Australia intends to buy up to eight P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft that are currently being built by Boeing [BA] for the U.S. Navy, the country’s defense ministry said Friday.

The U.S. Navy's P-8A Poseidon. Photo: Boeing
The U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon. Photo: Boeing

The Royal Australian Air Force would become the second international customer for the aircraft following India, pending an agreement on a contract with Boeing.

Like their American counterparts, Australia would be purchasing the P-8A Poseidons to replace the aging Lockheed Martin [LMT] P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft.

The Australia government said it expects the first P-8A to arrive in 2017 with all eight becoming fully operational by 2021. Canberra is also keeping an option to purchase an additional four.

“The P-8A is a potent and highly versatile aircraft,” the government said. “As well as patrolling Australia’s maritime approaches it can conduct search and rescue, anti-submarine and maritime strike missions using torpedoes and Harpoon missiles.”

Australian officials estimate the cost of the eight P-8As will be about $3.6 billion U.S. The government projects the P-8A program will bring up to $1 billion in economic revenue at a base in southern Australia and other locations for maintenance and support.

“We look forward to the Royal Australian Air Force’s continued teaming efforts on the P-8 program and we concur that it is the ideal platform for Australia’s maritime patrol needs,” Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey said.

Boeing has delivered three of the eight P-8As planned for India. The U.S. Navy has received 13 of the 37 currently under contract and plans to buy up to 117 of the aircraft.

The P-8A airframe is based on Boeing commercial 737 aircraft.