New Zealand P-8A Poseidon acquisition one step closer?

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon sits next to a RNZAF P-3K2 Orion (and a RAAF AP-3C) at RAAF Base Pearce in January 2016. (Defence)

New Zealand’s possible acquisition of the P-8A Poseidon is a step closer after the US Department of State approved the sale of up to four of the maritime surveillance aircraft.

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to New Zealand for P-8A aircraft and associated support,” a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification stated on April 28.

“The estimated cost is [US]$1.46 billion.”

As well as the aircraft and their systems, the DSCA says the acquisition would also comprise: “support equipment; operation support systems; maintenance trainer/classrooms; publications; software, engineering, and logistics technical assistance; foreign liaison officer support, contractor engineering technical services; repair and return; transportation; aircraft ferry; and other associated training, support equipment and services.”

New Zealand has a requirement to replace the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s six upgraded P-3K2 Orions by mid-2025 under the Future Air Surveillance Capability project.

A NZDF spokesperson told Radio New Zealand that the US approval of the P-8A acquisition was non-binding, that the likely cost would be less than the estimated US$1.46bn (NZ$2.13bn), and that the offer would be considered over coming months.

Other known contenders for the P-3K2 replacement requirement include the Airbus DS C295 MPA, a maritime surveillance development of Embraer’s E2 regional jet, and Japan’s Kawasaki P-1.

New Zealand has also been considering unmanned aircraft to augment the P-3K2 replacement in the maritime surveillance role, with likely options including the General Atomics Guardian (a variant of the Predator B) and the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton.

Australia is acquiring 15 P-8As, suggesting opportunities for trans-Tasman cooperation in training and maintenance support for the aircraft.

Australia is buying 15 P-8As. (Defence)


  1. Jim says

    Would this see a change of maritime aircraft base being moved from Whenuapai to Ohakea due to the limited runway at NZWP?

  2. Nicholas says

    It will be good to see the RNZAF get any planes let alone good new ones. You’d hope that they will have commonality with ours here in Australia.

  3. Jasonp says

    I know NZ is rightly keen to retain sovereign capability, but if it’s smart it’ll look to combine logistics and support with Australia’s fleet of 15 aircraft in order to reduce sustainment costs.

  4. Sam says

    It would make sense to be replacing the P-3’s with the P-8’s and following Australia’s lead for maritime surveillance. The next announcement will be what the RNZAF is going to replace the C-130H with? KC-390 or C-130J with a couple of A-400’s in the mix and that would give the RNZAF some serious muscle to shift troops, helicopters and cargo. Good to see government putting some serious $ into investing in the NZDF.

  5. Fabian says

    Either way, for replacing p-3k, c-130h, 757, upgrade or replacement for the NZLAV, frigate replacement or major upgrade and possibly other type of fixed wing aircraft. It will be expensive, great to see NZ will spend much more in defence over the next 10 years, it will be up to Donald trump standards soon enough at 2% of GDG

  6. PAUL says

    My estimations were about right for 4 P8’s….. now all we need is a few Tritons! Whenuapai already operates the B757 so should cope with a B737 based Airframe no problem.. New Transports now there’s a tricky one, . C130J is a familiar platform but KC390 is a strong contender, Turbofan engines over Turboprops, faster cruise speeds when flying remotely from down under when you want to get supplies somewhere quickly for Disaster relief or Military operations.. Whatever it is it should be able to carry the NH90. Possibly a fleet of A400M’s would cover all bases unless there is a mix needed?

  7. Mick181 says

    Paul the way i see it with the future tpt Ac it will come down to a choice ot 2. The C-13pJ or the A400M. The KC-390 is a promising aircraft but the risks are high, you are buying from a country and company without any experience in building or exporting large Turboprop Military transports and at this stage there is only a handfull ordered.
    The A400 is bigger and more capable then the C-130 but that comes at a cost, there is no doubt that you wlill get more Hercs for the same amount of money. Probably something like 4 A400s to 6 or 7 Hercs so it is going to come down to what best suits the Kiwis the greater lift capability the A400 has or the greater numbers of Hercs you will get. An Aircraft can only be in 1 place at a time.

  8. Sam says

    The more I see of the KC-390 the more I like it over the C-130J but as Mick correctly states it would make the RNZAF one of first countries to be using it. I feel that might be where the C-130J gets the nod over the KC-390. The A-400 would complement either aircraft very nicely, to me the RNZAF has to be seriously considering the A-400 to shift NH-90s and LAV’s.

