Multi-national 737-based MMA?

P-8A MMA Could Become a Multinational Program

The P8 Multimission Maritime Aircraft, based on the Boeing 737, will eventually replace the P3 Orion. Australia, Canada, Italy, and maybe India will be involved in the development.

The P-8 MMA will search for and destroy submarines, monitor sea traffic, launch missile attacks on naval or land targets as required, and possibly engage in an electronic intercept role. This will involve carrying sonobuoys, torpedoes, depth charges, Harpoon anti-shipping missiles, SLAM land attack missile, and other weapons, as well as advanced sensors, communications, and other electronics. The program goal is a modern, highly reliable airframe that will be equipped with improved maritime surveillance and attack capability, allowing a smaller force to provide worldwide responsiveness on a smaller support infrastructure.

The resulting aircraft will play a role in a number of emerging military doctrines. It will be a key component in the U.S. Navy’s Sea Power 21 Sea Shield concept by providing an anti-submarine, anti-ship and anti-smuggling platform that can sweep the area, launch sensors or weapons as needed, and remain aloft for many hours. MMA will also play a key role in the U.S. Navy’s FORCEnet architecture via development of the Common Undersea Picture (CUP). As a secondary role, it will support portions of Sea Power 21’s Sea Strike doctrine through provisions of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

This looks to be a big program with big potential in many areas. The first US aircraft would begin service around 2010. MO has noted the MMA previously.

Also noteworthy:

ASIDE: As an editorial comment, we at Defense Industry Daily are bit surprised to see Japan missing from the list of likely partners. Japan already flies the P-3C, has a great need for maritime surveillance aircraft, wishes to build up its aerospace capabilities, and has a far closer relationship with the U.S. than it does with any potential future competitors. Any of our readers with background information re: their absence from this list are urged to contact our address “tips@”….


  1. I am all for, modernizing the patrol fleet. The P3’s are great planes, but they do need to be replaced. That said, I strongly disagree with the concept of replacing the P3’s with 737. Besides the 737 being a 40 year old design, and the only real reason for useing the 737 is because Boeing wants to keep their assembly line going. In the commercial world, the 737 is on the way out. Airbus, and newer boeings are killing the 737 market. And this order, will help boeing funnel profits into the 787 production. Basically the 737 order is a disguised subsidy for boeing. From a strategic vie, the 737 is not the plane you want. First off the P3, being a Prop plane had a number of virtues. Short take off, fuel efficient, A Prop (a big deal for a plane that spends most of its time below 1600 feet) 4 engines (a big issue for a plane over water) and slow speed. (Another big deal for a patrol craft) A 737, only has two engine (jet) great for sucking up sea gulls. Its speed advantage is negilible. If we have to give up the P3, I would replace it with a modified 767 Cargo model. The 767 is about 30% larger then a 737 with nearly double the range. This extra size and capasity could be used to allow the plane to be able to do multiple missions, as the required extra power, life support functions, avionics, and sensors could be built in without major disruption, and this extra capasity would allow for rapid mission reconfiguration. Add in in flight refueling, and in the capasity to carry a refueling boom and pumping equipement. Reinforce the deck to handle oversize & weight military vehicles. I would have the landing gear modified for improvised airstrips. Ad an onboard, apu for field engine starts. Add an additional tail mounted jet engine. ( its there for safety reasons, but its main roll is act as a shaft drive for the inevitable on board generator for the upcomming solid state laser) Last but not least add in a single internal weapons store bay capable of handling the a rotary bomb rack. Since it is a cargo plane, the plane could be easily configured for different missions. Simply load in, prefab crew support and equipment modules. Bolt them in and hook up the power leads. This is already being done on some missions of a exotic nature. Add in a couple of wing hard points for external weapon store or senor pods. In addition, such a plane could give the airforce great flexibility. You would have a true multi-role aircraft. Capable of patrol, anti-sub/shipping, perform a secondary roles as a tanker, bomber.

  2. Umm, according to this, The 737 is Boeings best seller, and the Next-Gen 737 (on which the P8 is based) have been continuously updated. On using the 767, while there is some merit to having a longer-ranged aircraft for this role, the 767 is, on average, twice as expensive as a 737 to buy and operate. The USN seems to think that slow speed and low altitude operations aren’t as important anymore, and would rather have an aircraft that can cruise higher (read larger sensor footprint), and faster (more area coverage). The speed advantage is negligible? 440kts vs 330kts is a third faster. I wouldn’t call that negligible. The old prop P3 is not as fuel efficient as a 737, not even close. Plus, four, old props require a lot more maintenance than two, new turbofans.