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P-8 Poseidon Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA)

The P-8A is a part of a family of systems, including the MQ-4C Triton, that share the integrated maritime patrol mission and support the Navy's maritime warfighting capability. The P-8A/MQ-4C combination will be responsible for all the missions currently covered by VP, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons (VQ), and Patrol Squadron Special Projects Unit (VPU). The P-8A Poseidon replaces the P-3C Orion as a long-range anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations. The P-8A Poseidon is designed to secure the Navys future in long-range maritime patrol capability, while transforming how the Navys maritime patrol and reconnaissance force will man, train, operate and deploy. The P-8A will provide more combat capability from a smaller force and less infrastructure while focusing on worldwide responsiveness and interoperability with traditional manned forces and evolving unmanned sensors.

P-8A Poseidon leverages the experience and technology of the P-3Cs capabilities and assets to meet the Navys needs of developing and fielding a maritime aircraft equipped with significant growth potential, including an extended global reach, greater payload capacity, higher operating altitude, and the open systems architecture. The Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) was designed around a modified Boeing 737-800ERX, bringing together a highly reliable airframe and high-bypass turbo fan jet engine with a fully connected, state-of-the-art open architecture mission system. This combination, coupled with next-generation sensors, would be expected to dramatically improve Anti-Submarine Warfare, or ASW, and Anti-Surface Warfare, or ASuW, capabilities.

MMA offers a modern, highly reliable airframe that would be equipped with an improved maritime surveillance and attack capability, allowing a smaller force to provide worldwide responsiveness while potentially on a smaller support infrastructure. The MMA was intended to ensure the Navy's future capability in long-range maritime patrol. It would be equipped with modern anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) sensors. In short, MMA was designed to be a long-range ASW, ASuW, ISR aircraft that was capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations.

MMA was designed to use state-of-the-art simulation and training systems and implement performance-based logistics concepts. It was expected to be a key component in the Navy's Sea Power 21 Sea Shield concept by providing persistent ASW, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare capabilities and would support Sea Power 21 Sea Strike doctrine through provisions of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and armament capabilities. The platform would also play a key role in the Navy's Force Net architecture via development of the common undersea picture. It was intended to replace the P-3 Orion, variants of which had been in service since November 1959 [P-3A] and August 1969 [P-3C].

The MMA's key features were expected to be as follows:

  • Open Mission System Architecture: reconfigurable and expandable system facilitating easier, more affordable upgrades.
  • Sensors: Active multi-static and passive acoustic sensor system, inverse synthetic aperture / synthetic aperture radar, new electronic support measures system, new electro-optical / infrared sensor, magnetic anomaly detector.
  • Nine-person crew: dual-pilot cockpit, five mission crew (plus relief pilot and In-flight technician). Workstations with universal multi-function displays, ready accommodation for additional workstation, workload sharing.
  • Lethality: internal weapons bay, four wing pylons, two centerline hard points with digital stores management allowing for carriage of joint missiles, torpedoes and mines. Search stores: rotary reloadable sonobuoy launcher.
  • Net Ready: Link-16, Internet Protocol, Common Data Link (CDL), FORCEnet.
  • Performance based support/logistics with availability a key performance parameter.

Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR) Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (PMA-290) program office's Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program took a dynamic and unique approach to an area that had been historically overlooked in the acquisition process: the human element.

The program created a comprehensive plan for Human Systems Integration (HSI), documented in MMA's Human System Integration Plan (HSIP). The goal of the HSIP was to optimize total system performance, minimize total ownership cost, and ensure that the system meets the needs of the users.

Human-related constraints and goals would hopefully be identified early in any good acquisition process. MMA took a lead in HSI by quickly developing an HSIP that was implemented at the system engineering level.

HSI is a process that ensures human performance constraints, manpower, personnel and training, and safety/health aspects are considered throughout the design, development, fielding, and sustainment of a weapon system. A Department of Defense Instruction identified seven specific areas that make up HIS: human factors, manpower, personnel, training, safety, habitability, and survivability.

The MMA Training Integrated Product Team initiated a front-end analysis (FEA) to ensure HSI aspects of the training system development were addressed early in the acquisition life cycle.

As the MMA design was further refined, the FEA processes developed to support HSI was expected to provide the program office with recommendations on manpower. Results of HSI implementation would also be considered regarding the design of facilities, and safety requirements for both government and commercial support.

Selecting the right number of people and determining that they have the proper knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) were vital to ensuring the MMA could operate in a safe and effective manner. Since HSI was designed to look at more than the immediate operator-machine interface, it had been expected to also help ensure the people who work on and near the aircraft were safe and qualified.

When aircrew and maintainers can efficiently and effectively manage a system, errors and costly training systems can be reduced. Manpower (aircrew and maintenance) and training are two of the biggest factors in total life cost for most weapon systems. Experts in HSI said there are cost savings associated with implementing this concept.

