The British Ministry of Defence has confirmed that it signed a deal to purchase nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) for the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Boeing’s P-8A MPA are being purchased from the US Government via a Foreign Military Sale.
According to the MoD, the cost of developing and delivering the UK’s MPA capability, including paying for the people, their training, the infrastructure and necessary support at RAF Lossiemouth will be around £3 billion over the next decade.
Speaking at the start of the Farnborough Airshow, Prime Minister David Cameron said that Boeing would commit about £100 million to the Lossiemouth base.
Tony Douglas, Chief Executive Officer of the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said: “The P-8A aircraft was the best solution to fill our maritime patrol aircraft capability gap; it is tried, tested and can be delivered in the timeline we need.”
The new aircraft, which will be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, will play a vital role in protecting the UK’s nuclear deterrent and the UK’s two new aircraft carriers. They will also be able to locate and track hostile submarines, and will enhance the UK’s maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) capability. This capability will also bring economic benefits to Scotland and the wider UK, with an additional 400 personnel based at RAF Lossiemouth, the ministry said.
The P-8A can operate at long range from its operating base without refuelling and has the endurance to carry out high and low-level airborne maritime and overland surveillance for extended periods. This aircraft will also be able to conduct wide-area search of open ocean to locate small boats and drop rescue life-rafts and equipment to vessels and people in distress.
The P-8A is based on the Boeing 737, which is already supplied by UK industry. UK manufacturers already provide specialist sub-systems for the P-8 itself. Companies include Marshall for the auxiliary fuel tanks, Martin Baker for the crew seats and General Electric for weapon pylons. The new order of P-8As is also set to create opportunities for the UK to bid for training and support contracts.
First aircraft are expected to arrive in the UK in 2019/2020.