On Monday morning, a P-8A Poseidon from 120 Squadron based at Kinloss Barracks demonstrated its speed and readiness by completing a prolonged overwatch of the Russian patrol vessel, Vasily Bykov, as it passed through the North Sea. It did so with support from Typhoon fighters, based at RAF Lossiemouth and the VIP Voyager refuelling aircraft, stationed at RAF Brize Norton.
The Poseidon’s operational debut follows shortly after the Prime Minister’s visit to Kinloss Barracks last month and heralds a significant development in the UK’s Maritime offensive and defensive capabilities. The P-8 offers a potent blend of tracking options and associated weapons able to find surface and sub-surface vessels, once more allowing the RAF to complete effective joint maritime operations with the Royal Navy.
“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.”Air Vice Marshal Ian Duguid, Air Officer Commanding 11 Group
The Royal Air Force has formally declared an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of its Poseidon MRA1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft in April 2020 after the first two aircraft reached the UK in February and March.
About the UK’s Poseidon MRA1 MPA
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.
Boeing delivered the 100th P-8A aircraft in mid-May. This was the 94th mission-capable airplane to enter the U.S. Navy fleet, with six additional jets used as Engineering Manufacturing Development test aircraft. The 100th fully-operational delivery is scheduled for later this year. Boeing has also delivered 12 jets to the Royal Australian Air Force, two to the U.K.’s Royal Air Force and eight P-8Is to the Indian Navy. Norway will begin receiving their five P-8As in 2022; both New Zealand and South Korea have signed agreements with the U.S. Navy to purchase four and six aircraft respectively.
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 MRA1 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