Boeing has officially handed over the first of four P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

The milestone was marked by a ceremony held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, US.

The newly delivered aircraft will be based at the RNZAF Base Ohakea in Manawatu, New Zealand.

The aircraft has been delivered as part of a deal signed between the US Navy and the New Zealand Government in July 2018.

Boeing said that the production of the remaining three P-8A aircraft is in the advanced stage and deliveries are expected in 2023.

The four new aircraft will replace the RNZAF’s existing fleet of six P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

New Zealand Ministry of Defence (MoD) Capability Delivery acting deputy secretary Sarah Minson said: “As a maritime nation, delivery of P-8A will ensure New Zealand maintains a patrol and response capability that will protect and support law enforcement in our Exclusive Economic Zone and the Southern Ocean.

“The P-8A will also assist our South Pacific neighbours and deliver long-range search and rescue capability.”

The post-delivery sustainment and support services for the RNZAF’s new aircraft will be provided by Boeing Defence Australia along with support from the P-8 International Programme.

Boeing’s P-8 aircraft provides a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to perform maritime, search and rescue, humanitarian, and littoral operations.

Boeing P-8 Programmes vice-president and programme manager Philip June said: “The unmatched, multi-mission maritime patrol capabilities of P-8 will provide New Zealand with the ability to extend their reach into the Pacific and beyond.

“New Zealand joins eight other global customers including nearby Australia that have selected or already operate P-8 and benefit greatly from its long-range maritime surveillance and warfare capabilities.”