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Boeing starts construction of P-8A Poseidons for New Zealand

Construction has begun on the first of four P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft ordered by New Zealand. (Boeing)

Boeing has started building the first of four P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft ordered by New Zealand.

The four aircraft are set to replace New Zealand's fleet of six ageing P-3K2 Orion aircraft, which have been in service since 1966, according to New Zealand's Ministry of Defence (MoD).

A keeling ceremony on 16 March at the Spirit AeroSystems facility in Wichita, Kansas, marked the second keel moving through the factory. The first fuselage was placed on a rail to ship to the Boeing Commercial Airplanes facility in Renton, Washington, for the final assembly.

Boeing added that the panel and other fuselage components will be completed on Spirit's existing 737 production line. Boeing Defense, Space & Security employees will install mission systems and complete all testing prior to delivery to New Zealand.

Mike Yardley, deputy secretary (Capability Delivery) at the MoD said in a press statement that the project is on schedule. “We anticipate the first aircraft will arrive in Aotearoa in December this year,” he added.

Rosemary Banks, New Zealand's ambassador to the United States, who witnessed the laying of the keel beam said that “our four P-8A Poseidons will better equip our defence forces to extend their reach into the Pacific and beyond, working with our partners and friends”.

The New Zealand MoD added that the aircraft will provide “advanced capabilities to maintain situational awareness in neighbouring waters on and below the surface of the ocean”.

According to the MoD, a new facility is being built at the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Ohakea, where the four aircraft will operate with the No 5 Squadron.

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