Is Boeing Proposing a P-8-Lite?

So Boeing says its considering shrinking the P-8 Poseidon submarine hunter into a smaller airplane to replace P-3 Orion fleets around the world, according to a Defense News article from the Singapore Air Show.

My question is, what aircraft does Boeing have in mind? I mean, the company has spent a ton of time over the last couple of years pitching the 737-based P-8 as an ideal long range ISR platform for a ton of missions beyond sub hunting; almost a manned-UAV. But that aircraft sounds like it might be too big for the mission, based on what Boeing tells DN. Company officials say that Poseidon-lite, if you will, doesn’t need to have the torpedoes and other antisubmarine gear that the P-8 carries. Instead, the plane simply needs ISR gear. Wait, that sounds like a UAV, more specifically, like Northrop Grumman’s BAMS.

So what does Boeing have that’s smaller than a 737 (not including fighters)?

The V-22 Osprey? Perhaps, but that feels like a stretch. I’d guess the company is hoping to use someone else’s airplane and charge the government to “integrate” the ISR systems aboard the jet, kind of the way that Northrop Grumman does with Boeing-made 707s that serve as the E-8 JSTARS.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“We are looking hard at either a mid-sized platform or scaling down the P-8, and hopefully we will make a decision [whether to proceed] later this year,” said Jeff Kohler, vice president of Boeing Military Aircraft, ahead of the Singapore Airshow opening Feb. 14.

The Boeing executive said his company is in discussions with two or three potential platform providers in the regional jet size market.

Boeing is currently developing the 737-based P-8 for the U.S. Navy and export customer India but said a smaller offering would better suit nations that do not require all the capabilities Poseidon will have to offer when it enters service in 2013.

“P-8 has tremendous capabilities, but not every country has requirements for anti-submarine warfare or torpedoes,” Kohler said. “They need ISR. The entire mission system is a Boeing product … The U.S. Navy is working with us to improve essentially something you can scale into different size aircraft.”

  • blight_

    What savings will they realize? If all it can do is spot, do you just wait for backup to arrive?

    • FormerDirtDart

      How about the fact that most maritime surveillance aircraft rarely prosecute targets. A very large portion of the mission they are acquired for is counter smuggling, fishery enforcement, and anti-piracy.

      • blight_

        For now. On paper, those would be missions that would otherwise go to the Coast Guard. However, the Coast Guard is unlikely to win much procurement pie.

        • FormerDirtDart

          As the target is foreign sales, those very missions would seem a more likely priority than hunting subs.

          • blight_

            Fair enough. Aircraft coastal patrols can cover more area quickly than a fleet of small boats. It would make sense for stuff like the Somalia mission, but there’s a shortage of land bases.

        • Dan Gao

          Coasties already have their new Ocean Sentry MPAs.

          My guess is that this is just one of those concepts that gets kicked around, half-considered, and forgetten within a few years.

          But I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong.

          • FormerDirtDart

            This product is not targeted at US sales

          • blight_

            He’s probably noting it in response to my Coast Guard comment.

            HC-144 doesn’t ISR capability that the P-8 is meant to have. Though that whole “Mission Pallet System” system makes me wonder why they don’t just go the rest of the way with the plug-and-play trend that seems to be infecting the armed services.

  • Nicky

    Maybe a Mini P-8 can be made out of a Boeing 737. It is possible that a Boeing 737 can be modified to do the work of a P-3, P-8. You do have Pilots who can fly it and you do have users who would like to have a compact P-8 made out of a Boeing 737.

  • Belesari

    Always wondered why you couldnt use a C-130J.

    • blight_

      Goes to Lockmart instead of Boeing. Wah, wah….

    • Rabbit

      The impression I got from the article is that they’re trying to get a smaller plane and the C-130 is one big-boned lady.

    • jumper

      C-130 is less efficient than the existing P-3… it’s got a very heavy structure and more or less the same engines.

    • Tom

      A C-130J wouldn’t be less expensive than a 737.

      • Cranky Observer

        What about the C-27J? IIRC Boeing gave up their interest in that project, but possibly it could be picked back up.

