Report: Navy's P-8 Aircraft Plagued with Problems; Deployment in Doubt

(c) asa663@verizon.net

Received from a former P-3 crewmate. It would appear that there are some serious development problems with the new P8 aircraft.

Here is some input from a friend, USN Retired, who is working for a defense contractor who has a contract with both P-3 and P-8 development. He is working with the P3 but has a LOT of input from the P-8 part of the company. Three cases in point about the waste of our defense establishment.

Sonobouy launching: The P-8 canít launch sonobouys at any high speed. The aircraft has to slow down to a very (below P-3 speed) to launch sonobouys. The precludes open ocean search from high altitude due to the speed. The aircraft has a very sophisticated launch package that fires the sonobouys straight down which causes them to angle aft in the slip stream and hang up in the tube. Still not resolved. [This is utterly brain-dead; not accounting for a sonobouy's ballistic launch -- Ed.]

Sonobuoy launching: To launch the bouys, the Navy and Boeing decided it needed a very high pressure air expulsion system. Thus there is a tank at about 6000 PSI to achieve the launch of a series of bouys. Great, EXCEPT that Boeing installed quite a SMALL reservoir which means it has to be recharged fairly often. The compressor chosen is small which means that it takes 2-3 hours to recharge the reservoir. Those assessing survivability pointed out that a single round to the reservoir, while the A/C is on the ground, would blow up the whole aft section of the A/C. So . . . now the recommendation is that the reservoir be discharged while the A/C is on the ground. Whoops. To recharge the reservoir with the small compressor would take 8 hours. Sooo now there is a suggestion that to quickly recharge that 6000 PSI reservoir that bleed air from the engine be used to quickly do the recharge!!!. Imagine all the extra plumbing and valves to do that.

Ocean surveillance: For years ALL merchant ships have had to have a transponder giving their name, location, port of call, cargo, etc. P-3's have had a receiver on board for years able to receive this information. If you have a private craft and wish to be able to know what ships are around you it is possible to buy a receiver for about 5,000 dollars which has extensive decoding capability. The P-8 does NOT have such a receiver. The Navy apparently failed to specify that such a devise was required to be in the electronics package. Now the Navy is asking for such a receiver, called ASI, to be included. Boeing says to add another receiver would cost, are you ready for this, $60 Million!!!!! This is their cost to do all the drawings and run all the cables, etc.!!!

So, between the Navy screwing up and Boeing milking the cash cow, we have a P-8 that basically cannot drop sonobouys [a major component of ASW] and unable to monitor merchant shipping, a major component of ocean surveillance.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.

This confirms/details the "problems" suggested by a retired Pax River engineer (Contractor) at a social gathering. He particularly noted low level performance/on station time. He blamed the [inappropriate?] choice of the Boeing on Navy brass who wanted a "real jet plane" in lieu of the turbo prop. (Can you spell "S-3 Viking?") That claim may or not be a reflection of the process. I thought he might be biased against Boeing as a Lockheed guy ... but he apparently understated the situation (he didn't want to talk too much in negative terms to me . . a guy he had just met)

BTW, the term "system bugs" in the Subject line seems like a SERIOUS understatement. You don't work the "bugs" out of low level on-station time measured in minutes due to fuel temperature. That is not a software "fix."

No details of the other "weather, take-off, and flight envelope restrictions" which do not sound trivial Remaining aircraft weather, take-off, and flight envelope restrictions should not significantly affect mission operations and are on track for resolution prior to P-8A operational deployment.