The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has formally declared an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of its brand-new Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
The UK’s Poseidon fleet, currently comprising of two aircraft with seven more to be delivered, strengthens the country’s maritime security, “helping to protect its people and interests, at home and overseas”.
Poseidon will now be patrolling the seas, hunting potentially hostile submarines and helping to defend the UK’s nuclear deterrent. It uses the very latest in cutting-edge technology to detect, identify and monitor hostile contacts both above and below the waves. It can carry up to 129 sonobuoys to search for enemy submarines and can be armed with Mk54 torpedoes if required to attack enemy submarines.
“I am absolutely delighted that the Poseidon Force has met its first operational milestone on time. It is a crucial aircraft for the security of the UK, critical to Allies and NATO and a major weapon to press back on our adversaries all over the World”, said Air Marshal Andy Turner, Deputy Commander Capability.
“We’ve just declared an initial operating capability for our Poseidon aircraft, on time on 1st April 2020. It’s a really exciting time for us in this programme, which is moving fast and the team at RAF Lossiemouth has delivered some great results in very quick time. We’ve still got a long way to go with introducing this next generation capability into Service, but Poseidon is a game-changer, not just for hunting submarines but for a range of other roles from anti-ship warfare, maritime reconnaissance and long-range search and rescue tasks”, said Air Commodore Richard Barrow, Poseidon Senior Responsible Owner.
The RAF Poseidon aircraft are operated by 54 Squadron and 120 Squadron, who are currently flying from Kinloss Airfield in Moray, Scotland. Poseidon will move to its permanent home at RAF Lossiemouth later this year once the refurbishment work on the runways and airfield infrastructure has been completed, including the new Strategic Facility which is being delivered by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S). The second Poseidon squadron, Number 201 Squadron, will also stand up later this year.
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 Poseidon MPAs, 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.
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.