        Cranky

        • blight_

          It wasn’t Boeing. It was the DoD:
          http://www.defense.gov/news/Defense_Budget_Priori

          Air mobility studies
          have also shown significant excess capacity in the U.S. airlift fleets. As a result we are reducing
          the airlift fleet by:
          Retiring 27 aging C-­‐5As, resulting in a fleet of modernized 52 C-­‐5Ms and 222 C-­‐17s
          Retiring 65 of the oldest C-­‐130s, resulting in a fleet of 318 C-­‐130s
          Divesting 38 C-­‐27s

          Significant excess capacity? I guess if you break it down in terms of overall tons you can move around..ignoring the fact that not all of your airlift is forward deployed, and you can’t put C-5’s and C-17’s everywhere, and closer to the front C-130s are bigger than the C-27’s. Unless you intend to offset C-27 divestures with C-130s…but they’re not. Maybe they will replace the older C-130’s with new C-130’s as well?

          Or long term, we need to replace C-130; but we need to decide if its replacement should be smaller than C-130 (filling the C-27 niche) or bigger (maybe big enough to move a single Bradley, just as the C-130 could move a Sheridan?). If you can get another aircraft to move Bradleys, it makes strategic airlift that much easier.

        • Lance

          Both a C-27 and C-130J would not have the loiter time and speed a 737 has so going back to props it be better to make more P-3s then.

          A F-18 some want to be also would be a poor choice since it lack range and loiter time a larger multi-engine AW plane would have.

    • Praetorian

      Huh someone must of heard you at L.M. Belesari

      Quote from Greg Waldron Flight Global :
      proposed new variants of the C-130J Hercules, the C-130XJ and C-130 Sea Hercules. The C-130XJ would be 10-15% less expensive than the existing C-130J, as previously reported by Flightglobal. Lockheed would achieve the savings by removing the C-130J’s electronic warfare suite, defensive countermeasures and freight handling system.

      The Sea Hercules would incorporate P-3C Orion capabilities into a C-130 airframe and be optimised for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare duties.

      http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/singapore-lockheed-martin-announces-f-16v-development-368323/

      • Tom

        A 15% cheaper C-130J would still be significantly more expensive than the 737 used for the P-8. A 737 costs in the neigborhood of $30 million. A C-130J costs in the neighborhood of $60 million.

        • blight

          Plus the obligatory costs of opening a new production line specifically with less parts, or siphoning off parts off the main assembly line in such a sequence that they ship without the parts that go to the Sea Hercs. Unless you want to build out C-130J’s and then send them right back to the factory and remove parts, or open an entirely new line for what is essentially the same aircraft.

        • FormerDirtDart

          A 737 costs in the neighborhood of $60 million (or more). The 737-100 cost over $30 million when they stopped building them several decades ago.

          • blight_

            I imagine we might not get the volume order discounts that an airline would. It would depend on our ability to haggle with Boeing…

          • FormerDirtDart

            We, our?

          • blight_

            Har.

            Addendum.

            In Line 1; replace “we” with “the Department of Defense”.
            In Line 2; replace “our” with “the Department of Defenses”.

          • FormerDirtDart

            The Department of Defense is not a potential costumer for this aircraft system.

          • blight

            Augh. Then replace “the Department of Defense” with “hypothetical export customers”.

            As India already has the P-8I; and this is a different package than P-8I?

    • Dewayne

      C130 Sinks like a Rock in a ditch or water landing

      • blight_

        Don’t most aircraft? We ditched seaplanes a long time ago.

      • JWood

        The Columbians ditched a herk off the NJ coast in the 70s. The Coast Guard had to go out and shoot it full of holes so it would sink.

  • jamesb

    He, he, he……

    The C-27J?

    • Guest

      LOL!

      Oh wow, still laughing…

  • Lance

    A V-22 would be counter productive since it be a P-3 turboprop essentially. Though I doubt the P-3 wont be gone soon since the P-8 is slowly coming into service. the 737 is a excellent platform to use Ive flown in them and they are nice plane to use. A MD-80 would be the only smaller alternative.

    • jumper

      The MD-80 has been out of production for over a decade.

      • Trooper2

        I’m not suggesting that this is a good idea, but the B707 used for JSTARS (IOC ’91) went out of production in ’79… they re-used old airframes.

        • blight_

          It probably made more sense considering how many 707s were available for spare parts. Not sure if the same economics work for the MD-80.

          It is annoying that we cannot devise ways to move electronics to new aircraft and lose the advantage of off-the-shelf or being able to use the partstrain of in-production Boeing aircraft. At some point, they must keep lines open just to supply niche parts for the military, which defeats the purpose of going off the shelf in the long term.

