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Norway Joins Countries Considering Buying US P-8 Spy Plane

A P-8A Poseidon takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle in 2015, marking the 20th overall production model for the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing)
A P-8A Poseidon takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle in 2015, marking the 20th overall production model for the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing)

FARNBOROUGH, England -- The P-8A Poseidon may soon be flying for Norway, a senior U.S. Navy official said here Tuesday.

On the heels of an announcement that the United Kingdom had contracted to buy nine of the Boeing-made maritime patrol aircraft, Navy P-8A program manager Capt. Tony Rossi confirmed that Norway had expressed interest in acquiring the aircraft, with more nations likely to follow.

"We have been in discussions with Norway, helping them understand what they're looking for as far as requirements … nothing specific so far," he said.

Several additional countries that Rossi did not name are in the development phase of identifying requirements, he said. But he did offer a clue as to where new international business might come from.

"Virtually everywhere that P-3s fly today is a potential customer for the P-8," he said.

The Lockheed Martin Corp.-made P-3C Orion, modeled after the L-188 Electra airliner, is the predecessor to the P-8, having entered service in the Navy in 1959. The Poseidon is based on Boeing's 737 commercial airliner. Current plans call for the service to phase out the Orion by 2019, when it expects to complete procurement of the 109 Poseidons it plans to acquire.

The Poseidon is now in service as well with the Indian Navy. And at the start of this year, the Royal Australian Air Force confirmed an order for four more of the aircraft, bringing its total to 12. Earlier this year, multiple outlets reported that the Turkish Navy was also considering a P-8 buy, though no agreement has been announced yet.

In all, 17 nations have flown a variant of the Orion, with other major customers including Japan, Germany and Brazil, among others.

As production of the aircraft enters its eighth lot, officials said the cost of the aircraft has now decreased by 30 percent from what it was during the first production lot.

"We're able to make it more efficiently; we're able to make it faster, and all those savings are passed on to the customer directly," said Steve Tripp, Boeing's military aircraft global sales and marketing executive.

"I suspect all of our new customers are enjoying the fact that the U.S. Navy is procuring the aircraft in significant quantities," he said.

The Poseidon aircraft ordered by the United Kingdom this week will be manufactured on the same Seattle production line as the U.S. aircraft, spread out across three different lots. They're slated for delivery to the Royal Air Force beginning in 2019.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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