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New Zealand's first P-8A drives fleet transition

New Zealand's first P-8A arrives at RNZAF Base Ohakea on 13 December. (NZDF)

The arrival of the first new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) in New Zealand will see Royal New Zealand Air Force's (RNZAF's) No 5 Squadron move to its new base at RNZAF Base Ohakea.

No 5 Squadron will transfer from Auckland to Ohakea after the retirement of the remaining fleet of three P-3K2 Orion aircraft at the end of January 2023 – six months earlier than planned.

It will also see the ramp up of the training of RNZAF aircrew and maintenance personnel. The first P-8A landed at RNZAF Base Ohakea on 13 December. It was flown by US Navy pilots with stopovers in Hawaii and Fiji en route to New Zealand.

A spokesperson said that a number of acceptance checklists will need to be run through before the aircraft can be brought fully into service with the RNZAF. This include adding a New Zealand-specific kit, including lifevests and first-aid equipment.

“Following the first flight, crews will begin a short period of test and evaluation to ensure the first operational release can occur by mid-2023. This operational release will include maritime surveillance in NZ and the Pacific, including search-and-rescue and disaster response operations,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson explained that all interim operational releases and the final operational releases “involve all four P-8A Poseidons that encompass the NZ fleet”. The remaining three aircraft will be delivered by mid-2023.

Most of the P-8A crews in No 5 Squadron will come from the crews for the existing P-3K2 Orion MPA that are being retired after more than 50 years in operational service. However, there will be some new trainees that are supplied through the RNZAF flying training system.

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