The first Boeing Poseidon MRA1 for the Royal Air Force (RAF), which is based on the US Navy’s P-8A model, took off from Renton, Washington, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time on 12 July. The grey painted aircraft already wearing its RAF markings and carrying the serial ZP801.
During the 90 minute flight key testing took place before the aircraft returned back to the airfield. The next stage is for the aircraft to have its military systems installed.
“This is a great milestone in the UK P-8A Poseidon’s journey to the UK, as we are one step closer to its arrival in Scotland,” said Air Commodore Richard Barrow, the senior officer responsible for the UK’s P-8A program. “The platform will enhance the UK’s maritime patrol capability with advanced, state-of-the-art technology.” In reality, of course, this will actually reintroduce a capability that was completely lost to the UK with the retirement of the last BAe Nimrod MR2’s in 2010.
The RAF P-8A Poseidon fleet will support maritime surveillance as well as anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare. This will place the protection of the UK’s nuclear deterrent and ships, including the new aircraft carriers, back into British hands for the first time in a decade.
Nine aircraft have been ordered by the RAF and this first one will now be kitted out and undertake further testing before delivery takes place later this year.
Other customers of the P-8A Poseidon include India, who have eight of the P-8I variant in service, with four more on order. The U.S. Navy, who are contracted for 111 aircraft are the lead customer, while Australia currently operate eight P-8A aircraft with four more on order. Norway has placed an order of five P-8A’s which should be delivered from 2022. New Zealand and South Korea have signed agreements to purchase four and six aircraft respectively.
The P-8 beat off completion from the Lockheed Hercules, Airbus C-295 and Japans indigenous Kawasaki P-1 to secure the RAF’s order.