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RAF Poseidon - Not too long to wait?

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RAF Poseidon - Not too long to wait?

Old 13th Sep 2017, 07:00
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RAF Poseidon - Not too long to wait?

RAF Poseidon - Not too long to wait?

Reports suggest that the first of nine P-8A Poseidon being built for the RAF (ZP801, line number 6560) has been spotted on the flight line at Renton, waiting it's first flight. Seasoned Boeing-watchers have estimated that the aircraft should fly in mid to late October.

Previous Boeing commercial derivative aircraft destined for military use – like the Boeing 737 AEW&C were built as normal commercial airframes, and were then delivered ‘green’ to a completion centre where the necessary modifications (including structural cut outs and apertures for antennas, etc.) would be made.

The P-8A is built differently. For the Poseidon, Boeing has introduced “in-line production,” process, meaning that all aircraft modifications unique to the P-8 are made in sequence during fabrication and assembly. All of the necessary structural changes are incorporated as the airframe is being built, in other words, rather than afterwards. This removes the time and cost of building an aircraft, tearing it down, and then rebuilding it.

And though the P-8A looks very similar to the Boeing 737-800 upon which it is based, there are a host of major structural differences. Quite apart from the weapons bay installed in the aft lower fuselage and the hardpoints for weapons pylons under the wing, and the cut-outs for two large observation windows, the P-8A is built using a significantly thicker guage of aluminium skin. The Poseidon’s fuselage and wings incorporate additional stringers, frames and fasteners, while the normal apertures for passenger windows are missing.

This all means extra work for the fuselage and wing production lines at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas and Renton respectively, where components for the P-8A are built using the same assembly jigs as those destined for commercial 737 airliners.

To allow it to produce P-8 and 737 fuselages on the same line (despite the significant differences) Spirit has created a down-stage sub-assembly position where the weapons bay and auxiliary fuel tank will be integrated before they are installed on the line. Completed fuselages are shipped from Wichita to the final assembly line at Renton by rail.

Although P-8A final assembly could have been performed on one of the two existing moving 737 assembly lines at Renton, Boeing decided to create a third, ITAR-compliant line for the Poseidon. This meets the Pentagon's security requirements and allows for slightly stretched flow times (which are necessitated by the P-8A’s extra wiring harnesses and cargo-bay auxiliary fuel tanks, for example), but could still be used to assemble commercial 737s if Boeing needed extra capacity.

Boeing says that by implementing established best practices and common, commercial production-system tools, it has been able to reduce flow time and cost while ensuring quality.

Following final assembly and painting, each P-8A leaves Renton and Boeing Commercial Airplanes and makes the short flight to Seattle’s Boeing Field for mission system installation by Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

After arrival at Boeing Field, each P-8A is moved across East Marginal Way South to the old Thompson building (where the first few 737 airliners were built, back in the early 1960s). The move is made by night, to minimize disruption to the traffic!

Because the Thompson building isn’t quite wide enough to accommodate a Poseidon, the aircraft’s raked wingtips are removed and then reattached when it emerges from systems installation, before final testing and customer delivery.

Those with an eye for such things may notice that the RAF’s P-8As have been assigned appropriate but slightly out-of-sequence registrations ZP801 to ZP809.

The UK announced its intention to order nine P-8 aircraft In November 2015, as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The US State Department approved a proposed Foreign Military Sale to the UK for up to nine P-8 aircraft and associated support, at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion in March 2016, and the UK Government committed to the purchase in July 2016.

The British aircraft will be manufactured as part of three larger production lots, and the first two British P-8s are expected to arrive at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland (where £400m is being invested in new support infrastructure for the aircraft) in 2019. The next three aircraft will be delivered in 2020 and the final four will follow in 2021. This schedule is reportedly dependent on the pace of construction of infrastructure and may slip by between six months and a year.

On Thursday, 13 July 2017 Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, revealed that the nine new P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft will be operated by No.s 120 and 201 Squadrons from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray. No.120 Squadron will form under Wing Commander James Hanson from April 2018, with No.201 Squadron following in 2021.

