A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (2024)

The Poseidon P-8 has been making the news in recent times as Boeing works to secure a deal with the Canadian military. The Canadian forces are looking to replace their aging maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft and the government had decided earlier in 2023 that the P-8 was the only suitable aircraft. With this deal ongoing, it's worth looking at this militarized 737 variant, its history, and its capabilities.

The background and basics of the P-8

According to Fi-Aeroweb, the P-8 conducted its first flight on April 25th, 2009. Full-scale testing of the airframe would then continue until January 2011. Months later, on July 7th, 2011, the first production aircraft made its initial flight and was delivered to the US Navy on March 4th, 2012. By January 3rd, 2014, the type was approved for Full Rate Production (FRP).

Based on the popular Boeing 737 commercial aircraft platform, the jet has the fuselage of a 737-800 but sports broader wings. The aircraft is powered by a pair of CFM International CFM56-7B high-bypass turbofan engines. As the US planemaker highlights, the P-8 shares 86% commonality with the commercial 737NG, "providing enormous supply chain economies of scale in production and support."

A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (1)

Photo: Boeing

For aviation enthusiasts new to this militarized 737 variant, there can be some confusion around the naming. Interestingly, P-8 and P-8A are oftentimes used interchangeably, without much explanation on what the "A" might stand for. According to Boeing, the P-8 has two variants: The P-8I and the P-8A. The P-8I is only flown by the Indian Navy while the P-8A Poseidon flown by the US Navy, the UK's Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Norwegian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force. If Boeing gets its way, the Royal Canadian Air Force will eventually be operating these jets, but this is a topic we'll discuss further down in this piece.

As per Indian Aerospace Defence News, there are four big differences between the -8I and the -8A:

  1. The P-8I's surface search radar is an “international version” suitable for export to India.
  2. P-8I has has a different data link to communicate between ships and ground based stations, compared to the P-8A, which uses a NATO-compatible Data Link.
  3. P-8I is equipped with an AN/ASQ-508A Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) which is absent on standard P-8As.
  4. Finally, a Griffon Corporation Telephonics APS-143C(V)3 multimode aft radar is on the P-8I which is otherwise absent on the standard P8A.
A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (2)

Photo: Boeing

Ultimately, it looks like the P-8A is available to close US allies, whether they be fellow NATO members, or members of the "five eyes" intelligence alliance (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States). India, not being a member of either of these groups, has a P-8 variant with different technologies.

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Specifications of the P-8

The P-8 is a multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft, suited to anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. Not only can it conduct ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) operations, but the jet can be used for search and rescue as well.

Technical data comparing the P-8 with the 737-800 and sourced from Boeing, PM Flight, and Rocket Route is as follows:

Poseidon P-8A



123.6 ft (37.64m)

117 ft 5 in (35.8m)


42.1 ft (12.83m)

41 ft 3 in (12.5m)


129.6 ft (39.50m)

129.6 ft (39.50m)




Max Speed

564 mph (907 km/h)

600 mph (965 km/h)


41,000 ft (12.496 m)

41,000 ft (12.496 m)


189,200 lb (85.820 kg)

174,200 lb (79,010 kg)


1,200+ nm (2.225+ km) with >4 hr time on station

3,115 nautical miles (5,765 km)

A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (3)

Photo: Boeing

It didn't seem right to compare weapon or defense storage capability in a chart with the 737-800, but it's also worth noting that the P-8A can be fitted with 129 A-size sonobuoys, a harpoon, a number of MK-54 torpedoes, and a survival kit. Aerial refueling is another capability present in the P-8 that is not available for the 737-800.

"Shorter transit times reduce the size of the Area of Probability when searching for submarines, surface vessels or search and rescue survivors. P-8 is also designed for low altitude missions and has already proven its abilities supporting humanitarian and search and rescue missions." -Boeing

Other than the P-8's weapon stores capabilities, we can see that the P-8's wingspan is slightly longer, while the height of the airframe is also a little more than its commercial counterpart. Both aircraft use the CFM56, albeit different variants. While aircraft ceiling is identical, the P-8 is certified to takeoff with more weight. Range is more challenging to calculate as this metric is 'militarized' for the P-8, suited to the military customers eyeing the jet. Indeed, Boeing's figure is the distance that can be covered from base, along with a four-hour 'time on station' duration, followed by a return to base.

