Business Journal.