The U.K. Royal Air Force took delivery of the first of nine P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft at an unveiling ceremony in Seattle, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday, October 31.
Designated Poseidon MRA1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the first RAF Poseidon is expected to arrive in Scotland in early 2020 and the fleet will be based at RAF Lossiemouth and operated by 120 Squadron. All nine aircraft will be delivered by November 2021.
Following the ceremony, the aircraft was flown to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, where RAF personnel are being trained to operate it.
In January, Boeing was awarded an almost $2.5 billion contract to produce 19 Poseidon aircraft for the U.S. Navy, Norway and the U.K.
The Poseidon MRA1 is designated for extended surveillance missions at both high and low altitudes, and is equipped with sensors that use high-resolution area mapping to find both surface and sub-surface threats.
The aircraft can carry up to 129 sonobuoys – small detection devices which are dropped from the aircraft into the sea to search for enemy submarines.
The P-8 Poseidon is designed to operate alongside the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance drone.
The RAF Poseidons will be armed with Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles and Mk 54 torpedoes capable of attacking both surface and sub-surface targets.
Last May, then-U.K. Minister for Defence Procurement Guto Bebb and his Norwegian counterpart Tone Skogen discussed plans for operational cooperation between the two nations and their P-8 fleets in the North Atlantic, including sharing training, spares and repair facilities.