Australia’s fleet of P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft is complete following the arrival of the 12th Boeing-built aircraft at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.

Announced by the Australian Government, the delivery caps off a process that began with the arrival of the first P-8A in Australia in November 2016.

The P-8As have already been used for Australian border protection surveillance (Operation Resolute); in a multi-national effort to monitor the movement of maritime cargo into North Korea (Operation Argos), and to support international efforts to promote maritime security in the Middle East (Operation Manitou).

The P-8A Poseidon and the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft (UAS), are replacing the AP-3C Orion aircraft.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the cutting edge anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft will enhance Australia’s maritime security.

“The aircraft can be refuelled while flying by tanker aircraft such as Australia’s KC-30A, making it possible to patrol Australia’s isolated Southern Ocean territories,” Minister Reynolds said.

The 2016 Australian Defence White Paper flagged 15 new Poseidon P-8As with the Australian Government so far committing to 12. The White Paper also flagged seven unmanned MQ-4C Triton aircraft to complement the P-8A on border patrol and maritime surveillance.

Two of an initial six of the unmanned Tritons have been approved with the first aircraft expected to be delivered to the RAAF in 2023.

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Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

12 Poseidon’s and 6 Tritons! Wow! Well done to the RAAF! Real cutting edge maritime patrol capability, especially with refuelling from KC-30A. We’re getting only nine, no Tritons and can’t refuel them with Voyager, although many offers for boom equipped aircraft have been made by Airbus/AirTanker, all rejected by MoD (although great interest from some sectors in the RAF)

Helions
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Helions

Interesting that the USN is signalling it will stop ~ 18 short of its stated 132 P8 requirement. Either the Triton buy will be upped or the USN has decided that it’s to vulnerable to China in the far WestPac and SCS.

Cheers

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

Thanks Helions. You’re always full of good info. Maybe just a budgetary issue?

Helions
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Helions

Thank you S.R., it’s very possibly a budget issue combined with a major force structure assessment ongoing in the USN. The sacred cow of 38 amphibious vessels is currently under review as well.

https://news.usni.org/2019/12/13/report-to-congress-on-navy-lpd-17-flight-ii-amphibious-ship-program-2

Cheers

Herodotus
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If the MOD were a catering firm, they wouldn’t be able to victual a woodpecker in Sherwood Forest!

Jason Holmes
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Jason Holmes

I think its more to do with AirTanker, I remember reading that they have some clause preventing booms being fitted…

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

Nope, nothing to do with AirTanker. Nothing in the contract to prevent it from happening. I was an AirTanker director for a number of years. It’s a mixture of budgets and formally endorsed RAF Requirement. Just because a few RAF Seniors want it doesn’t mean it becomes and endorsed requirement at defence staffs level and has a plan and budget allocated to it. In fact offered to ease the situation by offering modified second hand A330s and Airbus offered to take back some Surplus Voyagers. Also the PFI mezzanine loan facility could be used to ease MoD cash-flow issues but… Read more »

Peter Crisp
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Peter Crisp

When does the contract expire?

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

I think it’s due to expire in 2034?

TwinTiger
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TwinTiger

So the RAF pilot cadre who fly C-17As, P-8As, RC-135Ws and soon E-7As (and maybe F-35As) have to continue to rely solely on ally tankers for air refuelling training.

Similarly, the RAF cannot support air refuelling of allied jets who utilise boom refuelling.

Seems very limiting when it comes to a coalition environment.

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

Yep. RAF hate it. Limited to refuelling USN F-18s and French Rafale over Syria/Iraq when their Australian counterparts refuelling anything and everything

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JohnN
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JohnN

Certainly been another good year for the RAAF, a very good 2019. As mentioned the 12th and last P-8A delivered, still the option for another three airframes (fingers crossed). The 7th KC-30A was also delivered, and still the option for another two airframes (fingers crossed too). The 49th and last Pilatus PC-21 was also recently delivered (replacing the PC-9A). The VIP fleet also received it’s 3rd and last new Falcon 7X replacing the Challenger 604s (the two Boeing BBJs are to be retained and upgraded). Approval was given for the first two of six MQ-4C Triton (there is also the… Read more »

Helions
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Helions

A VERY tidy (not so little) Air Force “Down Under”.

Cheers

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

Fantastic stuff! A real Air Force with broad spectrum capability. One day they’ll do the right thing and replace those shitty C-130Js with some A400Ms too (-:

JohnN
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JohnN

Sceptical Richard, Mate, those 12 ‘shitty’ C-130J-30s you mentioned have still got at least another 10-15 good years of RAAF service life ahead of them (no A400Ms in the short term, sorry!!). The RAAF Herc fleet has been receiving regular upgrades and enhancements including external fuel tanks for longer range, the LAIRCM protection system has just reached FOC, upgrades to IFF systems, installation of high speed SATCOM, and another interesting project has been the testing of integrating the NG Lightening AT targeting EO/IR pod (the RAAF will have about 40 pods available for re-use from the retiring Classic Hornet fleet).… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

I was only joking John. Most 400M issues resolved now. Problem is it’s still experiencing no better than 55% availability. Very complex aircraft with immature support structures in place. A bit like the F-35 programme? Difference being the yanks will throw billions at it which the Europeans haven’t got.

Peter Crisp
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Peter Crisp

Even with the number they’ve bought Australia has a vast coast so how do they compare with the UK on operational area for each aircraft?
The UK aircraft can quite quickly cover the entire country which isn’t the case for Australia.

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

In our case 9 should be just about enough to cover the protection of the CASD, with little to no capacity left for covering deployments of the carriers. Will have to rely on allies for that…

Peter Crisp
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Peter Crisp

Lets for arguments sake say the UK just bungs 3 in the middle of the country that should be enough for search and rescue unless we expect a barrage of shipwrecks for some reason.
That should leave 5 for carrier protection (1 left as a spare in case they need to show up at an emergency airshow) which should do the job shouldn’t it?

Peter Crisp
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Peter Crisp

I just had a thought. There’s going to be loads of cheap A380’s floating about why not just buy some and stick them at Heathrow and just use them for basic mark 1 eyeball (it’s got lots of windows) searching?
Cheap as chips.

Rob
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Rob

I’m not sure there is anything cheap about the A380s, hence why the order book has ended.

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

9 aircraft means that in peacetime you’ll normally generate about 3 for frontline operational readiness, 5 at a push. So during periods when the CASD was approaching or departing UK waters that would probably mean your entire fleet tied up for the duration with only one or two aircraft to spare. In the event you had to deploy a force of 3 or 4 aircraft into a theatre of operations to provide cover to one of the carriers, that would leave us severely compromised if we were called to do anything else. Although some argue the CASD has already been… Read more »

JohnN
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JohnN

Peter Crisp, You are correct, in Oz we do have a vast maritime area to cover, but the RAAF P-8A fleet won’t be operating alone, don’t forget the MQ-4C Triton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_O3spdRcEE One Triton can operate at above 50,000ft for between 24-30hrs in a single mission. The RAAF is following the USN model of having an approx. 2/1 ratio of Poseidon to Triton in operation. Tritons can be out there doing the ‘donkey’ work, day in, day out, in all weather 24hrs a day, Poseidon can then be focused or more critical missions. I think 12 (+3 options) Poseidon working with… Read more »

Nick Bowman
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Nick Bowman

John, I think you indirectly hit on an important point. Australia is many times larger than the UK. You have much more water to monitor than the UK. Of course, you could argue that the UK faces a greater submarine threat, but that isn’t so clear cut anymore with the huge number of submarines now deployed by China.