The U.S. and Indian navies will
both receive the new American P-8 maritime reconnaissance aircraft at about the
same time (2013-14). The Indians are getting eight P-8Is, which
will be customized for Indian needs, and be slightly different than the P-8A
the Americans will use.
Poseidon is based on the widely used Boeing 737 airliner. Although the Boeing 737 based P-8A is a two
engine jet, compared to the four engine turboprop P-3, it is a more capable
plane. The P-8A has 23 percent more floor space than the P-3, and is larger
(118 foot wingspan, versus 100 foot) and heavier (83 tons versus 61). Most
other characteristics are the same. Both can stay in the air about ten hours
per sortie. Speed is different. Cruise speed for the 737 is 910 kilometers an
hour, versus 590 for the P-3. This makes it possible for the P-8A to get to a
patrol area faster, which is a major advantage when chasing down subs first spotted
by sonar arrays or satellites. However, the P-3 can carry more weapons (9 tons,
versus 5.6.) This is less of a factor as the weapons (torpedoes, missiles,
mines, sonobouys) are, pound for pound, more effective today and that trend
continues. Both carry the same size crew, of 10-11 pilots and equipment
operators. Both aircraft carry search radar and various other sensors.
The 737 has, like the P-3. been equipped with hard
points on the wings for torpedoes or missiles. The B-737 is a more modern
design, and has been used successfully since the 1960s by commercial aviation.
Navy aviators are confident that it will be as reliable as the P-3 (which was
based on the Electra civilian airliner that first flew in 1954, although only
170 were built, plus 600 P-3s. About 40 Electras are still in service). The
Boeing 737 first flew in 1965, and over 5,000 have been built. The P-8A will be
the first 737 designed with a bomb bay and four wing racks for weapons. The P-8 costs about $275 million each.