Volume 04, Issue 5
More of 'what might have been'
BY ERIK SIMONSEN
In this month's Historical Perspective, Boeing Frontiers continues its occasional series of articles on highly innovative aircraft and spacecraft designs. Although the aircraft mentioned in past articles (see the October 2004 and December 2004/January 2005 issues of Boeing Frontiers) are a part of Boeing's legacy, the aircraft discussed here has a unique link to a current Boeing aircraft program.
In June 2004, the U.S. Navy awarded Boeing a $3.89 billion Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft contract for 108 aircraft. The contract for the MMA, based on a Boeing 737-800 derivative and designated the P-8A, marked a big win for Boeing because it unseated the long-time incumbent P-3C Orion. However, this was not the first time Boeing submitted a commercial derivative jet aircraft for the Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) role.
During the height of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy kept tabs on the Soviet Union's nuclear submarine fleet. The service was considering a replacement for the venerable yet aging P-3C Orion ASW aircraft. In March 1987, the Navy issued a request for proposal for the Long Range Air ASW Capability Aircraft (LRAACA), designated the P-7A.
Boeing proposed the 757-200 airframe to compete for this contract. Boeing said the 757 offered superior performance that included longer range and the ability to remain on station longer. That capability translated into higher mission effectiveness, requiring fewer aircraft. The 757's interior volume would contain a Tactical Mission Center with new-technology sensors and future growth potential. The only noticeable exterior differences from the commercial 757 airframe were a slightly elongated nose and an aft Magnetic Anomaly Detector boom to detect submarines underwater.
Lockheed's P-7A proposal was essentially an upgraded P-3 with improved engines with high-technology propellers, survivability and maintainability enhancements and state-of-art avionics.
In October 1988, the Navy decided it was not the time to move to jets, and Lockheed was selected, primarily because of lower costs and less risk. However, after a series of cost overruns and program revamps, the Navy terminated the P-7A contract in 1990. The P-3C Orion would continue until the Boeing P-8A MMA—the future of maritime warfare, surveillance, reconnaissance and antisubmarine patrol.
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