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New Zealand P-8A conducts first flight

The first of four P-8A Poseidon aircraft being built for New Zealand has flown in the United States. (Boeing)

The first of four Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft ordered by New Zealand has conducted its first test flight.

In a statement, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) said that the aircraft's first flight was conducted “ahead of its systems fit-out”. The aircraft conducted its maiden flight in the United States on 16 August.

The flight took place five months after the keel was laid down for the first aircraft on 16 March in Boeing's Wichita factory. The fuselage was subsequently moved for assembly to Boeing's 737 factory in Renton, Washington, in April.

Assembly of the airframe had been completed by July, and on 21 July, the aircraft was dispatched to the paint shop.

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the project is “on schedule to replace the P-3K2 Orion fleet from 2023”. New Zealand's fleet of six P-3K2 Orion aircraft has been in service since 1966.

“Like the Orions, the Poseidon aircraft will deliver support to New Zealand's peace and security operations, maritime surveillance, resource protection, [and] humanitarian and disaster responses,” the MoD added.

Work is progressing at Base Ohakea to house the aircraft. The MoD announced on 27 May that a 500 tonne roof had been lifted into place above a new building being built to support the P-8A fleet.

The building includes two hangars, maintenance and support facilities, warehousing for spare parts, and a mission support centre.

New Zealand has invested NZD250 million (USD157.5 million) on infrastructure improvements to support the P-8As at the airbase.

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