The Australian Defence Force confirmed Friday that it will buying eight P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from Boeing (NYSE:BA) for a total purchase price of $3.6 billion ($4 billion Australian).

Boeing's P-8A Poseidon (left), and the plane it's replacing, a P-3C Orion (right). Photo: Boeing.

Australia has been widely anticipated to be contemplating this purchase, and also to be planning a purchase of Triton long-range patrol drones from Northrop Grumman as part of a multibillion-dollar effort to beef up its air forces and upgrade a Cold War-era surveillance fleet of Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orions.

In a statement, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the new fleet of Poseidons will be used to "monitor [Australia's] maritime approaches and patrol over 2.5 million square kilometres of our marine jurisdiction -- an area equating to nearly 4 per cent of the world's oceans."

Deliveries are expected to begin in 2017, and to continue through 2021, by which time Australia expects to have all eight Boeing Poseidons fully operational. Subsequently, Australian has taken out an option to buy an additional four P-8As, bringing its surveillance fleet up to a round dozen planes in strength.

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