The US Navy has awarded Boeing a $73.9 million contract for work on the integration of the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) onto the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
The contract provides for the design, development, and test of software and ancillary hardware necessary for the integration of the cruise missile on the navy’s submarine hunter.
Boeing is expected to complete LRASM integration onto the P-8A by October 2024.
LRASM is a precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile designed to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of ships by employing advanced technologies that reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. It has a range of close to 400 kilometers.
Australia is also buying the LRASM for its Super Hornets under an A$800 million deal from July 2020. The country said it would initially use the missiles on its F/A-18F Super Hornets, pointing to the possibility of the missile being integrated onto other platforms.
The April 21 contract is in line with the navy’s plans to introduce more capabilities to the military variant of the 737-800 commercial aircraft. Other potential upgrades for the Poseidon include the addition of air-launched naval mines and precision-guided bombs.
In February last year, the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) said that in addition to the Mk 45 torpedo it is already carrying, the P-8A could get Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), Mk 62/63/65 Quickstrike mines, Small Diameter Bombs (SDB II), Miniature Air Launched Decoys (MALD), Bomb Rack Unit BRU-55, and Universal Armament Interfaces (UAI).
Poseidon is the navy’s newest maritime patrol aircraft having officially succeeded P-3C Orion in May 2020.
The P-8A is modified to include a bomb bay and pylons for weapons. It has two weapons stations on each wing and can carry 129 sonobuoys. The aircraft is also fitted with an in-flight refueling system.
In addition to introducing new weapons systems, the navy is also working on adding new sensors to the platform. The Poseidon recently started flight tests with a radio frequency countermeasure (RFCM) prototype pod housed in the shell of a Harpoon missile. The ability to carry the AN/ALE-55 fiber optic towed decoy could allow the P-8A to thwart enemy radio frequency missile attacks.