Preparing for ‘Poseidon’
With the first of eight Boeing P-8A ‘Poseidon’ maritime patrol aircraft now under contract and an initial cadre of flight crew and maintenance personnel undergoing training in the United States, the RAAF is looking forward to taking delivery of its first aircraft early in 2017. At the end of August, Boeing was awarded a US$1.49 billion US Navy contract for the construction of 13 Poseidons, including the first four for the RAAF. Under Project AIR 7000, there’s the option to purchase another four P-8s.
Production of the first Australian P-8A will begin later this year with final assembly to begin on Boeing’s dedicated Poseidon assembly line in Renton, Seattle in early 2016. It is due to make its initial flight in the northern summer of 2016, before being handed over to the RAAF in early 2017.
The RAAF is acquiring eight P-8As under Project Air 7000 Phase 2B, and has options on at least another four aircraft, the decision for which is expected to be announced with the release of the Defence White Paper in October.
AIR 7000 Phase 2B Overview
Phase 2B is the Maritime Patrol Aircraft Replacement phase of the broader Air 7000 project and is acquiring the Poseidon as a manned maritime patrol aircraft replacement for the AP-3C Orion, currently in service with Nos 10 and 11 Squadrons based at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia.
Also part of Air 7000 is Phase 1B, which is acquiring the MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform.
Together, the two platforms will combine to provide Australia with a maritime surveillance and response capability similar to the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) programme.
Second Pass Approval for Phase 2B was announced in February 2014, at which time Defence valued the project (eight aircraft plus support facilities) at $4 billion.
“These state of the art aircraft will dramatically boost Australia’s ability to monitor its maritime approaches and patrol over 2.5 million square kilometres of our marine jurisdiction – an area equating to nearly four per cent of the world’s oceans,” said then-Defence Minister, Senator David Johnston.
“The first aircraft will be delivered in 2017, with all eight aircraft fully operational by 2021. The government has also approved an option for a further four aircraft, subject to the outcomes of the Defence White Paper review.”
Then in August 2014, Senator Johnston announced that the US Navy had executed an Advanced Acquisition Contract for Australia’s eight P-8As, to allow the production of long-lead items to begin.
The first four aircraft are being built as part of Full Rate Production (FRP) Lot 2, the sixth overall production lot, the funding for which was announced in August. At the same time, a further Advanced Procurement Contract from FRP3 (Lot 7) was enacted, allowing production of long lead items for the second batch of four Australian aircraft to begin.
All eight aircraft are due to be completed by the end of 2018 and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is currently planned to occur around 2019. IOC is defined by the ability to ‘safely, effectively and concurrently operate four mission-capable aircraft and crews from a Main Operating Base (MOB) and a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in all current AP-3C roles.’