US green lights German P-8A Poseidon acquisition

The US State Department has approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of five Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), associated support services and related equipment to Germany.

Approval of the potential deal, worth an estimated US$1.77bn, was announced in a media release by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on March 12, after it had notified the US Congress of the possible sale. The proposed deal covers Germany’s acquisition of five aircraft, outfitted with systems and sensors in a standard configuration, as well as training and operational support services.

P-8A Poseidon [US Navy/Greg L Davis]
Through its FMS process, the US approved Germany's request to purchase a fleet of five Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for an estimated cost of US$1.77bn on March 12, 2021. The deal also includes associated training and operational support services. US Navy/Greg L Davis

It also includes an unspecified number of commercial turbofan engines (CFM56-7B27A); AN/APY-10 multi-mission radars; Wescam MX-20HD electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors; AN/AAQ-2(V)I acoustic systems; AN/ALQ-213 electronic countermeasures; AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispensing systems and ALQ-240 electronic support measures (ESM). The proposed sale also includes aircraft spares; training; support equipment; operational support systems; training devices and technical assistance, as well as related logistics and programme support services.

The DSCA said: “The proposed sale will improve Germany’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing critical capabilities to coalition maritime operations. Germany currently operates the Lockheed P-3C Orion, but that aircraft is reaching end-of-life and will retire in 2024. Germany plans to replace it with the P-8A Poseidon.

“The proposed sale will allow Germany to modernise and sustain its maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) capability for the next 30 years. Germany will have no difficulty transitioning its MSA force to P-8 and absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces,” it added.

Boeing, operating from Seattle, Washington, will be the principal contractor for this possible FMS. At present, no offset agreements have been proposed in connection with this potential sale. If this sale goes through, Germany will become the third European nation to adopt the Poseidon after the UK and Norway.

German P-3C [Khalem Chapman]
If this potential sale goes through, the P-8A Poseidon would serve as the natural successor to the German Navy's ageing fleet of eight Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft (pictured). Khalem Chapman

The announcement of this possible FMS comes less than a year after the German Ministry of Defence (MOD) cancelled plans to modernise the navy’s ageing fleet of P-3C Orion MPA. The ministry cited high costs and technical difficulties as the reason behind the project’s abandonment.

Germany is also working with France to jointly develop a future MPA under the binational Maritime Airborne Warfare System (MAWS) programme. The project originated at the ILA Berlin air and trade show in April 2018, when the defence ministers from both nations signed a letter of intent to collaborate in the development of a new MPA. The French defence procurement agency (DGA) confirmed that the feasibility studies relating to the MAWS project were to begin in November 2020.

After gaining US approval to acquire five examples of the P-8A Poseidon, the question remains as to whether the aircraft are being sourced as an alternative to the MAWS programme. Another avenue could see the P-8As serve as a stop-gap solution, allowing the German Navy to retire its aged P-3C fleet earlier while maintaining an MPA capability until the MAWS platform comes online.