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Aussie Poseidons sharpen trident in successful training operation

Royal Australian Air Force personnel attached to No. 11 Squadron, supported by No. 92 Wing from RAAF Base Edinburgh, deployed to RAAF Base Learmonth to support the training of the force’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft as part of Exercise Trident Trap.

Royal Australian Air Force personnel attached to No. 11 Squadron, supported by No. 92 Wing from RAAF Base Edinburgh, deployed to RAAF Base Learmonth to support the training of the force’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft as part of Exercise Trident Trap.

Trident Trap was a No. 92 Wing-led joint training activity, exercising Air Force's P-8As' anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities in partnership with Navy.

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The deployment also marked the first time No. 92 Wing forward deployed a P-8A Mission System Fly Away Kit (PFAK). No. 11 Squadron Commanding Officer Wing Commander Simon van der Wijngaart said it was an important milestone in support of operational readiness.

"The PFAK allows a small footprint of detachment staff to download and archive mission data to enable rapid post-flight analysis and intelligence assessments. Importantly, it also provides support for subsequent missions by enabling aircrew and support staff to update the mission system data for each sortie," WGCDR van der Wijngaart explained. 

Another key component of Trident Trap was a two-day multi-static active coherent (MAC) trial. The P-8A MAC system is an advanced, active-acoustic sensor that uses complex, multi-path sound propagation between sonobuoys to detect submarines at increased ranges.

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No. 92 Wing Commanding Officer Group Captain John Grime said this was the wing's second evolution of MAC trials with the co-operation of an Australian submarine.

GPCAPT Grime explained, "The planning of these MAC activities occurred over a solid three-month period, with the execution phase occurring over just two days. As a result of this thorough planning we were able to fully exploit all opportunities presented by the exercise, gaining valuable experience with the new MAC capability while also generating a significant amount of data for post mission analysis by 92WG and Defence Science and Technology Group support staff."

Exercises such as Trident Trap demonstrate how in an increasingly complex strategic environment, Air Force’s STEM-qualified personnel are critical to maintaining a capability edge and ensuring Air Force achieves its air and space missions. 

The P-8A Poseidon is designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It is capable of broad-area maritime and littoral operations. It is also effective for humanitarian and search and rescue missions.

The aircraft has advanced sensors and mission systems, including a state-of-the-art multi-role radar, high definition cameras, and an acoustic system with four times the processing capacity of the AP-3C Orions.

The P-8A is built specifically as a military aircraft. It is based on the proven commercial designs of Boeing's 737-800 fuselage, but has been substantially modified to include:

  • A weapons bay;
  • Under wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons; and
  • Increased strengthening for low level (down to 200 feet) operations and high angle turns.

A derivative of the 737-800 Next Generation, the P-8 combines superior performance and reliability with an advanced mission system that ensures maximum interoperability in the future battlespace.

The P-8A aircraft has an extensive communications system including radios and data links across VHF, UHF, HF and SATCOM. An internal fuel capacity of almost 34 tonnes allows the P-8A to conduct low level anti-submarine warfare missions at a distance of greater than 2,000 kilometres from base. The P-8A will be compatible for air-to-air refuelling with the KC-30A MRTT.

Australia has committed to purchasing 12 P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which will replace the ageing fleet of P-3C Orion aircraft. Australia's first aircraft arrived in Canberra on 16 November 2016, with the remaining 11 aircraft to be delivered by March 2020. IOC for the first eight P-8As is scheduled for the period 2017-20.

During National Science Week (15 to 23 August) Defence is celebrating its STEM workforce and how STEM is used in the air and on the ground across a wide range of professions from aviation and engineering to logistics and healthcare.

Aussie Poseidons sharpen trident in successful training operation
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