The Boeing P-8 Poseidon is a multifunctional aircraft that was introduced into the U.S. Military in November 2013.
Replacing the P-3 Orion, the Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.
Developed from the commercial Boeing 737NG series, the P-8 truly shines in its unrivalled surveillance capabilities. It was for this reason that the U.S. used Poseidons to help in the search for the missing Malaysia MH370 flight.
The P-8 Poseidon's effective ability to search relies upon multiple sensors in a top-down approach. Searches start with radar and then shift to the plane's advanced optics that can zoom down to the surface of the waves.
When the Poseidon discovers a possible target, the plane can drop as low as 300 feet. At that altitude, the plane's radar and cameras can scan for 16 miles on either side.
Much of the plane's surveillance capabilities come from the AN/APY-10 radar installed in its enlarged nose. This radar allows for the capability of imaging, detection, classification, and identification of ships, small vessels, and submarines.
The Poseidon also comes equipped with deployable sonobuoys, which allow a dedicated acoustic operator to listen for ship movement or wreckage under the waves.
The P-8's advanced sensors also allow it to carry out reconnaissance effectively for ground targets.
One of the aircraft's primary roles is carrying out electronic warfare. Through the P-8's state of the art sensors, the plane can help pinpoint enemy radar installations allowing other aircraft either to avoid or destroy them.
Aside from surveillance, the P-8 is armed and capable. It carries a complement of free fall bombs, depth charges, and air-to-surface missiles.
Additionally, the Poseidon is armed with MK 54 torpedoes, which can be effectively launched from a high altitude.
The Poseidon has incredible range. During its time searching for the Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight, it covered 1,200 square nautical miles a day with the capacity for covering more.
Still, the Poseidon did not manage to find any traces of the missing Malaysia flight while a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 spotted two possible pieces of wreckage.
There have also been reports that the P-8 is not as effective as the P-3, which it is slated to replace, in terms of hunting submarines, although the Navy has said software solutions are being put in place.
Despite any possible failings with the aircraft, the Navy plans to buy 113 of the aircraft. India and Australia have also placed orders.
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