Boeing has formally delivered a first P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft to the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), with the adapted 737NG to support crew training activities in the USA for the next few months.
First flown on 12 July, aircraft ZP801 touched down at the US Navy’s (USN's) NAS Jacksonville site in Florida on 31 October, after the airframer had completed equipment installation work at its Boeing Field site in Seattle, Washington.
The UK’s P-8A acquisition programme is worth £3 billion ($3.9 billion). Nine of the aircraft are scheduled for delivery by November 2021, to be home-based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. A lead example will be flown to the UK for temporary use from RAF Kinloss in Scotland early next year by the service's 120 Sqn, with a second unit, 201 Sqn, to be established later.
The UK Ministry of Defence says the RAF’s Poseidons will “enhance the UK’s tracking of hostile maritime targets, protect the British continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and play a central role in NATO missions across the North Atlantic.” It points to co-operation agreements on the P-8A with the USN and fellow future operator the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
Royal Navy First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin adds: “Poseidon marks a superb upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations.” The type will fill a capability gap in dedicated maritime patrol duties which has been in place since the retirement of the RAF’s last British Aerospace Nimrod MR2s in 2010 and cancellation of the type’s intended successor, the Nimrod MRA4.