Royal Air Force Takes Delivery of Its First P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) took delivery of its first P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft during a ceremony at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, USA.

The first aircraft, ZP801 nicknamed “Pride of Moray”, performed its maiden flight on July 12 when it took off from Boeing Renton Factory and landed at Boeing Field in Seattle. The name, Pride of Moray, celebrates “the Maritime Patrol Aircraft heritage of Moray as well as looking forward to RAF Poseidon’s future home in RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland”.

Following the first fight, the aircraft was transferred from Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) to Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS)for installation of Poseidon-specific military systems at the P-8 Installation and Checkout facility in Tukwila, Wash. P-8A Poseidon is based on Boeing’s 737-800ERX commercial airliner design.

The aircraft will be initially based at NAS Jacksonville and is due to arrive in the UK in early-Spring 2020.

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 P-8A will be 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, and can drop and monitor sonobuoys.

The RAF’s new Poseidons will be operated by No. 120 (CXX) Squadron and No. 201 Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland.

The UK is one of six international customers for the P-8A Poseidon.

As a direct commercial sale, India has received eight of the P-8I variant to date with four more in production. As a cooperative partner with the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Program Office, Australia began receiving their P-8A aircraft in 2016 with eight delivered and four more in production; Norway will begin receiving their five P-8As in 2022; both New Zealand and South Korea have signed agreements with the U.S. Navy to purchase four and six aircraft respectively.

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