RAF Posiedon shadows Russian warship for the first time

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has conducted the first operational sortie of its Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 fleet, using the aircraft to shadow a Russian warship in the North Sea on August 3.

The Poseidon – assigned to No 120 Squadron – departed Kinloss Barracks in Moray, Scotland, to provide a prolonged overwatch of the Russian Navy’s Project 22160 patrol ship, Vasily Bykov. The vessel was operating close to UK waters as it passed through the North Sea.

RAF Poseidon, Typhoon [MoD Crown Copyright]
Poseidon MRA1 - serial ZP801 (c/n 64175, line number 7532) 'Pride of Moray' - is flanked by Typhoon FGR4 from No 2 (AC) Squadron as it shadows the Russian Navy's Project 22160 patrol ship, Vasily Bykov, over the North Sea on August 3. MoD Crown Copyright 

AVM Ian Duguid, Air Officer Commanding No 11 Group, said: “The RAF continues to evolve and develop as the ‘Next Generation RAF’ becomes a reality. The Poseidon aircraft is a key part of that development and evidence of the hard work performed by all those involved. This mission by the Poseidon, to monitor Russian naval activity, shows how the RAF will now be able to contribute to maritime security alongside the Royal Navy and our NATO allies, to secure the seas and skies.”

During the mission, the Poseidon was supported by Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray and an Airbus A330 Voyager KC2 multi-role tanker/transport (MRTT) from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. The tanker that supported the mission was serial ZZ336 (c/n 1363), which recently underwent a £900,000 repaint to better represent its additional mission as a VIP transport.

RAF Poseidon [MoD Crown Copyright]
Acquisition and employment of the Poseidon MRA1 has allowed the RAF to once again perform a sovereign maritime patrol mission, a capability which was lost with the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2. MoD Crown Copyright

The RAF will employ nine examples of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1, two of which have already arrived in the UK. These aircraft will be split between No 120 Squadron and No 201 Squadron, operating from RAF Lossiemouth. Currently, the first two Poseidons are being flown from Kinloss Barracks, while runway resurfacing work takes place at the nearby RAF Lossiemouth.

The first two P-8As – serials ZP801 (c/n 64175, line number 7532) ‘Pride of Moray’ and ZP802 (c/n 64176, line number 7642) ‘City of Eglin’ - arrived in the UK in February and March this year, respectively. The nation’s acquisition and employment of the type fills a capability gap in the RAF’s maritime patrol operations that was created by the controversial retirement of the Hawker Siddeley Nimord MR2 and the cancellation of the development of its then-successor, the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4.