A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon has completed its first deployment to Royal Malaysian Air Force Base (RMAF) Butterworth as part of Operation Gateway.
The Boeing-built Poseidon was deployed to Malaysia in support of the operational test and evaluation of the P-8A as it is introduced to service.
Defence said this deployment was a key milestone on the path to declaring initial operating capability (IOC) for the aircraft and its system over the next 12 months.
The Poseidon’s predecessor, the AP‑3C Orion, has operated from RMAF Butterworth for a number of decades as part of the bilateral Malaysian and Australian Operation Gateway.
Operation Gateway is part of Australia's contribution to the preservation of regional security and stability in south-east Asia. The operation provides maritime surveillance patrols in the north Indian Ocean and South China Sea.
Commander of Surveillance and Response Group Air Commodore Craig Heap said the successful first overseas deployment of the Poseidon was a significant step towards realising the full capability of the P-8A in an Australian context.
"Maritime surveillance in this part of the world has been a core mission of Number 92 Wing for decades, with the Poseidon’s capabilities well suited to continue this role,” AIRCDRE Heap said.
“The aircraft, the aircrew who operate it and the maintenance and support teams that keep the jet flying, have all performed extremely well during the deployment.”
Following testing of the Poseidon’s ability to deploy and operate from forward bases on the north and north-west Australian mainland in April, this deployment to RMAF Butterworth marks the first time a RAAF P-8A Poseidon has operated from an overseas environment since the first aircraft arrived in November 2016.
Missions flown by the aircraft included patrols in the northern Indian Ocean and South China Sea aimed at testing and refining how the P-8A will be operated in those environments. Each mission utilised the Poseidon’s advanced sensor suite and data connectivity.
During each mission the aircraft conducted routine maritime surveillance on merchant and naval shipping along some of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
“With this overseas deployment complete, the next step from June through to July will be the completion of the operational evaluation of the Poseidon’s Search and Rescue capability. This will be another important step as we move toward declaring initial operational capability of the P-8A system,” AIRCDRE Heap said.
Australia has committed to acquiring a total of 15 P-8A Poseidon aircraft. 12 P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft have been approved for acquisition with an additional three aircraft subject to normal government Defence acquisition approval processes, including the timeframe for delivery.
The 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-8A's is scheduled for the period 2017-2020.