Royal Air Force Receives First P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft

RAF Submarine Hunters First Touchdown in UK: The First Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft Has Arrived in the UK

The arrival in Scotland of the first of nine Boeing P-8A Poseidon marks the end of a decade during which the Royal Air Force had abandoned the maritime patrol mission after the retirement of its fleet of troubled Nimrod aircraft. (UK MoD photo)

The RAF’s new submarine-hunting Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) has touched down for the first time in the UK.

The aircraft is the first of a new £3 billion programme, including the purchase of nine state-of-the-art Poseidon jets, which will improve the UK’s ability to track hostile targets below and above the waves.

Poseidon aircraft will protect the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and be central to NATO missions across the North Atlantic, co-operating closely with the US and Norwegian Poseidon fleets.

The UK’s purchase of the Poseidon is in response to increased threats such as Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic returning to Cold War levels, while China is also investing heavily in new Arctic facilities, infrastructure and ice-capable ships.

Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “Our Poseidon fleet will soon join an integrated UK force of fighter jets, ships, submarines, helicopters and highly-trained Royal Marines, ready to operate in Arctic conditions. The UK will not stand by if peace in the Arctic region is threatened.

“RAF Lossiemouth’s strategic northerly location makes it one of the most important air stations in the UK: already home to half of the UK’s Typhoon Force, and now sitting at the heart of our anti-submarine operations.”

The Poseidon is designed to carry out extended surveillance missions at high and low altitudes. The aircraft is equipped with cutting-edge sensors which use high-resolution area mapping to find both submarines and surface vessels.

Each aircraft carries sonobuoys which are dropped from the aircraft into the sea to search for enemy submarines, surveying the battlespace under the sea and relaying data back to the aircraft.

Poseidon will also be armed with Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles and Mk 54 torpedoes capable of attacking both surface and sub-surface targets.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, said: “The Poseidon MRA1 is a game-changing Maritime Patrol Aircraft. I am delighted and proud to see the ‘Pride of Moray’ and her crews returning to maritime patrol flying from Scotland, working alongside the Royal Navy to secure our seas and protect our nation.”

First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said: “The arrival of the first Poseidon marks a significant upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations. This will give the UK the ability to conduct long range patrols and integrate seamlessly with our NATO allies to provide a world-leading capability.

“This will maintain operational freedom for our own submarines and apply pressure to those of our potential foes. I look forward to working with the RAF and our international partners on this superb aircraft.”

All nine UK Poseidons will be delivered to the RAF by the end of 2021 and achieve full operational capability from RAF Lossiemouth in 2024. The aircraft will be flown initially by 120 Squadron, the leading anti-submarine warfare squadron in World War 2, with 201 Squadron joining the programme in due course.

Named the ‘Pride of Moray’, the first UK Poseidon arrived at Kinloss Barracks, used previously by the RAF Nimrod MPA fleet, and now home to the Army’s specialist air support engineers, 39 Engineer Regiment.

Poseidon will temporarily operate from Kinloss until October 2020 while £75 million of planned runway and taxiway resurfacing works is completed at Lossiemouth by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. Routine Typhoon training will also temporarily relocate from Lossiemouth to Kinloss in June and July while the intersection of the runways there is resurfaced.

Michelle Sanders, DE&S P-8A Delivery Team Leader, said: “Seeing the first RAF Poseidon MRA Mk1 landing in the UK is an incredibly proud moment for all of the team at DE&S. Close, collaborative working with colleagues in Air Capability, the US Navy and industry has helped us deliver this very capable aircraft.

“Moray’s RAF Lossiemouth is one of the most important air stations in the UK: it is already home to four RAF Typhoon squadrons – half of the RAF Typhoon Force – and will become the centre of operations for the UK Poseidon fleet.

UK defence is investing £470 million in upgrading RAF Lossiemouth’s infrastructure, including a new £132 million strategic facility for the Poseidon fleet, upgraded runways and operating surfaces, a new Air Traffic Control Tower, upgraded facilities for IX (Bomber) Squadron which moved to Scotland in 2019, new personnel accommodation, upgraded drainage and electrical supplies.

When these developments are complete there will be 550 additional military personnel based at RAF Lossiemouth, taking the total number of military personnel employed there to 2,532.


After a decade-long gap, the Silent Service once again has its ‘long-range ears’ with the arrival of the first new maritime patrol aircraft.

The Pride of Moray touched down in Scotland today – the first of nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft brought to safeguard the nation’s nuclear deterrent, as well as generally scouring the waters in Britain’s ‘backyard’ for threats on and below the waves.

The aircraft – military versions of Boeing’s 737-800 – will be operated by the RAF’s 120 and, later, 201 Squadrons at Lossiemouth, but with Royal Navy personnel as part of the crew on each sortie.

Pride of Moray was handed over to the RAF late last year, since when they’ve been learning how to pilot, maintain and operate the P-8 from the US Navy’s air base at Jacksonville in Florida.

And it was from there that the jet took off at midnight, local time, for the 4,060-mile journey to its new home – landing at Kinloss a little over seven hours later.

The arrival of the first Poseidon – part of a £3bn investment by the MOD, which includes nearly £500m building/improving facilities at Lossiemouth – was greeted by political and military leaders, including the navy’s Commander of Operations (and a submariner) Rear Admiral Simon Asquith.

Those improvements mean Pride of Moray will operate from the former air base at Kinloss, 20 miles away, until the autumn, when £75m resurfacing Lossiemouth’s runways and taxiways is finished.

Poseidon’s advent fills the gap left by the demise of the Nimrod MR2 which bowed out in 2010 and the plug was pulled on its over-budget and long-delayed replacement, the MR4A.

The P-8 is tried and trusted technology, in service with the US and Indian Navies and Royal Australian Air Force, with several more nations (including New Zealand and Norway) lined up to receive the patrol aircraft.

Each one is equipped with 129 Sonobuoy listening devices – dropped in the ocean in the path of a suspected submarine to help locate and track it – plus high-resolution area mapping to locate contacts of interest on and below the waves.

And in time of war, Poseidon carries torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles to prosecute any targets.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin said the P-8 was a “superb aircraft” and its introduction would allow Britain to work seamlessly with our NATO allies at the cutting edge of anti-submarine warfare.

“The arrival of the first Poseidon marks a significant upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations,” he added.

“It will maintain operation freedom for our submarines and apply pressure to those of our potential foes.”


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