HSI was developed to save programs money by identifying and solving human engineering issues. When the human elements of the weapon systems are considered early in development, the training can then be developed to match the KSAs of the skill sets that will operate the aircraft.

One of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark's recently released initiatives is the Human Capital Strategy (HCS). MMA was quickly becoming known as one of the cornerstones of HCS. The MMA team crafted a very forward leaning acquisition strategy that was tied to the Navy leadership's vision for the future, incorporating critical HSI concepts into the formal requirements. MMA was one of the Navy's most important programs. It was seen as transforming and setting the standard for Navy acquisition.

CFM International, a 50/50 joint company of Snecma Moteurs and General Electric Company, was contracted to provide the CFM56-7 engines that would power the Boeing 737 MMA. This is the same engine that powered the Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft, as well as, the C-40 transport then in service with the Navy. The two engines would each provide 27,300 pounds of takeoff thrust. The CFM56-7 was at the time one of the world's most reliable engines. The fleet of engines logged more than 30 million flight hours while maintaining an industry-leading .002 percent in-flight shut down rate per 1,000 hours of flight.

Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-based Electronic Systems sector would provide the electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, the directional infrared countermeasures system, and the electronic support measures system. Northrop Grumman's Mission Systems sector, based in Reston, Virginia, would develop data links for MMA. The company's Integrated Systems sector, based in El Segundo, California, would support the mission planning effort.

Raytheon would provide an upgraded AN/APS-137 Maritime Surveillance Radar and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) solutions. Raytheon was also offering its revolutionary GPS Anti-Jam, Integrated Friend or Foe, and Towed Decoy Self-Protection suites, and the aircraft's Broadcast Info System (BIS) and secure UHF Satcom capability.

Smiths Aerospace would supply both the Flight Management and Stores Management systems on the 737 MMA. The Flight Management System provided a truly integrated open architecture that is CNS/ATM compatible along with an inherent growth path for upgrades. The Stores Management System provided a comprehensive system for the electronic control of integrated weapons management.

The contractor for the system development and demonstration phase was the Boeing Corporation. On 14 June 2004 Boeing was awarded an over 3,889 billion dollar cost-plus-award-fee contract to develop the Navy's Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft. The aircraft procurement section of the program was estimated to be a $20 billion effort. The then total life cycle cost for 25 years of life cycle support, as well as, the aircraft is estimated to be about a $44 billion program. These numbers were FY04 dollars, not inflated to be then-year dollars.

The budget included about $100 million of MILCON. The 737-800ERX, as Boeing calls the aircraft, was larger than the existing P-3. The Navy would be compelled to make some local modifications to existing hangar space to accommodate. Obviously, given the existing four major operating sites, $100 million was a fairly modest amount.

The program objective was initially 108 aircraft, along with an additional three SDD aircraft. As of mid-2004 the fleet of P-3 aircraft was 196 aircraft. The Navy was gradually bringing that number down, because of the time that was being put on the P-3 fleet, the ability maintain them, as well as, the anticipation of MMA. The government was looking for a full rate production decision in FY13 at the latest, and was trying to accelerate that, if possible. The Navy expected to buy 34 low-rate initial production aircraft in the years FY10, FY11 and FY12, and then transition beyond that in the year FY13, to hit full-rate production.

Initially Boeing was going to essentially take a 737 commercial aircraft and modify it into a naval variant. What would have been involved was the remanufacturing of the aircraft. What Boeing had committed to do, as they do on the commercial 737s, was build in parallel production lines. They would build the fuselage in Wichita. The fuselage would be taken to Renton, Washington where the wings, engines and other components would be added to make the aircraft functional. Then the aircraft would be flown to Seattle to actually install the mission systems and do the checkout and the fly-off at that location.

The smaller fleet size at 108 aircraft reflected some work that had been done between the acquisition team and the requirements community about what the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance system, or BAMS, anticipated to be an unmanned air vehicle. There was an assessment about the persistent surveillance and coverage that BAMS would provide, and about the manned segment that augments that surveillance and provides additional armed capability and performs other missions. The assessment also included discussions of littoral mission capabilities. The balance between those systems provided the full Navy maritime surveillance capability.

BAMS was proceeding on course in the budget. The budget considered the time frame anticipated for MMA, and laid in funds for P-3 maintenance, sustainment, and even some structural life modifications to extend the life of that fleet to the time at which the Navy anticipated MMA would be deployed in numbers.

The system design and development contract covered the full range of aircraft design. It included all of the onboard mission systems, the modifications to the airframe itself, all of the training systems, and all of the software laboratories that were required. There was an extensive amount of software development, almost 2 million lines of code just for MMA application. It covered developing all of the integrated logistics elements, including the trainers and the simulators and the courseware. Essentially everything that was required to get ready to build the production aircraft that would be delivered to the fleet.

