The Boeing P-8 Poseidon is a military aircraft designed to carry out anti-surface warfare and electronic surveillance. It can also transport cargo and act as an aerial refueling tanker. As a militarized variant of the Boeing 737 commercial aircraft, this newest addition to the Boeing family marks the first military aircraft that features an open architecture platform for system integration. The aircraft has been in production since 2001, but it was only recently approved for production by the United States Navy.

Expanding on the capabilities of the long-serving and legendary P-3 Orion built by Lockheed, the Boeing-built P-8 Poseidon provides “persistent maritime patrol” at greater speed and range than its predecessor. It can quickly deploy to carry out a wide range of missions anywhere in the world from drug interdiction to maritime surveillance, electronic surveillance, and even recently, search-and-rescue (SAR) missions.

The Poseidon flies with two high-bypass CFM56 turbofan engines. It cruises at 490 knots with a range of some 1,200 nautical miles, with four hours of loiter time on station. It is capable of inflight refueling as well which means it can operate longer than the P-3 Orion it replaced.

The P-8A has an integrated, active multi-static and passive acoustic sensor system, inverse synthetic aperture radar, a new electronic support measures system, a new electro-optical/infrared sensor, and a digital magnetic anomaly detector to precisely locate the position of a submarine below the surface.

Its armaments include Torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, bombs, mines, and now the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM, that is slated to replace the Harpoon.

It is also configured to carry the UNIPAC II and III Search and Rescue (SAR) kit in significant numbers on its four wing pylons and five internal bomb bay hardpoints. It can even employ them manually via a free-fall access hatch at the bottom rear of the fuselage.


The Premier Maritime Search and Rescue Platform

UNIPAC-III the Search and Rescue raft testing
Navy testing of the new UNIPAC-III the Search and Rescue raft. (U.S. Navy)

In recent years, several at-sea Search-and-Rescue operations in which the Poseidon played an important role, reveal that this aircraft may become the premier platform for maritime search and rescue in peace and wartime. The Poseidon’s enhanced SAR capability has been in the works since 2019 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.