P-8 customers to date

Examining data from Planespotters.net, the following countries have ordered and are operating the P-8:

  • United States (123)
  • India (12)
  • Australia (12)
  • United Kingdom (9)
  • Norway (5)
  • New Zealand (3)
  • South Korea (2)

Additionally, the German Navy has 12 on order. This began with an initial order for five but grew to 12 with an additional order for seven in 2022.

A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (4)

Photo: Boeing

"Boeing’s expertise in commercial fleet management and derivative aircraft sustainment provides customers with greater availability at a lower operational cost. The P-8 is engineered for 25 years/25,000 hours in the harshest maritime flight regimes, including extended operations in icing environments." -Boeing

Will Canada be added to the list of P-8 operators?

Of the intelligence alliance known as the "Five Eyes," Canada is clearly stands out as the one member not yet operating the Boeing P-8A. This could soon change as the country seeks to modernize aspects of its military.

As noted previously, Canada is on a mission to replace its fleet of aging maritime surveillance aircraft: 14 Lockheed CP-140 Auroras. These turboprops had entered service in the 1980s but had extensive modernization work carried out in 1998 to keep the fleet in service up until 2030. This has given the government more time, but the Auroras won't be flying forever. Looking beyond 2030, the Canadian government is considering the purchase of up to 16 P-8As.

A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (5)

Photo: Boeing

More specifically, on March 27th the Canadian government announced that the Boeing P-8A Poseidon was the sole aircraft available considered to be a suitable candidate for its Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) program. In an official statement, the department known as Public Services and Procurement Canada stated:

"Following engagements with industry and Canada’s closest allies, the government has determined that the P-8A Poseidon is the only currently available aircraft that meets all of the CMMA operational requirements, namely anti-submarine warfare and C4ISR. This platform is a proven capability that is operated by several of Canada’s defence partners including all of its Five Eyes allies—the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand—as well as Norway and South Korea. Germany has also recently purchased this platform."

Days after the government statement was issued, Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier spoke out, arguing that a Canadian-made solution must be considered as well. At the time, a Bombardier spokesperson stated, “Canada has the opportunity to leverage its [domestic] aerospace industry to provide a multi-mission aircraft that will be the standard for decades to come...Performance should matter. Canadian jobs should matter. And sustainability matters most.”

A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (6)

Bombardier has been refining its 'candidate' to rival the P-8A and has teamed up with defense contractor General Dynamics Missions Systems - Canada to develop a maritime surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft based on its Global 6500 private jet. While this aircraft is not the focus of this article, it will be interesting to see how the pair of Canadian companies will design a jet that will properly compete against the P-8A.

A proven system

Boeing proudly labels the P-8 as "a proven system," citing the fact that it has more than 155 aircraft in service. It also adds that the P-8 has executed more than 500,000 "mishap free flight-hours around the globe."

A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (7)

Photo: Boeing

With the 737NG series (and its CFM56 engines) already proving to be reliable for commercial airlines around the world, the P-8 draws many benefits from the commonality with its commercial counterpart. Unfortunately, for prospective customers (particularly US allies), this might just mean that Boeing has cornered the market, eliminating any serious competition and potentially driving up prices.

What do you think of Boeing's P-8 Poseidon? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Sources: FI-Aeroweb, IAD News, PM Flight, RocketRoute

  • A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (8)

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A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon (2024)


A Deep-Dive Into Boeing’s Militarized 737: The P-8 Poseidon? ›

The P-8A Poseidon is the U.S. Navy's multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft conducting long-range anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

What is the boeing P8A Poseidon used for? ›

The P-8A Poseidon is the U.S. Navy's multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft conducting long-range anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

How many P-8 Poseidon US has? ›

With surveillance and reconnaissance, search and rescue, and long-range anti-submarine capabilities, the P-8 is the most capable multimission aircraft deployed around the world, protecting seas and securing borders. A proven system with more than 169 aircraft in service and over 600,000 flight hours.