There are a number of questions about the UK’s P-8A procurement, but the RAF and MoD have proved remarkably unwilling to answer many of these. Comparisons between the P-8A and the ill-starred Nimrod MRA.Mk 4 are discouraged, and there is an absolute refusal to talk about the essentially uncompleted nature of the selection of the Poseidon, and about any alternatives to the P-8A that may have been considered. Nor does there seem to be much appetite to talk about the P-8A’s performance, nor about the troubled Multistatic Active Coherent system upon which the P-8A’s ASW capabilities are to be based, while detailed discussion about the practicality of conducting ASW from high level seem to be similarly frowned upon.

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Old 13th Sep 2017, 08:22
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Sounds promising...but at what point will the (British) Poseidon programme become guaranteed to continue? I would suspect we're still some distance from that point...
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Old 13th Sep 2017, 10:24
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The first aircraft about to fly, squadron number plates and COs announced, much political capital expended…. I'd say that that point has already been reached, TotD
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Old 13th Sep 2017, 11:05
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I absolutely want you to be right, for several reasons, but we had got further than this last time
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Old 13th Sep 2017, 12:14
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Are two Squadrons really necessary?

With eight Globemaster and (originally) seven Sentry aircraft only apparently requiring one operational squadron per type is two operational squadrons for just nine airframes really justified? Or is it a little political "smoke and mirrors" in order to give the UK an apparently larger capability than it really has; are we soon to reach the stage of just one or two aircraft per squadron?
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Old 13th Sep 2017, 13:06
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Probably to do with crew size per aircraft. Only 2 OJARs and 3 SJARs typically to write per frame on Air Mobility force!
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Old 13th Sep 2017, 13:53
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With eight Globemaster and (originally) seven Sentry aircraft only apparently requiring one operational squadron
The E-3D are/were operated by 3 squadrons at Washington - 8, 23 and 54(R).
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Old 13th Sep 2017, 15:43
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Originally Posted by ORAC View Post
The E-3D are/were operated by 3 squadrons at Washington - 8, 23 and 54(R).
Is that Tyne and Wear, DC or state?
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Old 14th Sep 2017, 11:11
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Originally Posted by ORAC View Post
The E-3D are/were operated by 3 squadrons at Washington - 8, 23 and 54(R).
But only 8 and 54(R) now.

I'd imagine the P8s are going to be pretty busy, you might even have one crew coming off, a quick refuel and tea and cakes refresh then back out with a new crew
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Old 14th Sep 2017, 12:10
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Bit like Ryanair?
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Old 14th Sep 2017, 12:12
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Originally Posted by aw ditor View Post
Bit like Ryanair?
Why else use a 737? :-)
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Old 14th Sep 2017, 12:15
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Originally Posted by Roland Pulfrew View Post
Is that Tyne and Wear, DC or state?
I Haven't seen anything at "RAF Usworth" since a flyover by the Vulcan.
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Old 14th Sep 2017, 13:45
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Bloody auto finish and correct........
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Old 14th Sep 2017, 14:20
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Basing a maritime patrol aircraft on a civilian jetliner - if only someone had thought of doing that before
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Old 14th Sep 2017, 20:49
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at least three times - two worked one really didn't
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Old 15th Sep 2017, 05:14
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Jacko,

There are a number of questions about the UK’s P-8A procurement, but the RAF and MoD have proved remarkably unwilling to answer many of these. Comparisons between the P-8A and the ill-starred Nimrod MRA.Mk 4 are discouraged, and there is an absolute refusal to talk about the essentially uncompleted nature of the selection of the Poseidon, and about any alternatives to the P-8A that may have been considered. Nor does there seem to be much appetite to talk about the P-8A’s performance, nor about the troubled Multistatic Active Coherent system upon which the P-8A’s ASW capabilities are to be based, while detailed discussion about the practicality of conducting ASW from high level seem to be similarly frowned upon.
There are any number of reasons why this would be the case, but steering well clear of any sensor performance areas (of which thankfully these days I know absolutely nothing ) there are a couple of interesting and quite separate rocks you might want to peer under...

