Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Today we’re talking maritime patrol aircraft. There are two on the market worth looking at: Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon and Kawasaki’s P-1. Let’s look at them both and see what we like.

The Poseidon was designed to replace the P-3 Orion, and the P-8 is based on the Boeing 737-800ERX, which means it has the fuselage from the 737-800 and the wings from the 737-900. So it’s based on a recent model of a very popular airliner, which keeps airframe costs down and ensures a good supply of future spare parts. The Poseidon has a weapons bay located behind the wing, with five weapons hardpoints. An additional six hardpoints are under the wings. This bay might seem a little small, but you can’t actually put the bay between the wings, because that’s where the structure is to support the wings.

Sensorwise, the P-8A is equipped with the APY-10 multi-mission surface search radar, plus facilities for a large number of sonobuoys, and an EO/IR ball turret. It even has a sensor to detect emissions from diesel ships and submarines. In its standard, USN model, it does not have a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD). This was per a NAVAIR request to reduce weight and improve range. It also allows for a higher-altitude flight profile that is more fuel efficient, especially for an airliner-derived platform. In turn, the lack of MAD has been frequently criticized. It should be noted that this shouldn’t be seen as an indictment of the platform; regardless of what you think of the US Navy’s decision the P-8 can be equipped with a MAD, and the version for India has been sold with one.

The P-1 was also designed to replace the Orion, and it took a notably different path. It’s about the same size as the Poseidon, but it’s optimized for lower-altitude flying, with less-swept wings. It’s equipped with advanced avionics, including a fly-by-light flight control system, an HPS-106 AESA surveillance radar, and a magnetic anomaly detector standard. It has eight internal and eight external hardpoints for weapons. It does not have provision for midair refueling.

In terms of comparatives, the P-1 has more weapons capacity, and flies the traditional lower altitudes of the P-3 Orion. The P-8 is a higher altitude aircraft, for better and for worse. The P-8 has a big edge in terms of costs, being based on a currently-produced airliner, being in higher-rate production, and having tons of spares readily available. The popularity of the 737 platform will mean that there will be a large supply of future spares too.

And, like everyone else who has looked at these two, we’re going with Poseidon. Which begs the question, to MAD or not to MAD? I’m going to hedge here, because I really want to see some data or some test results, but I don’t have them as an armchair strategist. I’ll tentatively say “With MAD”, understanding that I’m open to data that I don’t have right now showing that it’s really not needed.

3 thoughts on “Maritime Patrol Aircraft

  1. Kilo Sierra

    First – concur with the P-8 choice (incase last week’s comment wasn’t hedging it). I hadn’t even pondered the P-1; does Borgundy’s alt-world presume that Japan can export defense goods?

    Perhaps USN feels that MAD is a waste for near peer sub-hunting (aka degaussed hulls), while India is focused on 1) Pakistan & 2) China (which begs the MAD question). Plus there’s the lost station time from operating at <500′.

    Plus – assuming that sim MAD numbers are within an order of magnitude of real numbers (CMANO is like 1-1.5nm) that puts the sub hunter within the umbrella of a possible MANPAD-ish threat from said sub you are hunting. <500′ and <250 kts doesn’t provide many options to a defending aircraft – DIRCM you better work (oh wait, didn’t buy that…)

    What’s left on the BDF (Borgundy Defence Forces) shopping list?

    1. parvusimperator Post author

      Japan has actually been trying to get into the export market. They offered the P-1 to the Brits and New Zealand, but both opted for P-8 instead. Japan also offered their Soryu class SSKs to Australia fro that tender.

      Ack, good point on the degaussed hulls. And MAD is a really short range sensor anyway.

      Oh yes, I suppose I should actually specify the DIRCM fit. Perhaps in a subsequent post since I’ve got a lot of platforms that are fitted for it. As for future stuff, ISR is coming, plus a 2018 artillery revisit. And I probably ought to sit down and actually pick a utility helo and an SSK. And whatever else I feel like trying my hand at picking. I might talk a bit about particular weapons systems too, but I haven’t decided those yet.

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