The first (of nine) P-8A POSEIDON maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) ordered for the Royal Air Force (RAF), has touched down for the first time on British soil, the MoD announced on 4 February.
The first aircraft in a £3 billion (€3.54 billion) programme, the aircraft will improve the UK’s ability to track hostile targets below and above the waves, protect the nation’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and be central to NATO missions across the North Atlantic, co-operating closely with the US and Norwegian POSEIDON fleets.
“The UK’s purchase of POSEIDON is in response to increased threats such as Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic returning to Cold War levels, while China is also investing heavily in new Arctic facilities, infrastructure and ice-capable ships,” an MoD statement reads. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Defence Minister for the Armed Forces, added “Our POSEIDON fleet will soon join an integrated UK force of fighter jets, ships, submarines, helicopters and highly-trained Royal Marines, ready to operate in Arctic conditions. The UK will not stand by if peace in the Arctic region is threatened. RAF Lossiemouth’s strategic northerly location makes it one of the most important air stations in the UK: already home to half of the UK’s TYPHOON Force, and now sitting at the heart of our anti-submarine operations.”
The P-8A is designed to carry out extended surveillance missions at high and low altitudes and is equipped with cutting-edge sensors, which use high-resolution area mapping to find both submarines and surface vessels. Each aircraft carries sonobuoys, which are dropped into the sea to search for hostile submarines, surveying the underwater battlespace and returning data to the aircraft. POSEIDON will also be armed with HARPOON anti-surface ship missiles and Mk 54 torpedoes, capable of attacking both surface vesselsand submarine targets.
“The arrival of the first POSEIDON marks a significant upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations. This will give the UK the ability to conduct long-range patrols and integrate seamlessly with our NATO allies to provide a world-leading capability […] This will maintain operational freedom for our own submarines and apply pressure to those of our potential foes,” commented First Sea Lord, Adm Tony Radakin.
All nine RAF POSEIDONs will be delivered by the end of 2021 and achieve full operational capability from RAF Lossiemouth in 2024. The first aircraft to arrive, named ‘Pride of Moray’, arrived at Kinloss Barracks, used previously by the RAF NIMROD MPA fleet and now home to the Army’s specialist air support engineers, 39 Engineer Regiment.
The POSEIDON will temporarily operate from Kinloss until October 2020 while planned runway and taxiway resurfacing works is completed at Lossiemouth. Routine TYPHOON training will also temporarily relocate from Lossiemouth to Kinloss in June and July, while the intersection of the runways there is resurfaced.
“Close, collaborative working with colleagues in Air Capability, the US Navy and industry has helped us deliver this very capable aircraft,” observed Michelle Sanders, P-8A Delivery Team Leader at Defence Equipment & Support.