P-8A Poseidon crew

The first Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilot has flown the P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, US.

Flight Lieutenant James Pears is part of the seven-member team, led by Squadron Leader Arran Moore, training on the P-8A Poseidon with the US Navy, ahead of its introduction into the RAAF fleet.

After completing the four-hour sortie, Pears said: "The aircraft handles well and performs to expectations; the levels of automation and assistance to the pilot are amazing over that offered by the AP-3C."

Before conducting the first flight, Moore and the first Australian P-8A Poseidon crew completed an intensive training programme in the US, and were integrated within the US Navy’s Patrol Squadron 10 (VP-10).

"Before conducting the first flight, Moore and the first Australian P-8A Poseidon crew completed an intensive training programme in the US,."

VP-10 commanding officer commander James Johnston said having the Australians embedded within the squadron was a tremendous benefit to the unit.

Johnston commented: "Not only do we all benefit from the varied backgrounds and experiences, the level of interoperability that having such an integrated team builds is world-class."

The Australian contingent will remain in the US after their transition onto the P-8A, to provide additional instructional resources to the US Navy’s Patrol Squadron 30, as they continue their transition to the aircraft and also train the first Australian crews from 2016.

Australia is acquiring eight P-8A Poseidon aircraft at an estimated cost of $4bn for replacement of the RAAF’s ageing fleet of AP-3C Orions.

The P-8A is a derivative of Boeing ‘s next-generation 737-800 platform. It is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft designed to ensure maximum interoperability in the future battle space.

The aircraft is capable of conducting broad-area maritime and littoral operations. It is expected to provide Australia with an advanced maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response capability to undertake operations and activities in support of the national interest.

Delivery of the first Poseidon will take place in 2017 to RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, and all eight aircraft are scheduled to become fully operational by 2021.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to consider options for procurement of additional aircraft, subject to the outcomes of the next defence white paper.


Image: The Royal Australian Air Force’s first P-8A Poseidon aircrew at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, US. Photo: courtesy of © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.