A new Defense Department Inspector General report urges the Navy to slow down on its purchases of a submarine-hunting jet that Boeing manufactures in the Puget Sound.
The Inspector General wants the Navy to supervise more testing to ensure that P-8A Poseidon jets will reach a required 25-year lifespan “without succumbing to structural fatigue” before committing to a full-rate production contract. The IG says the Navy had planned to consider that contract next month.
So far, the Navy has ordered 24 P-8A jets and it has begun assigning them to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida. Over time, the Navy wants to buy 117 of the jets to replace its aging fleet of P-3C propeller-driven planes. The Navy estimates the total procurement cost to come in around $30 billion, according to the 2014 defense budget proposal.
The Inspector General classified most of the report and released only a summary. It notes the Defense Department did not take a strong position supporting or opposing the recommendations.
The P-8A is an important project in the Puget Sound because it’s manufactured partly in Renton and at Boeing Field, and because the Navy plans to station at least 28 of the jets at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The P-8A is a variation of Boeing’s 737 civilian aircraft. It’s fitted with equipment to identify and disrupt submarines.