Monday, April 13, 2009

P-8A to Take on Other Roles

Boeing's P-8A patrol plane, based upon the 737 airframe, is evolving into other military missions for the Navy.  Such as creating a variant for signals, communications, and intelligence gathering services.  The EP-X is a competition being set up to find a replacement for the current EP-3Es in Navy service.  

"The patrol (VP) and sigint (VQ) communities have been merging since 1998." said Tim Norgart, Boeing's director of business development for airborne antisubmarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.  

Quoting from that article:  "(We envision) using a baseline architecture with one (Open Microprocessor Initiative) across both programs and then pushing it out to the other services as they start upgrading their capability.  We don't want the Navy to have to invest in a (separate sigint) architecture and operator-machine interface since there are going to be a lot of VQ guys going to VP squadrons and vice versa.  Our idea is that the radar operator on a P-8 can, the next day, go flying on an EP-X and everything will look the same.  Capability packages that are in the sigint mission set today could be balled up and run as applications on an architecture that is as robust as the P-8.  All these architectures are going in that direction."

And then cooperative data links will be developed to allow the EW suite on a P-8A and EP-X has the ability to reach into an EA-18G to find out where it has been, what it is collecting and what it is goiing after next.

One scenario of interest has a carrier battle group moving toward an area of interest with three P-8s in the air.  One escorts the battlegroup and the other two collect information on the route ahead.  Even farther out - over the coastline and perhaps up to 50 miles inland - are three UAVs linked to the P-8s.  And EP-X would be at the top of the operational pyramid putting data into the network and ensuring the systems can all talk with one another.

Ref. AW&ST, "EP-X Program Starts To Take Shape" by David A. Fulghum, April 12, 2009.  (  

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