  9. ngatimozart says

    The P-8A looking like a likely acquisition because when the NZ Govt went through the acquisition process for the C-17A, the acquisition was cancelled before the reached the FMS step. That is why I think that a NZ acquisition of the P-8A is quite feasible. With that in mind and the A400M as the probable front runner in the first part of the Future Air Mobility Capability, the KC-46A is looking more serious as the B757 replacement. It would be an enabler for increasing both the P-8A and A400M range, especially with reference to the NZ Govts focus on the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Based on cost alone, Airbus would have offer NZ a very good deal for them to consider the KC-30A, because there is a significant cost difference between the KC-46A and the KC-30A, plus the KC30A is somewhat large for NZs needs.

  10. Jasonp says

    ngatimozart – you and Corey need to get together. KC-46A???

    The A400M is hard to love due to the immaturity of that program and because the Kiwis are about as far as someone can get from an already too-thin sustainment pipeline. I’m not convinced the C-17 option is dead yet…

  11. John N says


    I wouldn’t put Ngatimozart and Corey in the same boat (I know NG personally and he ain’t no Corey, ok?).

    KC-46A is not as silly as it sounds, the Kiwi’s are intending to replace both the 5 C-130H and the 2 B757’s (apart from the P-3K2’s) as well.

    A couple of KC-46A’s would be a pretty good (and logical in my opinion), replacement for the 2 B757’s. Both types have a cargo and passenger capability and of course the KC-46A would add an AAR capability too, again, I don’t think it’s as silly as it sounds, think about it.

    The A400M, yes still immature, but it is certainly the right sized aircraft for those ‘oversize’ loads that the C-130J can’t do.

    When the RAAF start to look for the introduction of a C-130J replacement in the later 2020’s, I think the A400M will be high on the list.

    C-17A option for the Kiwi’s? Unless the USAF decides to retire/release some of their inventory in the next little while, I wouldn’t be holding my breath, and probably not in the time frame that NZ would be looking for replacement aircraft either.


    John N

  12. Sam says

    KC-46A?? Where did that come from? I haven’t heard anyone in NZ circles discussing that aircraft or find any references to it. C-17, it’s still a hot topic but NZ waited a bit to long and Qatar scooped up the last four whitetails leaving only 1 C-17 on the production line. Just think the C-17 is to pricey for NZ. A very interesting phase to watch the RNZAF undertake as they have to get the aircraft mix spot on as the aircraft are going to be required to do so much in the next 30 years.

  13. Fabian says

    Jasonp, where are they going to get c-17s from, the US? Will the production have to start up again. It’s kind of hard with the c-17 done and ticked off from Boeing. Right now, the a400m comes the closest to the c-17.

  14. Jasonp says

    The RNZAF has no AAR requirement – no where in the tender docs is it mentioned. Why buy a KC-46 then?

    The A400M is marginal for the Antarctic mission.

    There is one C-17 white tail, and the Qatar deal isn’t final yet…

  15. Zippy says

    I think the Kawasaki C2 is still in real contention for the transport fleet replacement, it is the only option that really has the legs to support Antarctic operations and should be able to swallow the NH90 fairly easily, the Japanese will operate there fleet well into the future so support shouldn’t be a major issue.

  16. PAUL says

    Good chatter guys- its a bit like the 1960’s when the RNZAF got a lot of Aircraft replaced by the Herc Orion Huey & A4’s. One has to wonder why Boeing ended C17 production with no replacement Aircraft & still a demand for it??? F15 production line is still open….. other thing to remember is that Embraer have been building successful Commercial aircraft for years & the KC390 is powered by the same turbofans powering the A320, interesting times……

  17. PAUL says

    I have seen this comment by Embraer- looks is if there will be 2 types purchased. so we may see a few A400’s or better the C17 for Antarctic missions & getting across the globe quickly.. (C2?)

    – In November 2016, Embraer responded to a Request For Information (RFI) for replacing the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s five C-130 Hercules by offering five KC-390s. Embraer CEO Jack Schneider stated the company was in advanced talks on offering the KC-390 to New Zealand. A decision is expected in mid 2017.[67]

  18. ngatimozart says

    @ Sam: No the KC-46 is not being mentioned in NZ circles because it has only come into possible contention now because of the probable P-8 acquisition.

    @ Jasonp: The RFI for the FASC specifically requested information about AAR capability both as a receiver and as a deliverer. Why is the A400M marginal for the McMurdo mission? Without AAR it can still deliver a reasonable load and return without the requirement of a PSR. However with AAR capability, a far larger load could be delivered. Whilst the C-17A would have been ideal, one on its lonesome is not good and a waste of money. The is no way that we can get another one to keep it company now unless the US start up the production line again and short of a major crisis, that is not going to happen. Begging, borrowing, or stealing some off the USAF is not an option now either.

    @ Zippy: Whilst the C-2 looks good, it would be far riskier than the A-400M over its whole term of life, because of ongoing sustainment / maintenance risk. Basically it would be an orphan in RNZAF service, plus it doesn’t have rough field capability.

