UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced the numbers of the UK’s two new Boeing P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft squadrons.
The nine new P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft being acquired for around £3 billion ($4 billion) will be operated by number 120 Squadron and number 201 Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland.
120 Squadron was the RAF’s highest scoring anti-submarine unit in the Second World War with 14 kills, while the 201 Squadron can trace its origins back to the formation of No 1 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service in 1914.
The first RAF P-8A Poseidon Sqn will be commanded by Wing Commander James Hanson, and will start forming in April 2018, while 201 Squadron will form in 2021.
The aircraft’s key role will be to help protect the UK’s submarine-deployed nuclear deterrent and its two new aircraft carriers. Poseidon will add to the UK’s surveillance capabilities and is designed to conduct anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue and intelligence gathering. They can carry torpedoes and anti-shipping missiles.
As a leading members of NATO, the UK Ministry of Defence has already signed agreements with the US and Norwegian militaries to cooperate closely on operating their P-8A aircraft across the North Atlantic.
With the first aircraft due to arrive in the UK in 2020, the RAF has maintained its Maritime Patrol Aircraft skills by embedding aircrew within MPA squadrons of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.
Poseidon will bring wider economic benefits with an additional 400+ service personnel to be located at RAF Lossiemouth, where £400m is also being invested in new support infrastructure for the aircraft.
As the Poseidon P-8A is based on the Boeing 737, it will help support several hundred direct UK jobs, and create opportunities for UK firms to bid for training and support contracts.
The P-8A can operate at long range from its operating base without refuelling and has the endurance to carry out high and low-level airborne maritime and overland surveillance for extended periods.
It will be armed with MK54 torpedos and Harpoon anti ship missiles to attack ship and submarine targets.
UK based P-8A suppliers include Marshall Aerospace for the auxiliary fuel tanks, Martin Baker for the crew seats and General Electric for weapon pylons.