On January 24, three Lockheed P-3K2 Orions departed Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Auckland in Whenaupai for a formation flight over the country's North Island to bid farewell to the type after more than 55 years of service.
The three-ship formation flew over locations including, Coromandel Coast, Great Barrier Island, Manawatū, Napier, Tauranga, Waikat and Whangārei, with close formation flypasts over Ohakea, Wellington and Auckland harbours.
Serving since its arrival at No 5 Squadron in 1966, the P-3K2 has performed mainly airborne surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the South Pacific and Southern Ocean but has also covered missions over every continent throughout its career.
No 5 Squadron have operated a fleet of six P-3K2s and accumulated just under 150,000 flying hours providing multiple services to the nation. These services include fishing surveillance, customs patrols, search and rescue, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, one memorable mission was aiding the mission to search for missing commercial flight MH-370. In addition, the fleet of six have conducted operations in the Middle East and South East Asia working for the united Nations and combined Maritime Forces Commands.
A fleet of four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance will take the reins at No 5 Squadron after the retirement of the Orion and will be based at RNZAF Base Ohakea. Part of the NZ$2.3bn investment, the first P-8A Poseidon, NZ4801 landed in Aotearoa, New Zealand in December after being officially handed over by Boeing on December 8. The remaining three are due in 2023, with initial operational capability expected in the summer of 23 and full operational capability expected in 2025.