First Poseidon Aircraft Delivered to the RAF
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Oct. 31, 2019)
The first Boeing P-8A Poseidon for the Royal Air Force taxies after landing at NAS Jacksonville, in Florida, after flying in from Seattle where it was handed over to the customer. It will be known as Poseidon MRA1 in RAF service. (RAF photo)
The MOD is investing £3 billion in nine state-of-the-art jets which 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.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The arrival of the world-class Poseidon aircraft marks a step-change in the UK’s maritime patrol capability.

“Using the world’s most advanced sensors and operating for long periods, these aircraft will transform the quality of intelligence available to our armed forces and protect our vital nuclear deterrent.”

Following an unveiling ceremony in Seattle, the aircraft was flown to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida where RAF personnel are being trained to operate the aircraft.

On arrival Michelle Sanders, DE&S Delivery Team Leader, signed the paperwork to formally transfer the aircraft, named Pride of Moray, to UK ownership.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, said: “Poseidon is a game-changing maritime patrol aircraft, able to detect, track and if necessary destroy the most advanced submarines in the world today.

“With Poseidon MRA1, I am delighted and very proud that the Royal Air Force will once again have a maritime patrol force working alongside the Royal Navy, securing our seas to protect our nation.”

First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said: “Poseidon marks a superb upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations. This will give the UK the ability to conduct long range patrols and integrate seamlessly with our NATO allies to provide a world-leading capability.

“This will maintain operational freedom for our own submarines, and apply pressure to those of our potential foes. I look forward to working with the RAF and our international partners on this superb capability.”

The Poseidon MRA1 is designed to carry out extended surveillance missions at both high and low altitudes. The aircraft is equipped with cutting-edge sensors which use high-resolution area mapping to find both surface and sub-surface threats.

The aircraft can carry up to 129 sonobuoys, small detection devices which are dropped from the aircraft into the sea to search for enemy submarines. The systems survey the battlespace under the surface of the sea and relay acoustic information via radio transmitter back to the aircraft.

The aircraft will also be armed with Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles and Mk 54 torpedoes capable of attacking both surface and sub-surface targets.

Michelle Sanders, DE&S Delivery Team Leader, said: “Seeing the first Poseidon MRA1 handed over to the Royal Air Force is an incredibly proud moment for all of the team at DE&S.

“Close, collaborative working with colleagues in Air Capability, the US Navy and industry has helped us deliver this very capable aircraft.”

As leading members of NATO, the UK has signed agreements with both the US and Norwegian militaries to cooperate closely on operating their Poseidon fleets across the North Atlantic.

In August this year, Defence Minister Anne Marie-Trevelyan hosted Norwegian State Secretary Tone Skogen at RAF Lossiemouth to deepen the two country’s partnership on the Poseidon programme.

To maintain the skills required to deliver this vital capability, the RAF has embedded aircrew within MPA squadrons in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

The first aircraft will arrive in Scotland in early 2020, with the fleet to be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray. All nine aircraft will be delivered by November 2021.

The aircraft will be flown initially by 120 Squadron which was originally stood up on 1 January 1918 and was the leading anti-submarine warfare squadron in WWII. 201 Squadron will also join the programme in due course.

The Poseidon MRA1 programme is bringing significant economic benefits to the communities near RAF Lossiemouth. A total of £460 million is being invested in the station to prepare for the arrival of the new aircraft, including the construction of a £132 million strategic facility for the fleet to be completed next year.

The programme will also bring around 700 additional personnel to Moray, taking the total number of employees there to approximately 2,500.

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Royal Air Force Takes Delivery of First P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft
(Source: Forecast International; issued Oct 30, 2019)
The British Royal Air Force (RAF) received the first of an eventual nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing at an official ceremony in Seattle on October 30. An RAF aircrew will begin training with the aircraft Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida prior to the plane flying to the U.K. in 2020, where it will then be stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland with the 120 Squadron.

Handover of the aircraft marks a belated return to British fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft capability lost when the former Conservative-led government of Prime Minister David Cameron opted to forego bringing the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft into service under its 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR). At the time the government cited £2 billion worth of potential savings that would be accumulated over 10 years by cutting the Nimrod MRA4 from its list of procurement programs.

The Nimrod program – which dated back to 1996 with the goal of acquiring 21 MRA4s before this total was reduced (twice) down to just nine units – was indeed one of the premier botched defense procurement projects in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) portfolio at the time.

Already overdue, the scope of the Nimrod program had continued to shrink in capacity while continuing to climb in cost. Estimates in 2010 showed that the MoD would end up paying more than £3.9 billion (and as much as £4.5 billion) for just the nine aircraft – less than half the unit number initially planned and at a higher cost than under the original 1996 agreement with BAE Systems.

Added to the cost overruns and poor program management was the negative perception of the Nimrod platform following the mid-air explosion in September 2006 of an older Nimrod MR2 variant over Kandahar in Afghanistan. The explosion – caused by fuel leaking into hot air ducts – resulted in the loss of 14 service personnel. The coroner investigating the crash tartly commented that none of the Nimrod fleet had been airworthy since originally entering service in 1969. While the MRA4 was virtually an entirely different aircraft than the MR2, it could not shake the sour view of the program.

Ultimately in January 2011, the nine MRA4s were chopped up by private contractors and sold for scrap. The U.K. National Audit Office (NAO) published a report on November 16, 2011, citing the total cost of the Nimrod MRA4 program to the MoD as £3.4 billion – with nothing to show for it.


Worse, a dedicated fixed-wing platform performing a series of roles including intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR), not to mention protection of the Royal Navy’s submarine nuclear deterrent and maritime task forces, and long-range search and rescue (SAR) functions, was now lacking.

During this period, however, the RAF worked to retain its maritime surveillance skills through the Seedcorn initiative, which placed around 30 ex-Nimrod aircrew with the United States Navy with the idea of providing a bridge for reconstituting the MPA role.

Under the succeeding SDSR unveiled in November 2015, the U.K. announced it would be bringing back the fixed-wing maritime patrol capability via the purchase of nine P-8As through the U.S. government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) mechanism. The official British FMS request was approved by the U.S. State Department, with notification sent to Congress by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on March 24, 2016.

At the Farnborough Air Show on July 11, 2016, the British MoD moved forward with the purchase, placing an order for the nine P-8As at a cost of over £3 billion.

The RAF hopes to have its first three P-8s in service in 2020, which would coincide with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the first of two aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, with the Royal Navy. Deliveries are expected to wrap up by 2022.

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