The Royal Air Force (RAF)’s first P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft arrived at Kinloss Barracks in Scotland, the UK on Feb. 4.
The aircraft was welcomed by Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, the Chief of the Air Staff, and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. This is the first time the RAF’s new submarine-hunting aircraft is landing in the country.
The first P-8A aircraft, ZP801, is nicknamed “Pride of Moray”. The name, Pride of Moray, celebrates “the Maritime Patrol Aircraft heritage of Moray as well as looking forward to RAF Poseidon’s permanent home in RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland”.
The UK’s new Poseidons will be temporarily based at Kinloss Barracks until October 2020 due to £75 million runway and taxiway resurfacing works being performed at the nearby RAF Lossiemouth by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). The Kinloss Barracks, used previously by the RAF Nimrod MPA fleet, is now home to the British Army’s specialist air support engineers, 39 Engineer Regiment.
The sale of nine P-8A aircraft to the United Kingdom was approved by the U.S. State Department in March, 2016 under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. In January this year, Boeing was awarded a $2.4 billion production contract from the U.S. Navy for 19 P-8A Poseidons, out of which four are destined for the UK bringing the total acquisition to nine aircraft.
The UK is one of six international customers for the P-8A Poseidon. The others are India, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and South Korea.
The P-8A is formally known in RAF service as Poseidon MRA Mk.1. According to RAF, the MRA in the designation reflects the types of missions the aircraft will undertake in its service – maritime, reconnaissance and attack.
The key role of the Poseidon MRA Mk.1 will be to help protect the UK’s submarine-deployed nuclear deterrent and its two new aircraft carriers. The aircraft will add to the UK’s surveillance capabilities and is designed to conduct anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare (ASW, ASuW), search and rescue (SAR) and intelligence gathering. They can be armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles (AShM) and can drop and monitor sonobuoys.
The Air Force took delivery of the first P-8A aircraft during a ceremony at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, the USA in October last year. Until now, the aircraft was operating out of NAS Jacksonville for testing and training.
All nine UK Poseidons will be delivered to the RAF by the end of 2021 and achieve full operational capability (FOC) from RAF Lossiemouth in 2024. The aircraft will be flown initially by 120 Squadron, the leading anti-submarine warfare squadron in World War 2, with 201 Squadron joining the program in due course.
Moray’s RAF Lossiemouth is one of the most important air stations in the UK: it is already home to four RAF Typhoon squadrons – half of the RAF Typhoon Force – and will become the centre of operations for the UK Poseidon fleet.
UK is investing £470 million in upgrading RAF Lossiemouth’s infrastructure, including a new £132 million strategic facility for the Poseidon fleet, upgraded runways and operating surfaces, a new Air Traffic Control Tower, upgraded facilities for IX (Bomber) Squadron which moved to Scotland in 2019, new personnel accommodation, upgraded drainage and electrical supplies. When these developments are complete there will be 550 additional military personnel based at RAF Lossiemouth, taking the total number of military personnel employed there to 2,532.