Personnel from 120 Squadron and the Poseidon Line Squadron have started training at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, say the Ministry of Defence.
There are just over eight months until the delivery of the first British Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
According to the MoD, the initial cadre of 38 personnel drawn from RAF Lossiemouth, are a mix of aircrew and engineers and will be trained on the US Navy training squadron, Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30).
“RAF personnel will be trained in the USA during the next three years before the RAF transitions to train all their P-8A Poseidon personnel in the UK at RAF Lossiemouth. Each training course is tailored to the role and trade of the trainee and takes approximately 6-months to complete.
VP-30 trains over 600 students per year as well as overseeing the US Navy transition from P-3 Orion to P-8A Poseidon MPA for all the US Navy’s front-line squadrons. Despite such a large workload, the squadron is excited and eager to train its oldest allies – the RAF.”
Air Commodore Iain Gale, the Senior Responsible Owner for the P-8A Programme, said:
“This first cadre of RAF aircrew and engineers undertaking training on the P-8A Poseidon mark the resurgence of the RAF’s long range maritime patrol capability. The P-8A Poseidon will enhance the UK’s maritime patrol capability with advanced, state-of-the-art, Anti-Submarine Warfare and Anti-Surface Warfare sensors. The first Poseidon aircraft will enter RAF service in October 2019, initially at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and will arrive in Scotland in Spring 2020, bringing future opportunities for hi-tech employment to Scotland.
The first aircraft’s components are being manufactured now and the first aircraft will begin construction in the next few weeks. This is an exciting time for RAF Lossiemouth, Morayshire and the personnel who will be part of this force.”
Last year, evidence submitted to the Defence Select Committee argued that seven additional P-8 Poseidon aircraft should be acquired, bringing the total fleet to 16 aircraft.
Written evidence submitted by Air Vice-Marshal Andrew L Roberts (Retd) states that:
“SDSR 15 proposed that nine P-8 Poseidon MPA be acquired. At the time, the P-8 was the only MPA on the market capable of meeting the UK’s needs in a reasonable timescale. Given the urgency of filling this acknowledged gap in the Defence Programme, the Government was undoubtedly justified in selecting that aircraft without going out to competition.
However, capable though the P-8 may be, the number of aircraft planned is undoubtedly inadequate to fulfil even the highest priority tasks likely to be assigned to the force in tension and hostilities.”
The submission concluded that the planned force of only nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft would be insufficient to guarantee concurrent continuous cover for both the UK deterrent and other vital tasks, including CVA protection, in tension and hostilities. It claimed that to remedy this situation, seven additional P-8s should be acquired, bringing the total fleet to 16 aircraft, noting that any additional aircraft would need to be ordered before Q2, 2019.