Boeing Gets OK to Sell 9 Spy Planes to Britain

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The defense and space division of Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) cleared a U.S. Department of Defense hurdle on Thursday when Pentagon brass approved the sale of nine of Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon surveillance planes to the United Kingdom. The reported price for the planes is $3.2 billion.

The U.S. Congress has 15 days to cancel the sale, but no one expects that to happen. The United Kingdom, after all, is America’s closest ally and plans to use the planes for maritime patrol duty and to contribute to NATO operations.

Boeing already has sold eight of the heavily modified 737-800 jets to the Australian Air Force and another eight copies of a variation to the Poseidon (denoted the P-8I Neptune) to India. The company plans to build 109 for the U.S. Navy, and Boeing has forecast overseas sales of the spy plane at more than 100 copies.

In January Boeing announced that it would build another 20 spy planes following a $2.5 billion order from the U.S. Navy. Those planes will be delivered beginning in 2017. Boeing has so far been contracted to build 78 of the planes for the U.S. Navy and eight for Australia. The company had delivered 33 planes to the Navy as of the end of January 2016.

First deliveries of the Australian planes are due later this year, and just last week Australia’s defense minister said that the country expects to order an additional seven of the planes and to have 12 in service by 2022 and the full 15 by late in the next decade.

India has received eight of the 12 P-8Is it ordered and is currently expected to exercise its option on four more of the planes, which it plans to use as long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft to hunt and kill enemy submarines.