Germany’s defense ministry has all but selected the Boeing-built P-8A Poseidon to replace its P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, according to a written answer by the country’s Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn.
Silberhorn was responding to a question from a German Bundestag member when he said that an offer for the purchase of modernized Atlantique 2s as replacements for the troublesome Orions would not be an adequate solution.
This leaves the US offer of five P-8A Poseidon aircraft and related equipment at a cost of $1.77 billion as likely the only viable solution. Silberhorn added that the decision on an interim solution could be made during this legislative period, before the 2021 German federal election that is slated to take place in September this year.
Earlier this year the US State Department gave its green light for the sale of Poseidons as an interim solution for Germany’s maritime patrol aircraft capability. The country is forced to look at short-term options after walking away from an elaborate upgrade of the Orion fleet that would have allowed the maritime patrol aircraft to fly well into the 2030s. According to current plans, the Orions will be phased out in 2024 or 2025.
The German government estimates that it will have only two serviceable Orions by 2023.
Germany and France have already have already initiated work on the Maritime Airborne Weapons System (MAWS) project that will develop a new maritime patrol solution. MAWS would replace German P-3Cs and French Atlantique 2, or ATL2 aircraft that were built in the 1980s. The two countries hope to be able to build first aircraft under the program by 2035 with the help of Airbus and Dassault Aviation.
The potential choice of the P-8A could be a contentious one as many fear that this path forward could entice Germany to back out of the MAWS program, as the Poseidon would provide the country with a maritime patrol capability for the next 30 years.
The P-8A is a long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft used by the US Navy and other international customers. It is militarized with maritime weapons, an open mission system architecture and commercial-like support for affordability. It’s the principal aircraft with the ability to detect and track submarines. The aircraft 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.