UK receives final Poseidon MMA

by Gareth Jennings

ZP809 arrives at RAF Lossiemouth on 11 January. As with ZP808, the aircraft has yet to be given a formal name. (Crown Copyright)

The United Kingdom has received its ninth and final Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime multimission aircraft (MMA), with ZP809 arriving at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lossiemouth in Scotland on 11 January.

The milestone brings to an end a two-year delivery run that began with the arrival of ZP801 Pride of Moray in February 2020. Since then, ZP802 City of Elgin, ZP803 Terence Bulloch DSO DFC, ZP804 Spirit of Reykjavik, ZP805 Fulmar, ZP806 Guernsey's Reply, ZP807 William Barker VC, and ZP808 have all been received. The names for ZP808 and ZP809 have not yet been announced by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

In UK service, the Poseidon is operated by 201 and 120 squadrons, with 54 Squadron serving as the operational conversion unit. Delivery of all nine Poseidon MRA1s is a major milestone in the reconstitution of the UK's airborne maritime patrol capability, which was put on hold in 2010 with the retirement of BAE Systems' Nimrod MR2 and the cancellation of its Nimrod MRA4 replacement.

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Croatia receives first Rafale fighter from France

by Gareth Jennings

The first of 12 Rafales was officially handed over to Croatia on 2 October. (Croatian MoD)

Croatia received the first of 12 Dassault Rafale combat aircraft from France on 2 October, the Croatian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced.

Aircraft tail number 170 was officially handed over to the Croatian MoD during a ceremony at the French Air and Space Force (Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace: AAE) base at Mont-de-Marsan.

The event, attended by Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić and other high-ranking national political and military figures, came some 28 months after Croatia selected in May 2021 for 12 Rafales to replace its ageing MiG-21s. A deal for EUR1.15 billion (USD1.21 billion) was signed in November 2021, with payments to run from 2021 to 2026.

The 12 surplus AAE Rafale aircraft comprise 10 single- and two twin-seaters at the F3-R standard. Further to these aircraft, Croatia is receiving simulators, training, and other support to run through until the final quarter of 2026. Aircraft deliveries are due to be completed in 2025.

The Croatian Air Force and Air Defence (AFAD) intends to operate the Rafale until the early 2050s.

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Lockheed Martin flies first F-16 for Slovakia

by Gareth Jennings

The first of 14 F-16 Block 70 aircraft for Slovakia made its maiden flight in the US on 29 September. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin flew the first F-16C Block 70 Fighting Falcon multirole combat aircraft for Slovakia at its Greenville production facility in South Carolina on 29 September.

The first of 12 single-seat F-16C and two twin-seat F-16D Block 70 aircraft for the Slovak Air Force made its maiden flight about three weeks after being officially presented to the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic on 6 September.

Slovakia signed for its F-16s in December 2018, in a EUR1.6 billion (then valued at USD1.8 billion) procurement contract that also included Raytheon AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, as well as training and support.

Aircraft deliveries to Slovakia will commence from the second quarter (Q2) of 2024, from which time they will replace Russian-built MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum' aircraft that Slovakia has already retired and donated to Ukraine.

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UK stratospheric HAPS project enters next phase

by Olivia Savage

SNC's HAB will participate in the second phase of the UK's Project Aether. (Sierra Nevada Corporation)

The UK has selected two companies – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Airbus subsidiary AALTO – to compete in the second phase of Project Aether, Janes learnt.

Project Aether is a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) programme that seeks an unmanned stratospheric ultra-persistent communication and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability or high altitude platform station (HAPS).

The second phase will see SNC's high altitude balloon (HAB) and AALTO's Zephyr 8 fixed-wing higher than air (HTA) aircraft fly in 2024 for a minimum of 30 days in the North America and Atlantic area, a spokesperson from the Aether programme told Janes on 26 September.

According to the spokesperson, the aim of this phase is to shape the MoD's understanding of what is feasible, and will involve, among other tests, assessing whether HABs can station keep and whether the platforms can be directed to specific locations of interest.

Janes understands the platforms are expected to fly for thousands of miles.

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The United Kingdom has received its ninth and final Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime multimission ...

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