The first of the UK’s new Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft took off from the Boeing facility in Washington state, which marked a milestone in the program and allied interoperability.
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UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Royal Air Force personnel, along with Boeing P-8 program leaders, were on hand to witness the take-off and landing of the recently painted aircraft, number ZP801.
Air Commodore Richard Barrow, the senior responsible owner for the UK’s P-8A program, welcomed the program milestone, saying, "This is a great milestone in the UK P-8A Poseidon’s journey to the UK, as we are one step closer to its arrival in Scotland."
The RAF P-8A Poseidon fleet will support maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare and anti-ship warfare for the UK, and will increase protection of the UK’s nuclear deterrent and Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
The first of nine P-8As ordered by the UK now moves to the P-8 Installation and Checkout facility in Tukwila, Washington, where mission systems are installed and further testing happens before final delivery to the customer later this year.
When the aircraft is delivered it will first fly to US Naval Air Station Jacksonville for additional preparation and training by UK personnel before flying home to the UK. The RAF will take delivery of ZP801 later this year and it will move to the UK in early 2020.
"The platform will enhance the UK’s maritime patrol capability with advanced, state-of-the-art technology," Air Cdre Barrow added.
The UK is one of six international customers for the P-8A Poseidon. As a direct commercial sale, India has received eight of the P-8I variant to date with four more in production.
The US Navy is on contract to receive 111 with the potential for additional quantities based on the fleet’s needs. As a co-operative partner with the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Program Office, Australia began receiving its P-8A aircraft in 2016 with eight delivered and four more in production; Norway will begin receiving their five P-8As in 2022; both New Zealand and South Korea have signed agreements with the US Navy to purchase four and six aircraft, respectively.
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 inter-operability in the future battlespace.