  • Ron

    The P-8 is based on Boeing’s 737-800NG platform if i’m not mistaken. A smaller, lighter version would simply mean transferring all the tech to the 737-700NG platform which is the basis of the 737 AWACS frames sold to Australia, South Korea and Turkey. This would make sense of the comment about not needing a bomb bay, as the 737-700’s shorter air frame couldn’t accommodate one.

  • Allen

    So wait, let me see if I can understand this…..The P-3 has for generations been the backbone of USN long-range ASW and anti-surface patrol and interdiction. The ability to carry weapons on-board means it can prosecute the contacts it has made, and not wait for who knows how long for an armed aircraft/ship/sub to arrive.

    So the P-3 replacement now proposed is…..an unarmed recon plane??? Yeah…can see that in a shooting war “have made contact with an Akula….anyone there? Ooops…now he’s gone”

    • guess

      No as far as understandable the US Navy is still planning on getting the armed 737 based P8. This sounds like a cheaper smaller export version for those countries who want a patrol aircraft.
      Personally seems pretty reasonable, maybe we could get some for the coast guard

    • tiger

      This project has taken some 20 years to get this far. On the bright side there are fewer Russian subs to look for today. Most are rusting, half floating toxic waste dumps. Of those that work, only about a dozen put to sea a year.

    • Dan Gao

      Not exactly. What is being proposed here is just a stripped down variant for export purposes. The P-8s for the Navy will be capable of being just as heavily armed as the Orion.

  • STemplar

    I think they probably would be looking at Canadair or Embraer model regional jets.

  • Pretor

    Something like the Embraer R-99?

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Or the Antonov An-74MP?

      [Ooops…..was that my out-loud voice?]

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

  • Tom

    Long-range large cabin business jets would be the most likely option. The EMB-170/175/190/195 family would also work, but I could see Boeing wanting to avoid giving Embraer or Bombardier the work since the are somewhat of competiton in the Commercial airplane market and Dassault would probably be avoided since they are owned in part by EADS, so I’d be looking at a Gulfstream then as the most likely candidate. Basically we’re talking about a P-8 lite, but something a good bit higher end than all the ISR stuff being put on King Airs and the like now.

  • Cunninglinguine

    What about 717/MD-95? It’s out of production now, but since cost is apparently the issue, it might be cheaper in the long run to buy used airframes for conversion. Boeing would love that since it’s keeping the airframe in-house.

    • sbays1

      Boeing Finance is a large holder of B717 airframes with the SWAAirtran merger freeing more up. There are approx. 150+/- out there. And Boeing can always replace the airliners with B737NG’s or Max versions.

  • Nicky

    What I was thinking was the original 737 that was built and currently flown by Southwest Airlines.

    • FormerDirtDart

      They don’t make them anymore. And, the air-frames in use are not viable for conversion due to heavy fatigue from the high cycle rate of commuter use.

      • Thinking_ExUSAF

        Just google “regional airliners” for candidate platforms, even going back to the venerable “Dash-8” and C-12s for at least a partial implementation. The larger examples are very credible airframes with the payload and power generation capacity (particularly if you add an APU or similar) to carry a very full suite of modern day ISR equipment.

        • FormerDirtDart

          I agree. There are a large number of regional turboprops and regional jets that would be suitable.

          I also think that something akin to a “roll-on/bolt-on” package could be of use for medium cargo aircraft. Allowing a common platform. Something like the US Army’s concept when the multi-mission tactical transport/future cargo aircraft, back before it got staffed to death.

          • Nicky

            What about developing a lite P-8 from the Boeing 737 AEW&C. The other option is to use the Boeing 737 MAX or the Boeing 737 Next Generation. The lite, compact version would be perfect for countries who want to replace the P-3 with something in similar size as well.

          • Thinking_ExUSAF

            If you take away the offensive ASW capability of a P-8, do you have any idea what might be left? Also, perhaps a quick read on the aircraft specs for the P-8, and the B-737 of your choice would be informative. :-)

            Boeing would NOT be looking to install in any 737 variant (since that is exactly what the P-8 is). They would be looking to go for the lighter/cheaper market and that would be found in the smaller jet and turboprop regional airliners.

          • Nicky

            What about using those regional jets you see at the Airport

  • tiger

    I think this is a sales trial balloon. Overseas users of the P-3 have no desire to buy the P8.

    • Dan Gao

      Really? And your source for this is…? Two customers (India and Australia) have already signed on, I’d say the Poseidon has a very bright future in terms of export sales.

