Boeing has announced that it is building the first of four P-8A aircraft for the armed forces of New Zealand.
The company has already begun “keeling” the aircraft at a Spirit AeroSystems facility in Kansas.
“Laying the keel is an important production milestone during the build of any ship or aircraft and represents the cornerstone of this latest P-8,” it explained in a press release.
After the keel is laid, the aircraft panel and other fuselage components will be built on Spirit’s 737 production line. They will then be transferred to a Boeing facility in Washington for final assembly.
The four P-8A aircraft will replace New Zealand’s current fleet of six aging P-3K2 Orion aircraft.
They are expected to provide advanced capabilities to the New Zealand military and improve its situational awareness in the ocean.
The P-8A is a multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft equipped with state-of-the-art radars, sensors, and a new air-to-air refueling capability.
Used for low altitude missions, it can fly at an altitude up to 41,000 feet (12.4 kilometers) and has a maximum speed of 490 knots (907 kilometers/563 miles per hour).
New Zealand’s ambassador to the US, Rosemary Banks, said that the construction of the P-8A aircraft serves as the “beginning of a new era” for the country’s maritime patrol and response capability.
“Our four P-8A Poseidons will better equip our defense forces to extend their reach into the Pacific and beyond, working with our partners and friends,” she said.