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.