The RAAF Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime ISR capability has achieved an initial operational capability (IOC) some five months ahead of schedule.
The milestone was announced by Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne at the RAAF 2018 Air Power Conference in Canberra on March 20.
“Together the P-8A Poseidon and the future MQ-4C Triton aircraft will provide Australia with one of the world’s most advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capabilities,” Minister Payne said. “The P-8A is a very capable and effective successor to the AP-3C Orion, which will soon retire from the role after nearly 40 years of distinguished service.”
Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Leo Davies added, “The arrival of the P-8A has allowed Air Force, under Plan Jericho, to develop and evolve new operating concepts, support arrangements and sustainment options.
“These will best exploit the P-8A’s sensors and networking as part of integrated Navy and Air Force integrated Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Family of Systems.”
By most measures, the P-8A acquisition under Project AIR 7000 Phase 2B has been a model project. The P-8A was selected in February 2014 to replace the Lockheed AP-3C Orion in RAAF service. At that time eight P-8As were approved with four options.
The first RAAF aircraft flew from Boeing’s Renton 737 manufacturing facility near Seattle in May 2016 before being fitted out to P-8 configuration, and it was delivered to Australia and officially welcomed in November 2016.
The optioned aircraft were also firmed up in 2016 to make a total of 12 P-8As on order, and an additional three were optioned to take the total potential fleet to 15. Currently six P-8As are in service with the RAAF Edinburgh-based 11SQN, while 10SQN still operates the AP-3C.