  19. Josh James says

    Why not get three KC-30s to replace the B757? Proven over Syria and Iraq, very versatile and with RAAF support, cheap to run. Should retain AAR function for use in coalition support as well. Atlas to replace Herc sounds good but small field capability is a must.

  20. Fabian says

    simple- either a400m or c-17 replacement for c-130, p-8 to replace p-3. kc-30 to replace 757

  21. Derrick says

    As for the P1 and C2, the only issue is long term maintenance and support. Currently the Japanese government is looking to sell military hardware outside of Japan, but…. The current Japanese government has made amendments to the Constitution to sell military hardware and technology abroad but all it take is a new government to revert the changes. Hence why the Australian went with DCNS to build the next gen submarines. So I’m guessing the NZ government look at all the options and choose the one with the less risk.

    As for the C-130 and 757 replacement, he options could be the A400 with C295, KC-390, C-130J with C-27J

  22. Sam says

    Enjoying the comments here guys, guess we have to wait and see what the RNZAF decide but it could be very stiff competition from all the aviation companies such as Airbus, Embraer and Lockheed Martin. Be interesting to see who gets over the line as there are some great aircraft in the mix.

  23. Zippy says

    The Japanese have managed to maintain the C1 for an extended period of time I dont see why C2 sustainment would be any different, especially if an export focus was adopted, the Japanese are pretty good at long term support just look at their automotive industry , not sure the same can be said of European Industry, based on my experience

  24. Mick181 says

    The possible sales of 2-3 C-17s to New Zealand and maybe elsewhere is never going to be enough to keep the line open. The only other country who may have ordered more in decent numbers is India but there procurement is an absolute nightmare, Boeing could be waiting 10 yrs for another order. Even if you could get 2nd hand C-17s of the Americans they would be the oldest most worn out Aircraft in the Fleet, now hitting 20 yrs of age.
    The A400 looks to be the best Aircraft for NZ on pure performance but will their budget extend enough to get them in useful numbers, for NZ i would think minimum would be 4 Aircraft to ensure you always have 1 ready to go at short notice.
    NZ will be buying the aircraft for delivery in early 2020s which is probably the perfect timing for the A400 as they should be reaching FOC in the parent Air Forces.

  25. PAUL says

    If you look at the RAF they have C17-A400M-C130J RAAF has C17-C130J-C27 would be good to complement what the RAAF doesn’t have if RNZAF got A400M-KC390

  26. Sam says

    @Mick181 agreed mate.

    I think the KC-390 and A400 would be a great mix, but as most of you have stated the $ may be the deciding factor. x2 A400 and x4 KC390 would be a superb fleet as you have aircraft that can both act as heavy haulers and tactical airlift. I am sure the decision is expected middle of this year on future procurement for the transport fleet. I think the P-8 is a done deal reading between the lines.

  27. Sam says

    @Paul yes a good mix as you have pointed out.

    @zippy- I cant see the RNZAF going with Kawasaki, just my personal opinion. Their aircraft aren’t really used anywhere else around the world apart from Japan. On paper the C-2 is impressive for heavy transport but as Derrick pointed out it would be a bit of a risk to go with the C-2.

  28. Raymond says

    If NZ can’t / won’t have an air combat force, the least they can do is have the best maritime surveillance aircraft… the P-8 and the MQ-4C.

  29. Mick181 says

    Can’t see NZ buying 2 different large airlifters, to expensive to run a mixed fleet it will be either A400s or C-130s or the outsider the KC-390, especially if they are going to get a Airliner type to replace the 757s as well.
    Advantages & disadvantages of each type
    A400 : Is a capable Strategic tpt as well as Tactical, is in service in good numbers with Allied Air Forces and the RNZAF would be able to inbed personnel in a friendle ally especially the RAF to help trg on the Aircraft. Disavantage : high cost per Ac especially compared to the Herc may preclude NZ from buying the req number.
    C-130J : would be a FMS sale so the transition would be a very smooth one. The RNZAF would be transiting from a earlier version of the same Aircraft. Would be able to imbed pers in friendly Allies such as the RAAF. Disavantage is the Herc gives away a fair bit of capability and performance to the other 2.
    KC-390 : Has the advantages of being a Jet so superior speed over the Turbprops, is potentially the best Tactical Airlifter going around. Disavantages are it is not yet in service with the parent Airforce. Country & company has no experience in building this type of Aircraft so the risk of major design & build issues emerging is still quite high. The Brazilian Air Force is not a ally and would still be very busy bringing their own people up to scratch and inbeding would be u likely.
    I really would be seriously surprised if the went with the KC-390 at this time, risk factors too high

  30. Sam says

    @mick181 excellent points. good pro and cons of each type and spot on with what you say. I like the KC390 over the C130J as well and agree it’s the best tactical airlifter on the market.

