An operational P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft is on public
display for the first time, with its manufacturer, Boeing <BA.N>,
hoping for rich sales in a region that has two of the world's most
tense maritime disputes.
Many of the uniformed officers from Asia's militaries who are
visiting the biennial Singapore Airshow make a beeline for the
For the most part, the Poseidon is a Boeing 737, the world's most
commonly seen passenger jet. But first looks can be deceiving — this
plane can be fitted with torpedoes, depth charges and anti-ship
missiles. Inside are packed some of the world's most advanced
avionics, radars and sensors, making it the only long-range marine
patrol aircraft that can hunt and destroy submarines.
"When you want the best long-range anti-submarine warfare aircraft
in that class, we have the product that's most developed," said
Chris Raymond, an executive vice president in Boeing's defense,
space and security division.
Defense analysts say maritime surveillance is the most pressing
security need in East and Southeast Asia, made up of predominantly
littoral states. Rival maritime claims that have pitted China, which
has one of the world's fastest growing militaries, against Japan and
other Asian nations have made the South and East China Seas
Piracy and smuggling are also rife in the region. And natural
disasters strike with depressing regularity, leading to a need for
search and rescue aircraft.
"Maritime patrol is the buzzword at the moment, especially in
Singapore," said Gareth Jennings, an aviation expert at IHS Jane's.
"Obviously, the elephant in the room is China. Everything is kind of
geared at China's perceived growing political and military influence
in the region."
At about $175 million apiece, the Poseidon is however too expensive
an option for most nations. Besides the United States, India has
bought eight P-8 variants and is in talks on exercising options for
News reports have said New Delhi may consider buying another 12
additional aircraft, but Boeing officials said this had not yet been
Australia, which is a partner in the development of the Poseidon,
has not placed an order, but could do so soon.
Raymond, the Boeing official, said the company was talking to
several potential customers, including at the airshow, but would not
"We are involved in operation analysis and some of the early pricing
and configuration discussions with a number of countries," he said.
Globally, the company hopes to sell 100 Poseidons to countries other
than the United States, he said.
But several manufacturers offer options lower down the price scale.
Sweden's Saab <SAABb.ST> is displaying its Saab 340 marine
surveillance aircraft at the Singapore Airshow, which sells at a
price of around $20 million apiece.
"Many countries want a variety of capabilities for their maritime
patrol aircraft, including the ability to search for submarines,"
said Richard Hjelmberg, the company's chief salesman for maritime
[to top of second column]
"But not all of them have the budget for that. And when we talk to
them, we ask if they really need all of that capability, which comes
at a high price. What we find is that they are happy with an
aircraft that can provide comprehensive maritime surveillance and
allows them to monitor their coast, and we offer that solution."
Potential customers could include Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand,
Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The latter three are locked
in disputes with China over overlapping claims in the South China
Other aircraft in this segment include a marine patrol variant of
the CASA/IPTN CN-235, a plane jointly developed by Airbus Military <AIR.PA>
and the Indonesian aerospace company IPTN.
Lockheed Martin Corp <LMT.N> is refurbishing P3 Orions, its
long-standing marine patrol aircraft that costs about half as much
as a Poseidon, while Italy's Alenia Aermacchi, a unit of
Finmeccanica <SIFI.MI>, has developed the ATR 72 MP that has been
deployed by the Italian air force.
And although Japan is currently not exporting military aircraft,
Kawasaki Heavy Industries <7012.T> is developing a maritime patrol
aircraft called the P-1 for Japan's Self Defense Force.
Boeing itself has teamed up with Bombardier <BBDb.TO> to develop a
low-cost version of the Poseidon, using the Canadian company's
Challenger 605 business jet in conjunction with P-8 surveillance and
The market for this aircraft, called the Boeing MSA, could be about
$10 billion over the next 10 years, company officials say. It will
cost about one-third of the Poseidon, or about $60 million, which
could make it attractive for several countries in the region.
The plane will be shown to customers later this year.
"We have customers we are talking to who may end up with a
combination of P-8 and MSA," said Fred Smith, a director of business
development at Boeing Defense.
"They have a long-range requirement for anti-submarine warfare and
for weapons but they also have a requirement where they want a
smaller airplane to do other missions on a daily basis as well.
"You can see who has got maritime domain issues or concerns, and
those are the types of folks we are talking to about this airplane,"
Smith added. "This part of the world offers a lot of opportunities
because you have a lot of countries with a lot of coastline and a
lot of concerns."
(Additional reporting by Siva
Govindasamy and Anshuman Daga; editing by Jeremy Laurence)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.