      • tiger

        Japan is building there own. The Kawasaki P-1. Many in NATO still use the French built Breguet Atlantic.

        • Dan Gao

          So? Subtract one nation from the potential customer list. That only leaves about….Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Brazil, Italy, South Korea and so on. Still a massive market to tap into.

          • emm

            Ah, Britain….. Sic Transit Nimrod – for those with a classics ed

            Yes, could see us taking a P-x or P8 Lite Gawd knows we need it….

  • jamesb

    Cost too much money….

    And Countries aren’t in a hurry to buy American anymore…..
    Look at the airlines…..

    • tiger

      Your right. Japan is building a replacement in house. The Kawasaki P-1

      • blight_

        Something about buy local, create jobs and the like.

  • Johnny Appleseed

    I think the biggest issue is that you can’t land a modified 737 on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

    • tiger

      Which why I miss the S-3 units.

    • Dan Gao

      You can’t do that with the Orion either….

    • Riceball

      Not really an issue since they’ve never intended for them to fly off of carriers, their predecessor, the P-3, never did either. These planes are designed for long range maritime/ASW/ISR patrols from land bases independent of a carrier battle group so carrier capability was never part of the criteria for the platform chosen.

    • blight_

      Meh. There’s an upper limit to what the Nvay can do with carrier-deployability. Carriers are important; but the navy shouldn’t be stymied by having every aircraft in its inventory carrier-deployable.

    • blight_

      Thought India was already in the bag with P-8I.

      Diet P-8 is supposed to be mostly anti-surface…but don’t the Pakistanis have submarines?

      • I do like articles like these. Just a pity that it is just cebels that get the opportunity like this. I fly for a hobby and own a small KR2 expeamental plane(Dave King, a Mango pilot used to own this plane about 13 years ago). I did spend some time in various aircraft cocpits and would love the oppertunity to fly a 737 in a simulator.

  • JimDorschner

    There are numerous older 300,400, 500 and 600 series Boeing 737’s out there that are no longer profitable for airline operations. Given the P-8 is set in a highky modified 737-800, it would be realtively easy to install variants of it’s advanced mission systems and avionics into completely refurbished older 737 airframes.

    • blight_

      Sure, but what is the long term consequence of buying older airframes?

      • JimDorschner

        The target here is offshore sales, particularly but not limited to existing P-3 users, and is not restricted to used 737’s. P-8 Light could also be built in a new 737-700 BBJ-based long range airframe, providing commonality with 737-based AEW&C aircraft now entering service. Potential customers include Canada, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Norway, Israel, Indonesia. In terms of consequences of using older airframes, given new wings and engines and new electical systems/plumbing older 737’s could last many more decades. Hard to say what the price would be compared to a new-build 737-700ER with a less capable P-8 sensor suite, but likely much cheaper.

  • itfunk

    This is part of the coming wave of outsourcing.

    Boeing needs to make more money from a shrinking pie and the way to do it is shed US jobs. Build the Aircraft cheaper off-shore and install some equipment then charge the government about the same price.

  • TASM

    How about the Lockheed S-3 Viking? Good range, endurance, payload, sensors and can take off from aircraft carriers. Oh, wait …

    • And a bunch of very used and a bunch of barely used Vikings are sitting in protective wrap along South Kolb road in Tucson already.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    Looks like Boeing got caught with to low of a bid and now wants to change the product. Well why not just cancel the whole bid and go with the Avenger. The Avenger (Predator C) at $12-15 million per airframe vs. the P-8 at $1.6 billion for six airframes appears to be in the $200-300 million each price range would seem to be a far better deal. The Avenger also has the advantage of also be a carrier aircraft. This should be a no brainer switch.

    ALLONS,
    Byron Skinner

    • William C.

      You’re comparing of a UAV for reconnaissance and light attack work to an anti-submarine aircraft. There is a major difference between the two.

      This isn’t replacing the actual P-8, it’s just something Boeing is considering.

    • Dan Gao

      The P-8 works just fine and is one of our only major acquisition projects that has been moving along without any cost or technical issues. We don’t need any brilliant ideas to screw this one up.

  • Will

    Aviation Week is reporting that “Lockheed Martin has turned the P-3’s mission systems into a roll-on, roll-off solution that can be installed into C-130s. The C-130 roll-on, roll-off mission system for maritime surveillance has been around for some years already. But Lockheed Martin how now developed a roll-on, roll-off solution that allows one to effectively install the P-3’s anti-submarine warfare mission system and other equipment, such as sonar buoys, onto the C-130.” They’re calling it the SC-130J Sea Hercules.

