Boeing P-8A team members and Spirit AeroSystems employees have laid the keel beam for New Zealand’s first P-8A. This process, also called ‘keeling,’ was done at the Spirit AeroSystems facility where all Boeing 737 fuselages, nacelles and pylons are designed and built. 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.
An aircraft keel runs the length of the fuselage belly. Due to the innovative in-line approach to the build of commercial derivative aircraft pioneered on the P-8A, the keel beam on a P-8 is different from the typical 737 keel beam. The P-8 keel includes unique aspects of the P-8 configuration, such as the integration of an internal weapons bay.
The panel and other fuselage components will be completed on Spirit’s existing 737 production line. Spirit will ship the P-8A fuselage to a Boeing Commercial Airplanes facility in Renton, Washington for final assembly. After that, Boeing Defense, Space & Security employees will install mission systems and complete testing prior to delivery to New Zealand later this year.
In total, four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will eventually replace New Zealand’s current fleet of six aging P-3K2 Orion aircraft providing advanced capabilities to maintain situational awareness in neighboring waters on and below the surface of the ocean.
The New Zealand Defence Force is a P-8 foreign military sales customer and is one of eight global customers. Current P-8 operators include the US Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Navy, United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and Norway’s Royal Norwegian Air Force.