Long range airborne maritime patrol has always been a key capability for Australia’s defence strategy, so the acquisition of the P-8A Poseidon LRMP aircraft to replace the ageing AP-3C Orion is regarded as a significant advancement in capability – and it fits well with the future networked force paradigm under Plan Jericho. The first Boeing P-8A Poseidon for the RAAF will be on display at Avalon 2017.
Australia is buying 12 Poseidons, with an option for a further three. Together with the unmanned Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton, Poseidon will be an important element of future RAAF airpower capability.
Poseidon is much more than just a replacement for the Orion; its sensors and mission systems architecture are highly integrated and offer unprecedented levels of situational awareness. As such, Poseidon forms an important part of Air Force’s so-called 5th generation force and, because Australia elected to be involved in the US Navy operational development programme, future upgrades will take into consideration specific Australian requirements.
The first Australian Poseidon touched down in Canberra in November last year. Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies described the Poseidon’s capability as, “A real piece of the ‘puzzle’ that is going to be a fifth generation Air Force.”
Project Air 7000
Both Poseidon and Triton are being acquired under the Air 7000 program, with Phase 2B being the manned P-8A element. The broader Air 7000 programme parallels what was known as the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) plan.
Programme objectives are to replace the AP-3C and undertake Australian Defence Force Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Response (MISRR) tasks. While focused primarily on MISRR, Poseidon and Triton will also support overland Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) plus Electronic Support (ES) roles.
Australia has been a partner in the US Navy’s P-8A programme since 2009, leading to a $5.4 billion deal for the aircraft and support facilities.
The intention to keep Australia’s P-8As fleet as common as possible with US Navy equivalents, to the extent that the only real difference between the two are the external markings.