The first of four maritime patrol aircraft has touched down in New Zealand, just four years after the government secured approval for the acquisition from the United States.
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Prime contractor Boeing has announced the delivery of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) first P-8A Poseidon aircraft, welcomed at a ceremony at the Museum of Flight in Blenheim.
This comes just four years after the US State Department approved the New Zealand government’s request for four of the maritime patrol aircraft.
The three remaining aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in 2023.
The P-8 is billed as a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations.
New Zealand’s prospective P-8A Poseidon fleet — to be based out of Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea — is set to replace its existing fleet of six P-3K2 Orions.
“As a maritime nation, delivery of the P-8A will ensure New Zealand maintains a patrol and response capability that will protect and support law enforcement in our Exclusive Economic Zone and Southern Ocean,” Sarah Minson, acting deputy secretary, capability delivery, New Zealand Ministry of Defence, said.
“The P-8A will also assist our South Pacific neighbours and deliver long-range search and rescue capability.”
Philip June, vice president and program manager, P-8 programs, said the multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft would enable New Zealand to “extend their reach into the Pacific and beyond”.
He added: “New Zealand joins eight other global customers including nearby Australia that have selected or already operate the P-8 and benefit greatly from its long-range maritime surveillance and warfare capabilities.”
Delivery of New Zealand’s first P-8A Poseidon comes just months after Boeing Defence Australia secured a contract to sustain the fleet.
The initial contract — which is set to run to September 2028 — involves the provision of engineering and supply chain services for an initial six-year period.
The head agreement includes options to deliver services throughout the life of the fleet via rolling three-year extensions, subject to performance.