The Royal Air Force (RAF) took delivery of its seventh Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 on October 19, when the maritime patrol aircraft arrived at its home station of RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, following an Atlantic crossing from Boeing’s facility near Seattle, Washington.
As with the other six Poseidons that have now been inducted into RAF service, this aircraft - serial ZP807 - has been given an official name. It will be known as 'William Barker VC' in honour of the Canadian pilot with the same name, who was awarded the Victoria Cross while serving with No 201 Squadron during World War One.
The action that conferred the award upon him saw Maj Barker - flying a Sopwith Snipe biplane - embroiled in a dogfight with 15 enemy aircraft. Despite severe injuries to his legs and left arm, Barker accounted for three aircraft before he was forced to land.
Fast forward to the present day and No 201 Squadron - alongside No 120 Squadron - operate the Poseidon MRA1 in the anti-submarine warfare role. The Poseidon MRA1 fleet will eventually reach nine aircraft, with the platform already providing maritime patrol in close cooperation with regional and international allies.
Gp Capt Robert O’Dell from the RAF's ISTAR Force Headquarters said: "The Royal Air Force has always enjoyed the closest of ties with the Royal Canadian Air Force and it is entirely fitting to name this aircraft after William Barker Victoria Cross whose exceptional gallantry continues to serve as an inspiration to military aviators.
“Major Barker won his Victoria Cross in 1918 while serving on 201 Squadron who now operate the Poseidon. This also provides an appropriate link to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s subsequent key role within Coastal Command during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, and their continuing contribution to North Atlantic maritime security today,” O’Dell added.
Boeing's P-8A Poseidon was selected by the UK in 2015 as a replacement for the Nimrod MRA4 aircraft, a project which was axed under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). The Nimrod MRA4 was being developed to replace the RAF's already retired fleet of Nimrod MR2s. During the capability gap, the UK's Project Seedcorn saw RAF personnel training and flying with allied maritime patrol units to maintain key skills and experience.
In total, approximately £3bn has been invested into the Poseidon programme by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), including £460m to upgrade RAF Lossiemouth's infrastructure in preparation for the fleet's arrival in Scotland.
In October 2019, the RAF received its first Poseidon - serial ZP801 'Pride of Moray' - from Boeing. The aircraft was initially flown to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville in Florida for No 120 Squadron crews to be trained on how to operate the type by the US Navy. The 'Pride of Moray' later arrived at Kinloss Barracks in Moray, Scotland, on February 4, 2020, as major construction work was ongoing at RAF Lossiemouth at the time.
The second Poseidon - serial ZP802 'City of Elgin', was delivered to the RAF at Kinloss Barracks on March 13, 2020. Serial ZP802 was the first RAF-operated Posiedon to touch down at RAF Lossiemouth, arriving at the Scottish base for the first time on October 13, 2020. The final two of nine aircraft are scheduled to be delivered before the end of November.
Since entering UK service, the Poseidon MRA1 fleet has participated in multiple NATO exercises and completed its first operational mission in 2020, when it shadowed a Russian warship operating near UK waters in the North Sea.