The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) declared its newly acquired Boeing P-8A Poseidon fleet operational on July 1, just weeks before the air arm welcomed its fourth and final example of the US-built maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to RNZAF Base Ohakea, near Palmerston North in the Manawatu, on July 17.
New Zealand’s final P-8A – serial NZ4804 (c/n 67020) – departed Boeing’s production facility at King County International Airport (otherwise known as Boeing Field) in Seattle, Washington, on July 13, before it was formally welcomed by the RNZAF’s No 5 Squadron to Ohakea four days later. This delivery completes New Zealand’s four-strong P-8A fleet, of which the first aircraft (serial NZ4801) arrived at RNZAF Base Ohakea on December 12, 2022, before it was joined by the second (serial NZ4802) on March 20, and the third (serial NZ4803) on May 19.
This delivery and the completion of New Zealand’s P-8A fleet comes after the RNZAF formally retired its ageing fleet of six Lockheed P-3K2 Orion MPA on January 31 after more than 55 years of operational service. Wellington purchased its P-8As through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, with a contract (worth $1.6bn) being signed on July 9, 2018. After four years of preparation, the RNZAF officially declared its new Poseidon fleet operational on July 1, making the aircraft and its capabilities available for frontline missions, while plugging the maritime patrol capability gap that was created by the expedited retirement of the P-3K2 fleet earlier in the year.
AVM Andrew Clark, Chief of the RNZAF, highlighted that the introduction of the P-8A marks the beginning of a new era for the air arm. “New Zealand’s maritime security is central to our wider security. The Poseidon is the latest in a series of aircraft going back to the early days of the RNZAF that have kept watch from the air – securing our maritime resources, defending our region against military threats, building regional resilience, preventing trans-national crime, and of course carrying out search-and-rescue (SAR) and humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HA/DR) missions.
“In the Poseidon fleet, we now have the modern standard in technology to perform these crucial roles. The Poseidon has the breadth of versatility and the depth of capability required for the job in today’s complex security environment,” he added. Operated by the RNZAF’s No 5 Squadron – the same unit that employed the Orion – conducting a variety of missions that range from aerial surveillance and maritime patrol taskings across New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and South Pacific region to SAR and HA/DR operations.