The Royal Air Force has taken delivery of its first of nine Boeing Poseidon MRA1 (P-8A) maritime patrol aircraft.
The aircraft was delivered to the RAF in Seattle, before being flown to NAS Jacksonville in Florida where RAF crews have been embedded with the US Navy to train on the P-8A.
“The arrival of the world-class Poseidon aircraft marks a step-change in the UK’s maritime patrol capability,” British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement. “Using the world’s most advanced sensors and operating for long periods, these aircraft will transform the quality of intelligence available to our armed forces and protect our vital nuclear deterrent.”
RAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston added, “Poseidon is a game-changing maritime patrol aircraft, able to detect, track and if necessary destroy the most advanced submarines in the world today. With Poseidon MRA1, I am delighted and very proud that the Royal Air Force will once again have a maritime patrol force working alongside the Royal Navy, securing our seas to protect our nation”.
The Poseidon will fill the capability gap created by the retirement of the Nimrod MR2 in 2010. Despite undergoing an extensive fuel system upgrade following the loss of a Nimrod over Afghanistan in 2006, the 11-strong MR2 fleet was retired early to free up funds for other capabilities and operations.
The MR2 was originally to be replaced with the vastly improved Nimrod MRA4, but that project was scrapped – also in 2010 – following cost and schedule blowouts, so the UK was effectively left without an airborne ASW capability for nearly a decade.
In order to retain the airborne ASW skillset, RAF crews were embedded within Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and US Navy P-3 and P-8A squadrons under Project Seedcorn, an effort to retain airborne anti-submarine skills within the RAF between the retirement of the Nimrod and the arrival of the Poseidon.