The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) took delivery of its 12th Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, according to a December 13 statement released by the Australian Department of Defense (DoD). The new aircraft arrived at RAAF Base Edinburgh, 35 kilometers north of Adelaide in South Australia on December 12.
“This is the twelfth Poseidon to join the fleet, since the first arrived in Canberra on 16 November 2016,” Australian Minister of Defense, Linda Reynolds, was quoted as saying in the statement. The RAAF is expected to receive a total of 15 P-8As in two tranches, although the acquisition of the last three aircraft is yet to be approved by the Australian government.
The RAAF declared initial operating capability (IOC) for its first P-8A aircraft in March 2018. IOC for the first tranche of eight RAAG P-8A aircraft is scheduled to be achieved by 2020 with full operating capability (FOC) expected by 2021.
As part of bringing the aircraft closer to FOC, a P-8A for the first time test fired an ATM-84J Harpoon medium-range anti-ship/land-attack missile during the multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime exercise in July 2018.
Total cost for the first eight P-8As is estimated at 4 billion Australian dollars (US$3.6 billion). The Australian government first announced its intention to procure P-8A aircraft in February 2014 as a replacement for the RAAF’s 15 Lockheed AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The RAAF is also in the process of procuring MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to operate in conjunction with the P-8As. As I explained elsewhere:
The P-8A, the military variant of Boeing’s Next-Generation 737-800 commercial aircraft, has been designed to replace the United States Navy’s fleet of obsolete P-3 Orion aircraft. It is considered to be one of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare aircraft currently in service.
The P-8A, equipped with fitted with advanced sensors, including an APY-10 radar system, can carry several types of bombs, Raytheon Mark 54 lightweight torpedoes, mines, depth charges and can also launch air-to-surface missiles installed on the underwing hardpoints.
The P-8A has an internal fuel capacity of almost 34 tons allowing it to conduct missions at a distance of more than 2,000 kilometers from base. “The aircraft can be refueled while flying by tanker aircraft such as Australia’s KC-30A, making it possible to patrol Australia’s isolated Southern Ocean territories,” Reynolds said. “The P-8A is already providing significant operational support to Australia, including a recent mission to the Middle East Region on Operation MANITOU as part of the International Maritime Security Construct,” she added.
According to Reynolds, the Austrian government is investing 470 million Australian dollars (US$325 million) to deliver “new and upgraded facilities and significant airfield works” at RAAF Base Edinburgh.