The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has declared initial operating capability (IOC) for the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft (MMA), five months ahead of schedule.
The milestone, which was announced by the service on 20 March, comes with six of the 12 aircraft currently under contract now at the type’s homebase of RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia. A further three aircraft are currently going through the approval process for a final fleet of 15.
Australia acquired the P-8A to replace the 19 Lockheed AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft that have been in service since the 1960s. The 15 P-8As will be operated in tandem with seven Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), which will be acquired once development has been completed by the manufacturer and the US Navy (USN).
Deliveries to the Australia began in November 2016, since which time 10 and 11 Squadron have been building up the P-8A’s capabilities. As part of this standing-up process, the RAAF has sent its crews to train alongside USN and UK Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel at the Integrated Test Center (ITC) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville in Florida.
Australia's P-8A programme dates back to June 2007 when the government committed AUD150 million (USD116 million in today’s money) to jointly develop the platform with the USN. A further AUD100 million was committed in December 2011, with another AUD73.9 million following in October 2012.
In February 2014 the Australian government announced its approval for the acquisition of eight P-8As for AUD4 billion, with a further four being announced in July 2016. The final three were committed to in the 2016 Defence White Paper but are yet to be contracted. A total of AUD5 billion has been invested in the P-8A and MQ-4C programmes to date by Australia.
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