New Zealand has agreed to purchase four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft through the United States’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, the Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters announced on 9 July 2018.
The four aircraft will replace the six ageing P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) that have been operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) since the 1960s. The current Orion fleet will reach the end of their expected operational life in 2025.
No. 5 Squadron RNZAF, which currently operates the Orions, will shift from Whenuapai (RNZAF Base Auckland) to RNZAF Base Ohakea to operate the P-8As. The P-8As will be delivered and begin operations from 2023.
The new P-8As, training systems, infrastructure and introduction into service costs will total $2.346 billion. The capital cost will be spread over a number of financial years out to 2025/26.
The role of the P-8A maritime patrol aircraft in RNZAF service will include:
+ Supporting maritime surveillance, Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response (HADR) and, resource and border protection around NZ and in the South Pacific;
+ Contributing to the international rules based order through participation in global peace and security operations;
+ Search and Rescue (SAR) in New Zealand’s region, which stretches from the South Pole almost to the Equator and covers 1/11th of the earth’s surface;
+ Environmental and marine resource monitoring.
The P-8A will enable New Zealand to continue to deploy to a wide range of airborne maritime situations independently, and when required, work effectively with partners, who will all be operating the aircraft at the time of delivery to New Zealand.
The Government will also consider options for a complementary maritime surveillance capability during the forthcoming Defence Capability Plan review, due to be completed by the end of 2018.
The complementary capability will consider smaller manned aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or satellites, for additional maritime surveillance tasks within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and near region. This will free up the new P-8A fleet to fly more missions, in the South Pacific and further afield.