New Zealand Ministry of Defence has announced that it is on track to procure the first Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft from the US in April 2023.

In July last year, the New Zealand Government reached an NZD2.346bn ($1.6bn) deal to buy four P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft.

P-8A Poseidon aircraft will enter service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, replacing the existing P-3K2 Orion fleet. The Orion aircraft have been operational since the 1960s and are expected to reach the end of their operational life in 2025.

The country is procuring the P-8A aircraft to continue its airborne maritime surveillance, humanitarian aid, disaster response, and resource protection activities in the South Pacific region.

The total purchase price includes acquisition, training systems, infrastructure and service introduction costs.

According to a document released by the ministry detailing the project’s timeline, infrastructure works to facilitate the new patrol aircraft will begin in October.

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Future instructor staff training will commence in Jacksonville in February, while aircrew transition personnel training is slated for the first quarter of 2022.

The P-8A fleet is likely to achieve final operational capability by 2025.

New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark said: “The P-8s are a once in a generation purchase, and will ensure that the airforce’s crucial maritime patrol capability is maintained for decades to come. The project is on schedule to replace the P-3K2 Orion fleet from 2023, and I am pleased to announce further details today, with the release of a project timeline.”

“The P-8s are a once in a generation purchase, and will ensure that the airforce’s crucial maritime patrol capability is maintained.”

Furthermore, the government has approved an investment of NZD56.8m ($37.3m) for the Operational and Regulatory Aviation Compliance project. The programme aims to ensure military aircraft operate in compliance with civil and military air traffic management and identification systems.

The government is also working on a project to deliver an enhanced maritime awareness capability to improve maritime domain awareness. The project is underway and will support the P-8A programme.

Under this project, the ministry will consider the procurement of smaller manned aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or satellites.

These assets will be used to perform additional maritime surveillance tasks within the country’s exclusive economic zone and the wider region to free up the P-8s to fly more missions.

The government has released the Defence Capability Plan 2019 that envisages investments of NZD20bn ($13.15bn) in the defence force up to 2030.

Earlier this week, New Zealand selected Lockheed Martin’s C-130J-30 Super Hercules as the preferred option to replace its ageing Hercules fleet.