WASHINGTON — The Boeing Company received a hefty $2.5 billion contract award from the US Navy to provide that service with 16 more P-8A Poseidon maritime multi-mission aircraft, along with four P-8As for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The P-8A is replacing elderly P-3C Orion aircraft in US Navy service, and AP-3C Orions flying for Australia.

All 20 aircraft in this latest order are Lot III full-rate production aircraft. The award is a modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-firm contract from the US Navy.

The award includes the second batch of four Poseidons for the RAAF. Australia is the second international partner for the P-8A, and agreed in 2014 to buy eight Poseidons, with an option for four more. A decision on the four option aircraft is to be part of the country's new Defence White Paper, due this year.

India already is operating the aircraft, known as the P-8I Neptune, and Britain recently announced its intention to buy nine P-8As to restore its aerial maritime surveillance and anti-submarine capabilities, lost when the UK cancelled the Nimrod program in 2010.

RAAF personnel already are at US Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, where they began training a year ago to operate the P-8A. And in Kansas, Spirit AeroSystems announced it began production of the first fuselage for an Australian Poseidon in October.

The Australian program is estimated to cost about Australian $4 billion (US $2.15 billion), including infrastructure and facilities upgrades. The first RAAF P-8A is expected to be delivered in 2017.

Boeing, naturally, is pleased with the award.

"We continue to hear feedback from our US Navy customer about the incredible capabilities of the P-8A," James Dodd, Boeing vice president and program manager of P-8 Programs, said Thursday evening in a statement. "The deployed squadrons tell us it's exceeding expectations. We're looking forward to providing even more capability to the fleet and to Australia."

The award follows a $1.49 billion August contract for P-8As, which included the first four Australian aircraft along with nine for the US.

Email: ccavas@defensenews.com

Nigel Pittaway in Australia contributed to this report.

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