The first of a planned fleet of 15 Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft for the RAAF was officially welcomed in Canberra on Wednesday by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies.
P-8A serial A47-001 touched down in Canberra shortly before 1pm after making the short hop from Avalon, near Melbourne, where Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton had boarded the aircraft. The jet had arrived in Australia at Avalon on Monday after being ferried across the Pacific by its 11 Squadron crew from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida via Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Hawaii and Auckland.
“P-8 is certainly the future, it is the generational leap that we are going to make in the maritime domain. It has greater range, it certainly has greater connectivity, it has advanced acoustics and it has a radar system that is world class,” Air Marshal Davies told media after the aircraft’s arrival.
“When we integrate this with Triton in the early 2020s, with the Air Warfare Destroyer, Future Frigate and both our submarine classes we’ll have a fifth generation maritime force.”
Australia has contracted to acquire 12 P-8As to be delivered by March 2020, with the likely approval of a further three planned to take the total fleet to 15.
Acquisition of an initial eight P-8As was first approved in 2014, while February’s Defence White Paper’s accompanying Integrated Investment Program revealed that, “seven additional aircraft [will] be acquired in two tranches to bring the total to 15 aircraft by the late 2020s.”
Approval of the first additional tranche of four P-8s was subsequently announced by Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne at the RAAF’s Air Power Conference in Canberra in March.
The aircraft will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh and will replace the RAAF’s ageing AP-3C Orion aircraft, to be complemented by the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system.
A47-001 was due to depart Canberra for Edinburgh on Thursday morning.