UK welcomes fifth Poseidon MRA1 at RAF Lossiemouth

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has now received five of nine Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) following the arrival of the fifth example at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, on February 2.

The aircraft – serial ZP805 (c/n 65754, line number 8257), named ‘Fulmar’ – departed Boeing Field near Seattle, Washington, on February 1 and arrived at the Scottish base after an eight-hour overnight delivery flight. According to the RAF, this marks the first time that a Poseidon MRA1 has been delivered to RAF Lossiemouth straight from the factory, without having to stop along the way.

Poseidon MRA1 [MoD Crown Copyright/Royal Air Force]
Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 - serial ZP805 'Fulmar' - at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, on February 2, 2021. This aircraft is the fifth to be delivered to the RAF, which has a total of nine examples on order. MoD Crown Copyright/Royal Air Force

This aircraft has been named ‘Fulmar’ after the sea-based bird of the same name and to pay homage to RAF Lossiemouth’s naval past, as the station itself was called HMS Fulmar between 1946 and 1972.

In a press release, the RAF said that the arrival of the fifth Poseidon MRA1 “represents another milestone in the development of Lossiemouth’s maritime patrol capability and it comes at a time of unprecedented submarine activity, close to UK waters. [The] Poseidon MPA can react quickly to track potential threats over large areas of sea or ocean and defend our own submarine fleet.”

An unnamed RAF Poseidon MRA1 commander added: “Monitoring and tracking all activity in seas around the UK is paramount to our security. The arrival of this latest aircraft helps to ensure that we have the continued capability to defend our waters and support our NATO partners.”

The RAF has now accepted five Poseidons from its total order of nine aircraft. In operational service, these aircraft are currently employed by No 120 Squadron, with No 54 Squadron acting as the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). Later this year, No 201 Squadron ‘Guernsey’s Own Squadron’ will stand up as the second operational unit of the type.

Poseidon MRA1 [MoD Crown Copyright/Royal Air Force]
The UK's fifth Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 - serial ZP805 - touches down at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, on February 2, 2021. MoD Crown Copyright/Royal Air Force

This is the second P-8A to be delivered to RAF Lossiemouth, after the first three arrived at the nearby Kinloss Barracks while runway resurfacing work took place at the former. Formerly an RAF station itself, Kinloss Barracks was once home to the UK’s MPA operations when the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod served in that role.

The P-8A is designed to perform extended surveillance missions at both low and high altitudes. It is able to provide high-resolution area mapping to find surface vessels and submarines using its suite of integrated sensors. The RAF’s Poseidon MRA1 fleet will also serve as a core defence asset for the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and will work regularly with allies across NATO, such as the US and Norway.

The Poseidon MRA1 employs Raytheon’s AN/APY-10 maritime, littoral and overland surveillance radar for high-resolution mapping, as well as an acoustic sensor system, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret and electronic support measures (ESM). It can also deploy both passive and multi-static sonobuoys and torpedoes for engaging sub-surface targets. The RAF states that the aircraft is “equipped with US weapons, although British weapons may be integrated in [the] future.”