The Royal Air Force (RAF) has formally declared that its Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft fleet has achieved initial operating capability (IOC).
The service declared IOC on the P-8A fleet on April 1. In a media release, the RAF stated that “Poseidon will now be patrolling our seas, hunting potentially hostile submarines and helping to defend our nuclear deterrent. It uses the very latest in cutting-edge technology to detect, identify and monitor hostile contacts both above and below the waves."
AM Andy Turner, the RAF’s deputy commander for capability, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Poseidon Force has met its first operational milestone on time. It is a crucial aircraft for the security of the UK, critical to allies and NATO and a major weapon to press back on our adversaries all over the world.”
The air arm currently operates two aircraft – ZP801 (c/n 64175/line number 7532) Pride of Moray and ZP802 (c/n 64176/line number 7642) City of Elgin – which were delivered to the RAF and arrived on UK soil earlier this year. The service will take ownership of a further seven aircraft, completing the UK’s planned fleet of nine. The Poseidon MRA1s are operated by No 120 Squadron and will also be employed by No 201 Squadron when it re-forms on the type in 2021.
Air Com Richard Barrow, Poseidon senior responsible owner, said: “It’s a really exciting time for us in this programme, which is moving fast and the team at RAF Lossiemouth has delivered some great results in very quick time. We’ve still got a long way to go with introducing this next-generation capability into service, but Poseidon is a game-changer, not just for hunting submarines but for a range of other roles from anti-ship warfare, maritime reconnaissance and long-range search and rescue tasks.”
The Poseidon is designed to perform extended surveillance missions at low and high altitudes. It can provide high-resolution area mapping to find surface vessels and submarines using the aircraft’s integrated sensors. The UK’s P-8A fleet will work closely with allies across NATO, specifically with the US and Norway – the former already operates the platform and the latter has five examples on order.
The platform employs Raytheon’s AN/APY-10 maritime, littoral and overland surveillance radar, which provides the aircraft with a high-resolution mapping capability, an acoustic sensor system, an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret and electronic support measures (ESM). The AN/APY-10 gives the Poseidon a comprehensive search and tracking capability. It can carry up to 129 passive and multi-static sonobuoys – which are used in searching and detecting enemy submarines – and Mk54 torpedoes, if the aircraft is required to engage sub-surface targets. The RAF states that the aircraft is “equipped with US weapons, although British weapons may be integrated in [the] future”.
The UK’s Poseidon aircraft are currently operating from Kinloss Barracks in Moray, Scotland – a former RAF station which was home to the service’s maritime patrol capability during the Nimrod’s time in service. The aircraft are based there until necessary runway maintenance and refurbishment work is completed at nearby RAF Lossiemouth.