The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) first Boeing-built P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) performed its maiden flight in the US ahead of its planned delivery later this year. The test flight was performed ahead of the systems fitout stage and followed the official start of construction of the first airframe in March this year. In September 2020, the inaugural Royal New Zealand Air Force crew for the P-8A graduated training at Jacksonville, Florida. This crew will then qualify as instructors to train the first RNZAF crews back in New Zealand. The first P-8A aircraft is due for delivery in December 2022, with the remaining three to be delivered during 2023.
Boeing publicly identified the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a potential customer in 2008, as a replacement for its P-3 Orions, due for replacement in 2025. In April 2017, the U.S. State Department approved the possible foreign military sale of up to four P-8As with equipment and support, valued at US$1.46 billion. In July 2018, the New Zealand government announced the purchase of four P-8As. Four P-8As were ordered in March 2019. New Zealand has procured and operated U.S. produced P-3 MSA for over 40 years, New Zealand will have no difficulty transitioning its MSA force to the P-8A. The RNZAF is planning to operate the type for at least 30 years.
The Boeing P-8 Poseidon is an American maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft developed and produced by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, modified from the 737-800ERX. It was developed for the United States Navy (USN). The P-8 is a militarized version of the 737-800ERX, a 737-800 with 737-900-based wings. The fuselage is similar to, but longer than, the 737-700-based C-40 Clipper transport aircraft in service with the USN. The P-8 has a strengthened fuselage for low-altitude operations and raked wingtips similar to those fitted to the Boeing 767-400ER, instead of the blended winglets available on 737NG variants.
The P-8 operates in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles. It is armed with torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and other weapons, can drop and monitor sonobuoys, and can operate in conjunction with other assets, including the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The P-8 is operated by the United States Navy, the Indian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. It has also been ordered by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Republic of Korea Navy, and the German Navy.