The arrival of the first new Boeing P-8A Poseidon multi-mission long-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) in New Zealand will see Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF’s) No 5 Squadron move to its new base at RNZAF Base Ohakea. The P-8A Poseidon fleet will replace the P-3K2 Orion fleet, which first entered service in the 1960s. The remaining three Poseidons will arrive by mid-2023. The Poseidon fleet will support New Zealand’s peace and security operations, maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster response in New Zealand, the Pacific and further abroad.
The Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark, said,”Today is a major milestone in building a modern and capable Defence Force for New Zealand. It is the next step in the ongoing modernisation of our capabilities and the enhancement of the many roles of the aviators who comprise today’s Air Force. Whether it’s saving lives at sea, securing our vast maritime resources, preventing transnational crime, building regional resilience or defending our region against military threats, the P-8A Poseidon – like the P-3K2 Orion before it – has the breadth of versatility and the depth of capability to take the job on.”
The Boeing P-8 Poseidon is an American maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft developed and produced by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, and derived from the civilian Boeing 737-800. It was developed for the United States Navy (USN). 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).
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, to begin operations in 2023. Four P-8As were ordered in March 2019. The RNZAF is planning to operate the type for at least 30 years. 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 was delivered in December 2022.