P-8A Poseidon production aircraft reaches final assembly

The fuselage for the first P-8A Poseidon production aircraft. The sixth test aircraft T6 is in final assembly in the background (Photo: Boeing)

Final assembly of the first U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon production aircraft is underway. The Boeing 737-800 derivative which will replace the P-3 Orion as an anti-submarine and long-range surveillance aircraft has been undergoing airborne testing since 2009 and delivery of the production aircraft is set to begin in 2012.

Three of a planned six flight-test planes have already in the air and the program's static plane wrapped-up testing at the beginning of this year.

Boeing is building six low-rate initial production aircraft as part of a $1.6 billion contract awarded in January. The Navy plans to purchase 117 of the aircraft to replace the P-3 Orion – an aircraft which was introduced in the 1960's.

"Boeing will deliver this first aircraft to the Navy on schedule in 2012 in preparation for initial operational capability, which is planned for 2013," said Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president and P-8 program manager. "Our team has built seven P-8A test aircraft to date and the process improvements and efficiencies we've incorporated will continue to help reduce costs as the program moves forward."

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