How good is P-8 Poseidon? ›

The P-8A was also effective at ASuW search, detection and classification in all-weather at short to medium ranges for all surface vessels and at longer ranges for larger vessels, yet was not effective for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission due to various issues including no high-resolution SAR ...

How long can a P-8 Poseidon fly? ›

The aircraft has a maximum speed of 490 knots, a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and provides a range of more than 1,200 nautical miles with four hours on station.

Is the P-8 better than the p-3? ›


system provides increased range, payload, and speed compared to the legacy P-3C aircraft. The P-8A Increment 1 system is operationally suitable. The P-8A offers significant improvements in system hardware reliability, maintainability, and availability compared to the legacy P-3C aircraft.

Can the P-8 Poseidon destroy submarines? ›

The P-8 Poseidon Will Get Winged Torpedoes To Kill Subs At Long-Range. The days of skimming the waves and chucking out torpedoes are coming to an end. Adding range and smart guidance to existing munitions, via a kit, is the backbone of America's “smart weapon” revolution.

How much does a p8 Poseidon unit cost? ›

Each P-8A costs roughly $175 million to manufacture according to the United States Navy's annual budget. All of that money goes to outfitting what is essentially a passenger plane with not only an array of sensors to hunt for threats, but also act when such threats are identified.

What US military plane has 8 engines? ›

B-52 Stratofortress

Which is better, the Kawasaki P1 or the P-8 Poseidon? ›

In comparison to the P-8, the P-1 has a greater range, a larger bomb bay, and is purpose-built for the maritime patrol mission. Prior to 2015, the P-1 was being procured at a typical rate of one or two aircraft deliveries per year.

How many crews are on a P-8? ›

Its nine-person crew includes a dual-pilot co*ckpit and five mission crew (plus relief pilot and in-flight technician).

Does the P-8 have MAD? ›

The P-8 does not use a MAD sting to detect submarines, as these work best at lower altitudes.

Where are P-8 Poseidons stationed? ›

The Navy currently fields 12 P-8A-equipped fleet VP squadrons, six each at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, and NAS Jacksonville, Florida. In addition, the Navy Air Reserve operates two P-3C Orion-equipped VP squadrons, one each at Jacksonville and Whidbey Island.

What does a boeing P-8A Poseidon do? ›

The P-8A Poseidon is the U.S. Navy's multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. The P-8A conducts anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and humanitarian response.

How much does a 737 cost? ›

The Boeing 737-700, listed at an average price of just under 90 million U.S. dollars, is among the least expensive models, while the Boeing 777-9, priced at 442 million U.S. dollars, is among the most expensive ones on Boeing's price list.

What are the blue angel planes used for? ›

The team's Super Hornets became operational by the beginning of 2021, their 75th anniversary year. The show's narrator flies Blue Angels No. 7, a two-seat F/A-18F Hornet, to show sites. The Blues use these jets for backups, and to give demonstration rides to VIP (civilians).

What military jet has 8 engines? ›

Beginning with the successful contract bid in June 1946, the B-52 design evolved from a straight wing aircraft powered by six turboprop engines to the final prototype YB-52 with eight turbojet engines and swept wings. The B-52 took its maiden flight in April 1952.

What are NASA jets used for? ›

The Houston-based space center plays host to a number of NASA aircraft that are used for astronaut training and flight proficiency, transport of oversized cargo, and hosting airborne science investigations of planet Earth. NASA Johnson Center Aircraft.

Is the P-8A a 737? ›

The P-8A is based on the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, but uses the 737-900 extended-range wing. The P-8 is designed to carry and employ anti-ship missiles, air-to-surface weapons, torpedoes, sonobuoys, and other expendables. The P-8A onboard sensors include acoustics and electro-optic sensors.

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