The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has announced that its new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will be formally known in its service as Poseidon MRA Mk.1.
According to a release from RAF, the MRA in the designation reflects the types of missions the aircraft will undertake in its service – maritime, reconnaissance and attack.
The UK has signed a procurement contract with American defence major, Boeing, for nine new P-8A Poseidon long-range anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft on 11 July, 2016, for a cost of $3.87 billion (£3 billion). The contract was signed after the approval from the U.S. State Department for the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of the aircraft to UK, which was announced on 25 March, 2016.
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, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson cut the first turf on a £132m facility for the RAF P-8A Poseidons at RAF Lossiemouth.
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, search and rescue (SAR) and intelligence gathering. They can be armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.
The first 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.
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 design.
The P-8 is able to perform anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and shipping interdiction, along with an early warning self-protection (EWSP) ability, otherwise known as electronic support measures (ESM). This involves carrying torpedoes, depth charges, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and other weapons. It is able to drop and monitor sonobuoys.
The P-8 is 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).