In terms of the technical risk, it was not so much the technologies that were particularly of concern. Had there been a fear of high technical risk an award fee plan might have been established to make sure integration and getting the mission systems to work together was actually being achieved. There was a very significant step forward in what is often called an open architecture, to make sure that any of these sensors can play with the current suite, and then, as future technologies evolve, they can be plugged in to the open architecture backbone without requiring an extensive amount of redesign. It is intended to be a relatively straightforward plug-in.

The Navy completed a three-day Systems Requirements Review of the program on 30 September 2004. This was the first major review of the program since the SDD contract was awarded. The review was a crucial step that permited the program to continue forward. The purpose was to ensure understanding of the planned system and contract requirements. A Preliminary Design Review was slated for September 2005.

The P-8A program entered development in May 2004 with none of its four critical technologies mature. The program developed maturation plans and identified mature backup technologies for each of the critical technologies. According to programofficials, the P-8A would lose some capabilities but would still meet the minimum requirements if the backup systems were to be used. Between 2006 and 2007 the program decided to use one of its backups. Two of the remaining three critical technologies were not anticipated to reach maturity until 2008 and 2009, at least 4 years later than recommended by best practices. The program office was unable to provide the number of drawings completed (a measure of design stability), but expected that 80 percent of the design drawings would be released by a critical design review planned for 2007.

In March 2007 a Government Accountability Office report stated that the program had previously expected all four technologies to be demonstrated in a relevant environment by design review in July 2007. Between 2006 and 2007 the program has decided not to use the acoustic bellringer algorithms. The decision was made to instead use the backup technology, which was baseline signal processing without the bellringers. Bellringers are advanced signal-processing aids that provide sorting and identification of specific sounds. The backup was being used because an analysis of bellringer performance showed that it would not meet expectations. The bellringer algorithms were not required to meet baseline performance requirements, but had the potential to provide increased performance above the required capability.

None of the three remaining critical technologies, electronic support measures (ESM) digital receiver, data fusion, and integrated rotary sonobuoy launcher, were mature as of March 2007. These technologies had not moved beyond the laboratory environment, and have not matured since the beginning of development in May 2004. The program office stated that decisions on using backup technologies for the ESM digital receiver and the sonobuoy launcher may not be made until after design review.

The final production hardware was complete for the ESM digital receiver, a technology being leveraged from the EA-18G Growler program. Technology maturity would be demonstrated by design review, 3 years later than recommended by best practices standards. The data fusion and the integrated rotary sonobuoy launcher had not been integrated into a prototype system, but were expected to reach maturity in 2008 and 2009 respectively, at least 4 years later than recommended by best practice standards.

As of June 2006, the P-8A program was on budget and on schedule. However, if the P-8A failed to develop as expected or experienced additional schedule slippage, the Navy would have to continue relying on its aging P-3C Orion fleet.

The P-8A is intended to share the persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance role with the BAMS UAS. The BAMS UAS development start was delayed 2 years until October 2007. If the BAMS UAS did develop as planned or continued to experience schedule delays, the P-8A was its fallback and according to the Navy, the overall cost of the program would increase due to a need to procure additional P-8A aircraft.

Another program that could potentially be impacted by the P-8A program is the Aerial Common Sensor (ACS). The ACS was intended to replace three current systems, including the Navy's EP-3. However, the Army terminated the ACS contract in January 2006 because the airframe selected could not accommodate the intended mission equipment. Decisions concerning the ACS program would determine whether the Navy participates in a future Army-led ACS program. One of the alternatives assessed by the Navy to replace the EP-3 included incorporating the ACS equipment onto the P-8A airframe.

The Navy concurred with GAO's assessment of the P-8A MMA program. The Navy stated that the program continued to manage the three remaining critical technologies. Furthermore, the maturation of the technologies was on schedule and would be assessed at the critical design review planned for the third quarter of FY07. The airplane design remained approximately 70 percent in common with that of the commercial 737-800 baseline. Over 25 percent of the detailed design drawings were then complete. The metrics for measuring drawing release were now defined and were being used as one critical measurement to assess design maturity for the critical design review. According to the Navy, the program continued to meet or exceed the cost, schedule, and performance parameters defined in the program baseline.

The U.S. Navy and Boeing officially unveiled the next maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, during a rollout ceremony July 30, 2009 at Boeing's manufacturing facility in Seattle.

The United States said 26 February 2015 it had been flying its most advanced spy aircraft out of the Philippines to conduct surveillance mission over the South China Sea for three weeks. The P-8A Poseidon was deployed in the Philippines, making more than 180 flight hours over the South China Sea. 'It was a remarkable opportunity to work alongside the members of the Filipino armed forces,' said US Navy Lieutenant Matthew Pool. 'Sharing this aircraft's capabilities with our allies only strengthens our bonds,' he added. This was the first time that the aircraft was deployed from the Philippines.

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