Australia’s fleet of Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft are set to benefit from a local paint job from family-owned Flying Colours Aviation (FCA) as part of a three-year strategic agreement with Boeing.
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Repainting is the final step of the P-8A and E-7A’s deeper maintenance services performed by Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) around every 72 months and involves stripping the aircraft back to bare metal, inspecting and repairing for corrosion, defects and dents, and painting and applying decals.
Darryn Fletcher, BDA director of Commercial Derivative Aircraft, welcomed this announcement, saying, “The increased volume of work resulting from the commencement of deeper maintenance on the RAAF’s fleet of 12 P-8A aircraft this year, along with our ongoing commitments on E-7A, was the trigger for a formalised, ongoing strategic agreement between Boeing and FCA.”
It is anticipated FCA will paint between nine to 12 aircraft over the course of the initial three-year agreement with options to extend the contract into the future. The aircraft are transferred from BDA’s deeper maintenance facilities at RAAF Base Edinburgh and Amberley to FCA at Townsville airport.
“FCA is providing a critical service in support of Defence’s commercial derivative aircraft – and is one of the only suppliers in Australia who can physically accommodate a P-8A. They also meet our requirements in terms of environmentally friendly and sustainable business practices through the use of alternatives to harmful chemicals and processes that reduce material and waste volumes,” Fletcher added.
Lloyd Armstrong, project manager at Flying Colours Aviation, echoed the sentiments of Fletcher saying, “Due to their unique flying conditions, Defence aircraft require painting more often – with a five-to-seven-year cycle, as opposed to 10–12 years for commercial aircraft. As a low-flying maritime platform which is regularly exposed to salt spray, the P-8A is more susceptible to corrosion and the E-7A is based in Newcastle, near the ocean, so it also has significant exposure to a corrosive environment.”
To date, FCA has painted four E-7A Wedgetails and completed its first P-8A earlier this year, with the second P-8A scheduled this month.
Australia currently operates a fleet of 12 P-8A aircraft which are operated by No. 11 and No. 292 Squadrons at RAAF Base Edinburgh. The P-8A Poseidon has deployed on a vast number of operations and exercises since its first arrival in 2016, ratifying its high capability to generate effects in its primary roles including:
- Anti-submarine warfare;
- Anti-surface warfare;
- Search and rescue;
- Maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and
- Overland intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Based on the commercial design of Boeing’s 737-800, the P-8A is built specifically as a military aircraft and has been substantially modified to include an internal fuel capacity of almost 34 tonnes, allowing the P-8A to conduct low-level anti-submarine warfare operations more than 2,000 kilometres from base. The P-8A is capable of air-to-air refuelling with the KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft.
Australia also operates a fleet of six E-7A Wedgetail aircraft, providing Australia with one of the most advanced airspace battle management capabilities in the world. The Wedgetail’s ability to coordinate a joint air, sea, and land battle in real time significantly increases the effectiveness of the Australian Defence Force.
The Wedgetail combines long-range surveillance radar, secondary radar, and tactical/strategic voice and data communications systems to provide an airborne early warning and control platform. During a standard mission, the E-7A Wedgetail can cover more than 4 million square kilometres, an area the size of Western Australia or the Northern Territory. It is capable of unlimited long-range deployment with in-flight refuelling.