From a political perspective the guy who ultimately chopped the MRA4, and the LRMPA role from the RAF, was Liam Fox (then Defence Secretary) A little work with Google will throw up some of his quotes from the time, which now in the light of history and the decision to reinstate the capability thru' the P8, look a tad embarrassing for a politician who has not long returned from the wilderness.

Out with politics, but directly related to the decisions made in 2010/2011, most of the focus has been the aircraft, with a little left over for the (seedcorn) aircrew. Cost and manpower wise, they are but the tip of the iceberg...save for a few dozen aircrew, and the basic NCO aircrew training (needed for other types) pretty much the whole capability (2000 to 3000 odd posts) were scrapped and the savings trousered. Even vastly "leaned" a whole ton of capability and resource has to be re-established, ten years down the road from when it was all canned.

And we are talking ASW here, possibly the single most perishable skill in the modern military (which is exactly why the RN will need to feature heavily in the re-introduction of the capability).

Off the top of my head I can think of two very simple reasons why there would be reluctance to discuss any of this, outwith the aircraft and soundbite press releases:

One is simply many challenges arising from the re-establishment of the capability will yet to have been fully resolved, and the other, equally simple, is the impending presence of some very ugly costs.
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Old 15th Sep 2017, 08:10
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Originally Posted by The Old Fat One View Post
From a political perspective the guy who ultimately chopped the MRA4, and the LRMPA role from the RAF, was Liam Fox (then Defence Secretary) A little work with Google will throw up some of his quotes from the time, which now in the light of history and the decision to reinstate the capability thru' the P8, look a tad embarrassing for a politician who has not long returned from the wilderness.

To be fair to Fox (Not something I really want to do) there was a little publisised interview with Radio Scotland the day after the MRA4 cancellation, where he said that the capability was needed, but the MRA4 wasn't the platform to deliver it due to the fact that no-one could say when it would be in service and how much it would cost. He strongly hinted that this would be something they would look at again once the financial situation was better.
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Old 15th Sep 2017, 09:13
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To be fair to Fox (Not something I really want to do) there was a little publisised interview with Radio Scotland the day after the MRA4 cancellation, where he said that the capability was needed, but the MRA4 wasn't the platform to deliver it due to the fact that no-one could say when it would be in service and how much it would cost. He strongly hinted that this would be something they would look at again once the financial situation was better.
Indeed, I am aware...but then he also said this...

...We are mitigating the risk incurred by using other capabilities, such as Frigates, Merlin helicopters and Hercules aircraft. Operations in Afghanistan are not affected by this decision and we will continue to cover long-range Search and Rescue around the UK with a number of aircraft that can fulfil this role...

Which you will know is something of a "distortion". Although I'm not a fan either, I would point out that I'm not having a cheap pop at Fox, who was just fufilling his political function like any other, I'm just pointing out that as his star rises again, he won't want a controversial (and very short) period as defence secretary being exposed to the spotlight, any more than his weird "arrangements" with Adam Werritty (now that is a deliberate cheap shot )
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Old 15th Sep 2017, 09:38
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I, too, tend to be fair toward Dr Fox. Ministers and staff are seen to speak with one voice, but he clearly wasn't comfortable with the official party line. One must remember that in this period Ministers were being serially lied to by senior MoD staff, over Nimrod XV230, Chinook ZD576, Hercules XV179 and more. On an almost daily basis these lies were being publicly exposed and Fox was one of a few Tory "grandees" to buck protocol and criticise their briefings. (Rifkind, Major and Howarth, for example. Howarth wanted BAeS in the dock over MRA4, but when presented with the truth stepped back). The culmination was Fox convening the Defence Council to get round Graydon's machinations, and accepting Lord Philip's recommendations.
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Old 13th Nov 2017, 07:24
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Not seen this pic previously...........

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