The aircraft is the second of a new £3 billion programme including the purchase of nine state-of-the-art jets which will improve the UK’s ability to track hostile targets below and above the waves.
Poseidon aircraft will protect the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and be central to NATO missions across the North Atlantic, co-operating closely with the US and Norwegian Poseidon fleets.
The UK’s purchase of the Poseidon is in response to increased threats such as Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic returning to Cold War levels, while China is also investing heavily in new Arctic facilities, infrastructure and ice-capable ships.
All nine UK Poseidons will be delivered to the RAF by the end of 2021 and achieve full operational capability from RAF Lossiemouth in 2024. The aircraft will be flown initially by 120 Squadron, the leading anti-submarine warfare squadron in World War 2, with 201 Squadron joining the programme in due course.
UK Poseidons will initially be based at Kinloss Barracks, used previously by the RAF Nimrod MPA fleet, and now home to the Army’s specialist air support engineers, 39 Engineer Regiment.
Poseidon will temporarily operate from Kinloss until October 2020 while £75 million of planned runway and taxiway resurfacing works is completed at Lossiemouth by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. Routine Typhoon training will also temporarily relocate from Lossiemouth to Kinloss in June and July while the intersection of the runways there is resurfaced.
About the UK’s Poseidon MRA Mk1
Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon is a multi-role maritime patrol aircraft, equipped with sensors and weapons systems for anti-submarine warfare, as well as surveillance and search and rescue missions.
The P-8A’s comprehensive mission system features an APY-10 radar with modes for high-resolution mapping, an acoustic sensor system, including passive and multi-static sonobuoys, electro-optical/IR turret and electronic support measures (ESM). This equipment delivers comprehensive search and tracking capability, while the aircraft’s weapons system includes torpedoes for engaging sub-surface targets.
A contract for P-8 development was granted in June 2004 and first flight followed on April 25, 2009. The US Navy announced initial operating capability on November 29, 2013 and the P-8 is now been widely delivered not only to the US Navy, but also to the Indian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force.
The BAE Systems Nimrod MRA.Mk 4 upgrade of existing Nimrod MR.Mk 2 airframes had been underway for some years when it was axed under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The MR.Mk 2 was also withdrawn, leaving the UK without effective long-range, fixed-wing maritime cover. Project Seedcorn saw personnel posted into maritime patrol units with allied air arms, maintaining vital skills until the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed the intended purchase of nine Poseidons for the RAF.
With the P-8 squadron numbers chosen, the type will operate from RAF Lossiemouth, where infrastructure is being prepared for its arrival around 2020. The aircraft will be equipped with US weapons, although British weapons may be integrated in future.
Poseidon MRA Mk1 specifications
- Powerplant: two 27,000lb st (120kN) CFM International CFM56-7 turbofan engines
- Length: 129ft 6in (39.47m)
- Height: 42ft 1¼in (12.83m)
- Wingspan: 123ft 7¼in (37.64m)
- Maximum take-off weight: 189,200lb (85,820kg)
- Maximum speed: 490kt (907km/h)
- Ferry range: 4,500 miles (7,242km)
- Service ceiling: 41,000ft