The Royal Air Force (RAF) has officially taken delivery of its first Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft, following a handover ceremony at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington on October 30.
The ceremony was attended by a delegation from the RAF who were 'handed the keys' to ZP801, the UK's first Poseidon at the Boeing facility. Following the handover, the aircraft flew from Boeing Field to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida, to begin training with crews from No 120 Squadron.
ZP801 The Pride of Moray is the first of nine P-8A Poseidon MRA1s - highly modified Boeing 737-800s - that will be delivered to the RAF from an order that came from the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) worth just over £3 billion. The UK's first Poseidon's are expected to cross the Atlantic in 2020, serving with No 120 Squadron with all nine aircraft operating from RAF Lossiemouth, Moray. However, due to runway resurfacing work scheduled to take place at the Scottish base in 2020, the UK’s newest maritime patrol aircraft will operate from RAF Kinloss, which is roughly 14km away and is the former home of the RAF’s Nimrod MR2 force. Some Eurofighter Typhoons will also relocate there whilst resurfacing work takes place. The squadron will be joined by No 201 Squadron once it reforms onto the P-8A at RAF Lossiemouth in 2021.
The handover heralds the rebirth of RAF's aerial maritime patrol capabilities - which have been absent since 2010 following the retirement of the Nimrod MR2 and the controversial cancellation of the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) Nimrod MRA4 programme as per the result of the SDSR, again occurring in 2010.
When operational, the Poseidon MRA1s will be equipped with US-made anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedoes, however the MoD will have the option to integrate British-made armaments to the aircraft in the future. The Poseidon is capable of ASW, search and rescue (SAR) and maritime surveillance missions and is heralded as a truly multi-role maritime patrol platform. The P-8 is in service with Australia, India and the United States - but has also been ordered by New Zealand, Norway and South Korea; with deliveries to these three nations slated to begin in 2022.