Boeing recently upgraded the Royal NZ Air Force’s (RNZAF) fleet of six P-3K2 Orion aircraft with new acoustics processing and training simulation technology.
Delivered under a US$22 million contract to enhance the nation’s airborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, this is the first time the technology has been installed on P-3 Orion aircraft anywhere in the world.
First awarded in late 2016, the project included upgrades and modifications to mission systems and aircraft components, as well as inflight and ground-based simulation for training, spares and maintenance support. With the first aircraft upgrades completed just under 18 months following contract award, the final aircraft is now complete – providing the RNZAF fleet with dramatically-improved ASW capability.
Boeing’s solution utilizes deployed sonobuoys to detect the type and location of submarines and sends information back to the acoustics operator. The upgrade also includes an onboard training system that simulates deploying buoys and receiving underwater acoustic data to ensure acoustics operators experience real-world mission scenarios.
This upgrade will help bridge the gap until the arrival of new P-8A Poseidons.
“By successfully integrating this ASW technology onto the RNZAF’s fleet of P-3s, the Boeing team has demonstrated that we can rapidly extend this critical ASW capability to numerous platforms around the globe,” Rob Bergeron, Boeing Underwater Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program manager, said.
Boeing partnered with Airbus New Zealand and Beca Applied Technologies on the aircraft installation and software, and with Marops to provide the acoustic scenario generator for the airborne acoustic trainer.
In 2018, NZ Minister of Defence Ron Mark recognized Boeing and its partners with the Minister of Defence Award of Excellence for their contributions to the upgrade project.
“Boeing’s exceptional leadership of this upgrade project, with the team of New Zealand companies supporting it, is a great example of the collaboration that I am keen to see expanded into other defence capabilities,” Mark said.
As a result of this upgrade, RNZAF acoustics operators can quickly start operations with P-8A aircraft, the world’s preeminent ASW/anti-surface warfare (ASuW) platform providing multi-mission capability.
The RNZAF has signed a Letter of Acceptance with the US Navy to purchase four P-8As through the Foreign Military Sales process.