  • Belesari

    When i said use the C-130J i ment use it like the old P-3. Could you build something like Harvest hawk but for the Maritime role. Plug and play. This would allow more flexability and cheaper over all operating cost outside of the already large cut you get from operating a turboprop as oppossed to a jet turbine.

    Cost savings come in fuel and maintanence time and cost.

    How about also using the C-3/E-2 hawkeye frame? Could build a plug in system for it and also build a plug in system to let it refuel F-18’s so you dont have 2 F-18’s trying to refuel 3 other f-18 all of which have shitty range….

  • blight_

    I’d love to see Boeing go all-out with a contract to replace as many of our tankers and noncombat aircraft with a 737 as possible. JSTARS, tankers…alternatively, Lockmart could try the same with the C-130. It’d be the contract of the century. Think of the gravy!

  • emm

    What happened to the old viking airframes? Davis-Monthan?

    • Riceball

      Doesn’t matter, the P-3 & P-9 serve a different role from the S-3. While both are ASW platforms the S-3 was designed for localized ASW for the carrier battle group while the P-3 & P-8 are designed for long range maritime & ASW patrol from land bases.

    • blight_

      I’m surprised they aren’t going to replace the Viking. Do they intend to depend on helicopters, UAVs, surface and submarine combatants?

      • FormerDirtDart

        P-3/P-8, SH/MH-60, F/A-18E/F
        The S-3 was supposed to be replaced, along with its derivatives, and the C-2, E-2 (& originally ) by the Common Support Aircraft.(CSA). Last I read, the CSA is still an active program, but not moving along with any great haste.

        • blight_

          Wait, Hornet for ASW?

        • blight_

          Looked up CSA and discovered some very interesting aircraft I’d not heard of before. A-3 Skywarrior?

  • Bigbadbull

    Buy back all the 717’s from Airtran now that they are Fully owned by Southwest and will most likely move the relatively young ( by airline standards) 717-to SW 737-800/MAX/ etc.

  • Former QMCS

    The C-130 would work well. Navy Coastal Warfare loaded a Radar/Sonar Surveillance Center (RSSC) van into a USMC C-130 at MCAS El Toro in the 80s. The RSSC functioned with all the detection and tracking capabilities of the P-3. We tied the radar into the A/C radar and trailed the sonar antenna out the back. Sonobouys were implaced by just tossing them out the rear. The draw back was that we had to also load a generator because the C-130 couldn’t supply power. Noisey as hell.

  • blight_

    Once we plug-and-playitize our equipment, the platform won’t be such a pivotal part of the buy. or at least, there will be less impediments to upgrading platforms, so we won’t cheapen out with used leftovers from the commercial sector.

  • blight_

    So in addition to the -NG there is also the 737 MAX possibly in the pipe?

    Darn you Boeing for having a smorgasbord of 737s in the works.

    • FormerDirtDart

      -NG discontinued, replaced by MAX (new engines)

      • blight_

        Is that why the P-8 will be using 737-NG?

      • sbays1

        The NG is still available for orders. The MAX is an upgrade program.

  • I guess they’re looking for Embraer and it’s new coming KC-390, that’d be perfect to the task…

  • anthony

    The xx33 has been changed around so it can still be in option since it has been fully remodelled.

  • anthony

    One good drone to lead companie is more then we need.Remember every plane more with or without pilot is squal to 12 troops less if not more!!

  • Guest

    I would guess a 717 conversion from the Southwest-Airtran merger (though airframes are limited), a Gulfstream G550, or as was poked at before, the C-27J. Then again, LM recently proposed a C-130 fitted out with ro-ro MP/ASW gear in two specs: one with expendable stores (P-8 kit) and an ISR-only version. Boeing could still make/integrate the mission systems. No word on cost.

  • Praetorian
  • Praetorian
  • terry

    The key to this article is smaller airframe with less robust capabilities! C-130 does not give you a smaller airframe, C-130 is the same size as the P-8 with no weapons options! Why would you want the same size airframe with fewer capabilities? And to bring the C-130 to the capabilities of the P-8 you would have to heavily modify the C-130 which equals more money. Plus the roll-on and roll-off is not an advantage of the C-130, because the P-8 has the same ability