PATUXENT RIVER, Md., July 9 (UPI) -- The U.S Navy says Boeing's P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is "ready for fleet introduction" following Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.
The announcement, contained in a report on the IOT&E, opens the door for a decision by the Navy for full-rate production of the aircraft, which is replacing the P-3C Orion as a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
The P-3 Orion has been in service since the early 1960s.
"This milestone and accomplishment is possible due to the great team of individuals who worked diligently and meticulously in making this aircraft the best choice to replace the Navy's current workhorse, the P-3C Orion," said Capt. Scott Dillon, Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office program manager.
"It is a great day for the Navy and the fleet. We are proud to add the P-8 to the Navy's weapons inventory and the deployment cycle later this year."
The Navy plans on procuring a total of 117 P-8As from Boeing. Nine low-rate initial production aircraft have been delivered to the fleet so far and six test aircraft have been delivered to Naval Air Systems Command.
The P-8A is based on Boeing's commercial 737-800 aircraft. It has a maximum speed of 490 knots per hour, a range of 1,200 nautical miles and a service ceiling of 41,000 feet.
Two other navies plan to operate P-8A aircraft -- Australia and India.
The Navy said the Poseidon program reached another milestone last month when it fired a Harpoon missile, successfully destroying its target.
"On June 24, completing just one practice run at the Point Mugu Sea Test Range, a P-8A Poseidon from Pax River [Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.] achieved a program milestone after six minutes of flight time," Dillon said. "The P-8A successfully launched a Harpoon AGM-84D Block IC missile on the first hot run scoring a direct hit run on a Low Cost Modular Target.
"This flight test, along with past tests, demonstrates the P-8's operational effectiveness and overall mission capabilities."
Added Capt. Carl Chebi, Precision Strike Weapons program manager: "The successful launch of one of the U.S. Navy's most dependable over-the-horizon all-weather anti-ship missiles, the Harpoon Block IC, from the P-8A is a significant milestone in naval aviation."
The Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system by Boeing. The original model was first deployed in 1984. It has a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory and active radar guidance. It is in service with more than two-dozen navies.
The missile has a range of more than 67 nautical miles.
Additional details of the test involving the Poseidon firing the Harpoon were not disclosed by the Navy. However, the service said its purpose was was to validate integration of the weapon's hardware.