One of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) new P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft is operating out of Nadi, Fiji this week as part of its operational trials. The trials are an important part of the new aircraft’s introduction into service and also continue the long-standing connections between the RNZAF and Fiji. The Poseidon multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft are replacing the RNZAF’s recently retired P-3K2 Orions, which first entered service in the 1960s. The RNZAF will have a fleet of four Poseidons supporting peace and security operations, maritime surveillance, search and rescue, resource protection, and humanitarian assistance and disaster responses in New Zealand, the Pacific and around the world. They will start flying on operations in mid-2023.
Air Component Commander, Air Commodore Shaun Sexton, said,”Operational trials and development were an important part of the introduction into service of a modern aircraft like the Poseidon. The aircraft will be operated by No. 5 Squadron, which flew the Orions, but with new systems in the Poseidons it wasn’t a case of simply transferring procedures from the Orions to the new aircraft. The trials and development phase ensured all operating systems, including aircrew, maintenance, mission support and air enablers were ready for missions. With the inaugural flight to Fiji by one of our new P-8A aircraft, and with Fiji being the first Pacific nation the P-8A will operate from during the trials, we’re also continuing a connection with Fiji which goes back many years.”
Long-range maritime patrol aircraft operated from Fiji during and after World War II. No. 5 Squadron was formed in Laucala Bay and for more than 13 years flew Short Sunderland flying boats from there. Given its origin, the Squadron’s motto is Fijian: “Keitou kalawaca na wasaliwa”, which translates as “We span the Seas”. For more than 57 years, No. 5 Squadron and the Lockheed P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft were regulars in the skies over Fiji. The Royal New Zealand Air Force have based our P-3K2 aircraft in Fiji during multi-day search and rescue operations or maritime patrols in the Pacific.
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. 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.