The UK Royal Air Force (RAF)’s first Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft has been painted in RAF colors and is undergoing preparations for its maiden flight.
The images of the painted aircraft parked in the flight line of a Boeing facility was first published in Twitter by Woodys Aeroimages (@AeroimagesChris).
— Woodys Aeroimages (@AeroimagesChris) June 23, 2019
Boeing P-8 Poseidon is a maritime patrol aircraft aircraft developed for the U.S. Navy (USN) by Boeing Defense, Space & Security based on its 737-800ERX commercial airliner design.
The sale of nine P-8A aircraft to UK 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 UK bringing the total acquisition to nine aircraft.
UK manufacturers also provide specialist sub-systems for the P-8A, for example Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group (auxiliary fuel tanks), Martin Baker (crew seats), GE (Weapon Pylons) and GKN Aerospace (windshields).
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.
In April, it was announced that RAF aircrew commenced the flying phase of training to fly the Poseidon aircraft. The personnel, from CXX Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth, are being trained by a mix of U.S. Navy and RAF P-8A ‘seedcorn’ one-way exchange instructors on a course which covers a substantial range of topics. This includes being trained to fly at medium and low level over the sea, so that the mission crew can train in ASW and ASuW missions.
The first RAF Poseidon aircraft is due to arrive in the UK in 2020. The UK Ministry of Defence has already signed agreements with the U.S. and Norwegian militaries to cooperate closely on operating their P-8A aircraft across the North Atlantic.
The RAF’s new Poseidons will be operated by No. 120 Squadron and No. 201 Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland. On April 19 last year, the then UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson cut the first turf on a £132m facility for the RAF P-8A Poseidons at RAF Lossiemouth.
The P-8 is currently operated by the U.S. Navy, the Indian Navy (as the P-8I), and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The aircraft has been ordered by the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF), and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).