The government has confirmed that the Royal Australian Air Force’s new maritime surveillance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, has achieved initial operating capability (IOC).
According to Minister for Defence Marise Payne, IOC has been achieved five months ahead of the original schedule.
The Poseidon fleet will improve the RAAF’s ability to conduct anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol and surveillance of Australia’s maritime approaches.
They will be maintained at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, which is located approximately 25 kilometres north of the Adelaide.
The government has committed to acquiring a total of 15 P-8A Poseidon aircraft, with the first aircraft arriving in Canberra on 16 November 2016.
The initial acquisition of 12 P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft will be complemented with an additional three aircraft subject to normal government Defence acquisition approval processes, including the timeframe for delivery.
Six of Australia’s 12 P-8As have now arrived in Australia, operated by Number 11 Squadron from RAAF Base Edinburgh.
Minster Payne congratulated the RAAF and CASG on the significant milestone that has been achieved in reaching IOC, saying the P-8A is a very capable and effective successor to the AP-3C Orion – which will soon retire from the role after nearly 40 years of service.
Together with the future MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the P-8A aircraft will replace Australia's AP-3C Orions, which are due for withdrawal in 2018-19.
The P-8A Poseidon uses advanced sensors and mission systems, including an advanced multi-role radar, high definition cameras and an acoustic system with four times the processing capacity of Air Force’s current AP-3C Orions.
“Together the P-8A Poseidon and the future MQ-4C Triton aircraft will provide Australia with one of the world’s most advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capabilities,” Payne said.
According to Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies, reaching IOC was a significant milestone, with the platform a fundamental element of the Australian Defence Force’s future maritime strategy.
“The arrival of the P-8A has allowed Air Force, under Plan Jericho, to develop and evolve new operating concepts, support arrangements and sustainment options," AIRMSHL Davies said.
“These will best exploit the P-8A’s sensors and networking as part of integrated Navy and Air Force integrated maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance family of systems.
“The acquisition of the P-8A represents a $5 billion investment in Australia’s maritime patrol capability and, along with the MQ-4C Triton, will be a very capable and effective successor to the AP-3C Orion.”
In November last year, Boeing announced that its fit-out of the RAAF’s purpose-built, state-of-the-art P-8A Poseidon Integrated Training Centre in South Australia had commenced.
The 16,500-square metre centre will accommodate 70 advanced P-8A operational and tactical training devices, including two pilot simulators, two air combat officer simulators and a Boeing 737 fuselage ordnance load trainer.
“These trainers will ensure RAAF pilots and mission crews are prepared to take full advantage of the P-8A Poseidon capabilities for any mission, at any time," Boeing Defence Australia P-8A Poseidon program lead Brett Newell said.
Defence will invest $250 million in the Boeing training simulator system at RAAF Base Edinburgh and $409 million to improve base facilities for full operations, estimated for completion by early 2019.
Lendlease, the contractor engaged by Defence to construct the facilities at RAAF Base Edinburgh, said the vast majority of the work to construct the facilities is going to contractors from the local area.