New Zealand picks P-8A Poseidon as its new maritime patrol aircraft

New Zealand is buying four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft from the United States to replace its ageing Orions, the government announced July 9.

Illustration: US Navy photo of a P-8A Poseidon aircraft

The four aircraft will replace the six P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) that have been operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force since the 1960s. The current Orion fleet will reach the end of their expected operational life in 2025.

The new P-8As, training systems, infrastructure and introduction into service costs will total NZD2.346 billion, according to the government. They will be delivered and begin operations from 2023.

“The purchase ensures the defense force can continue to deliver the country’s maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster response around New Zealand and across the South Pacific,” said New Zealand defense minister Ron Mark.

The defense minister said the purchase would allow New Zealand to work more efficiently with current, and future, P-8A operators. New Zealand closest neighbor Australia has so far received six of the 12 planned P-8As and the UK and Norway are already looking at ways to enhance their MPA cooperation in the North Atlantic.

“The purchase enables New Zealand to continue to deploy in a wide range of airborne maritime situations independently, and when required, work effectively with partners including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which all operate, or will operate, the aircraft,” says Ron Mark.

Announcing the decision, the government said the P-8A was the most cost-effective maritime patrol aircraft option available.

No. 5 Squadron, which currently operates the Orions, will shift from Whenuapai to Ohakea air force base to operate the P-8As.

New Zealand will also consider options for a complementary maritime surveillance capability during the forthcoming Defence Capability Plan review, due to be completed by the end of 2018.

“The complementary capability will consider smaller manned aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or satellites, for additional maritime surveillance tasks within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and near region. This will free up the new P-8A fleet to fly more missions, in the South Pacific and further afield,” said Ron Mark.

New Zealand will use the P-8As for maritime surveillance, humanitarian aid and disaster response, and resource protection around NZ and in the South Pacific. Global peace and security operations will also be one of the tasks in addition to search and rescue in New Zealand’s region.