    I await the decision with interest like everyone else on this page. I think the C-130J has the inside running, the RNZAF have operated Hercs since the 1960’s so easy to move into it for aircrew/training. If they do go with it they still haven’t solved the heavy transport issue of being able lift substantial loads which to me is the real issue highlighted in Cyclone Pam and the 757 nearly having to crash land in Antarctica due to the PNR (Point of No Return). NH-90’s had to be loaded onto HMNZS Canterbury turning up two weeks later, the RAAF was there in 48 hours for Cyclone Pam!!!

    I think the case for two types of transport is justified when you look at the above points but will the kiwi dollar stretch that far? Possibly not.

  31. Dave N says

    Hi all been watching the whole rnzaf replacement of c130,757and p3 thing for a while now and would like to ad my 2 cents ,for what it’s worth.first up c130/757 replacements,c17 out f the question as out of production none on on second hand market and unlikely so in foreseeable future,Kawasaki c2 unlikely ,only used by Japan no other operators likely.c390 well could be interesting,early reports are favourable and would certainly fit the rnzaf requirements but again an immature aircraft and only order by South American countries.c130j proven aircraft fairly straightforward conversion for air and ground crews.reliable cost what I consider a cost effective and viable alternative,3xa400 and 5-6 c295.A400 available now with some European countries looking at cutting their orders,can carry nh90 and nzlav apc can fly the Antarctic missions plus all the air lift missions ac130 can except maybe get into the most astute airstrips.that where the c295 come in ,this aircraft is used all around the world and has proven itself as a very capable aircraft.cost effective and if ordered in conjunction with the a400 I’m sure a good deal can be stuck,any just my 2 cents.

  32. PAUL says

    Sounds like 757 will be replaced by either KC30 or KC46 – KC40 probably too small

    Agree on good points raised on C17-C2 & KC390 SO that leaves A400M-C130J & C295

    A400M would be my choice, I sat in this Aircraft at Avalon 2015 when the French Airforce attended, A Hi Lo mix of A400s & C295’s from the same manufacturer would be great, but realisations of budget will probably see the C130J get the nod for an easy cost effective fit & the NH90s will have to remain 2 weeks late, on a Navy ship for Disaster relief!! Cant see a KC30/46 landing at McMurdo?? Given how bad world events are & affects of global warming creating more cyclones & disasters than I can remember, the NZ Govt needs to bite the bullet & purchase a capable Aircraft like A400M…

  33. Sam says

    The RAF brought the A400 to the Ohakea Air Tattoo and it was really impressive. It dwarfed the RAAF and RCAF C-130J’s and it was amazing what it could hold.

    I personally think the C-130J isn’t an aircraft the RNZAF want taking them into the future but resigned to the fact that it’s probably what they will go with. In other AF’s the C-130J fills a nice hole between C-17’s and C-295/C-27’s but the problem being that the RNZAF has no such aircraft.

    I agree with you Paul in that the A400 is the way to go and you combine that with what the RAAF has and the airlift options for both countries balance very well.

    There is talk about 42 Squadron (which fly King Airs) could be replaced with C-27/C-295 but I haven’t seen any concrete evidence.

  34. PAUL says

    @Sam yes 42 sqn used to have 10 Andovers! and at that time 40sqn had 5 Hercs & 2 B727’s. NZ population back then was about 3million. RNZAF also had to fund Jet training & strike wings. The 727’s got replaced by the 757 & the Andover’s sold, Their Transport workload would have been picked up by the Hercs at greater operational cost & more wear & tear on the C130’s. Why use a 4 engine turboprop for small loads & trips when a smaller twin would suffice.. Rather than buy 2 KC46 from Boeing & 5 or 6 C130J’s from Lockheed Martin, maybe the NZ Govt could crack a deal with Airbus for a bigger buy of a combined fleet stretching the dollar further. For example 2xKC30 – 4xA400M – 4xC295. other scenario is: 2xKC46-6xC130J-4xC27. In time we will see how the crystal ball gazing unfolds….:)

  35. Sam says

    @Paul, yes the Andovers were a good medium aircraft, bad move not replacing them with a proper transport such as the C-27/C-295. King Airs don’t really cut the mustard.

    That might be what Airbus offer the RNZAF, 4x A400 and 3x C-295? I agree they are either going to go completely European A400/C295 or American with C-130J/C-27 with their purchases. I think the C-27’s are compatible with the C-130J but this might be something they look at further down the track for 42 SQN.

    We definitely need a good crystal ball for this purchase.