RAAF P-8A completes first overseas deployment

P-8A A47-001 at Butterworth. (Defence)

An RAAF P-8A Poseidon has completed the maritime surveillance aircraft’s first overseas deployment in Australian service.

P-8A A47-001 has returned from a deployment to Royal Malaysian Air Force Base (RMAF) Butterworth as part of Operation Gateway which saw the aircraft fly routine maritime surveillance observing merchant and naval shipping in the North Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

“Maritime surveillance in this part of the world has been a core mission of Number 92 Wing for decades with the Poseidon’s capabilities well suited to continue this role,” Commander of Surveillance and Response Group Air Commodore Craig Heap said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The aircraft, the aircrew who operate it, and the maintenance and support teams that keep the jet flying, have all performed extremely well during the deployment.”

Operation Gateway is the ADF’s longstanding commitment to operate maritime surveillance patrols in the North Indian Ocean and South China Sea, under which RAAF P-3C and AP-3C Orions have routinely deployed to Butterworth. The AP-3C Orion is progressively being replaced by up to 15 Boeing P-8A Poseidons, the first of which was delivered to Australia in November 2016.

“With this overseas deployment complete, the next step from June through to July will be the completion of the operational evaluation of the Poseidons’s search and rescue capability. This will be another important step as we move toward declaring initial operational capability of the P-8A system,” AIRCDRE Heap said.

P-8A A47-001 touches down at Butterworth. (Defence)


  1. John N says

    Good to see, but not that surprising really.

    Whilst the P-8A is ‘new’ to the RAAF, it has been in operational service with the USN for a number of years now, in fact I read a while back that there have been occasions where USN P-8A’s have been flown with an all Australian crew bar one USN crew member.

    It would appear that IOC and then FOC will happen in a reasonably short space of time, smart procurement.

  2. John N says

    Hi Paul,

    Yes aware that RAAF P-8A aircrews have been in the US (since early 2015) with the USN for training, but (and I can’t find the reference at the moment), what I understood was that the aircrews were with a USN P-8A operational Sqn and had flown operational missions (again with the exception of one USN crew member to make it ‘technically’ a USN operated flight). Anyway, doesn’t really matter either way,

    The main point I was making, because of the very close relationship the RAAF has with the US (especially the USN), the ability for the ADF to have new aircraft procured, via FMS, and also enter service quickly upon arrival here in Oz is a testament to that very close relationship.

    The value of being able to place air and ground crews in the US well ahead of the aircraft delivery is something that is hard to put a price on.

    It’s not just the P-8A that will have a smooth transition into service, the same has happened with F/A-18F, EA-18G, MH-60R, C-17A, CH-47F for example, the same should also apply to F-35A, MQ-4C Triton, MQ-9 Reaper.

    Whilst Reaper is not yet confirmed (pretty certain it will), aircrews have been in the US since early 2015 remotely operating them in Iraq.


    John N

  3. Richard says

    John N

    Too bad the RAN has not learned the same lessons.

    Is there more engineering expertise in the RAAF compared to the RAN or is it all politics?

    The Virginia Class would have been best followed by Soryu Class.

    Lucky they don’t have an aircraft industry in SA who knows what a mess would have been made in that case.

  4. says

    Hi John,I think I heard on the grapevine as well,our F-35 pilots are or will fly American F-35s too to train up some of the yanks.

  5. Mick181 says

    Richard, comparing Aircraft purchasing from the US to ship purchasing is a totally different kettle of fish, while all the Aircraft John named suit Australia perfectly, the same could not be said about USN ships. The Burkes were considered rightly or wrongly too big too expensive and req too big a crew for Australia, same as the Wasps. Their AORs are designed around keeping up with the Carriers so are also very expensive.
    Australia is not going to buy Nuclear Subs for a number of reasons and There is no US equiv to the Euro ASW Frigates and the US has not built & exported a major Warship for more than 20 years.

  6. John N says

    Hi Paul,

    It is much ‘broader’ than that, it’s not just RAAF instructor pilots training US pilots.

    The ‘international’ training Sqn has airframes from a number of the partner nations at its disposal, plus air and ground crews too,

    For example back in November 2015, two Italian pilots did their first flights, one in a USAF F-35A and the other in an RAAF F-35A, with a mixture of international ground crews (including RAAF ground crews), see link below:


    The combination of partner airframes, air and ground crews is endless, all working together, the F-35 program is not just an international ‘industrial’ program, its also an international training program too.


    John N

  7. John N says


    Completely agree with the comments Mick has made, RAAF and RAN procurement is a totally difference kettle of fish as he said.

    It is far simpler for the RAAF (RAN and Army too), when it comes to procuring ‘aviation’ assets, if the aircraft is the ‘correct fit’ then purchasing an off the shelf airframe, via FMS, is a relatively simple and proven process.

    Three examples are, P-8A (RAAF), MH-60R (RAN) and CH-47F (Army), mature and in-production aircraft programs that are easy for the ADF to ‘plug into’ and purchase.

    For the RAN, as Mick points out, it is not as simple as that, the AB’s were considered too big too expensive and a large crew requirement, the USN’s LHD’s are too big for our needs, their AOR’s too, as for nuclear submarines, that has nothing to do with the RAN, it is Government policy (until both sides of politics here ‘agree’ on the Nuclear question, then it’s not going to happen, again, nothing to do with the RAN).

    As for the Future Frigates, again, the USN does not have a design or ship that suits, but of course they will be equipped with weapons and sensors that are compatible with the USN.

    So whilst the RAAF is very good at putting a case forward to Government (and by all reports it is), it is also a lot easier for them than the RAN when it comes to selecting an ‘out of the box’ FMS purchase as opposed to what the RAN is usually faced with.


    John N

  8. says

    Hi John,yes I know that,but 1 thing I didn’t know was an Italian flew a RAAF F-35.Thanks for that info mate.Gee I miss Raymond 😝

  9. says

    Another good development is the Rhino getting upgraded to block 3 config.That will give the F-35 more capability and support.

  10. Corey D says

    Shame we won’t buy a couple of squadrons of Block III Super Hornets. They’d fit in well and increase our capability to deploy domestically and internationally. Plus I believe they’re cheaper to not only buy but to train crews and operate.

  11. John N says


    Shame why?? The RAAF doesn’t want any more Super Hornets, and where does the money come from for these ‘couple of squadrons’, where? What other capability do you want to give up for them?

    Personally I’ll be happy to hear the news when the Super Hornets are to be eventually replaced with the extra 28 F-35A’s.

  12. says

    Hopefully our Rhinos can get updated to block 3.One thing they wil need is the EPE engine upgrade to cope with the extra weight.

  13. Raymond says

    Okay Paul, I’ll take the bait.

    1. There are a lot of things you don’t know about the F-35.

    2. Quick, jump on John N… he just suggested we should finalise the final tranche of F-35’s! Scandalous!

  14. Jasonp says

    Corey – How much is a Block III Super Hornet? Considering Block III hasn’t even been defined, let alone tested, let alone ordered, you have made (another) massive call.

  15. Gary says

    Read the title please – ‘RAAF P8A completes first overseas deployment’ how about we get back on topic! Leave JSF, Rhino etc for another day and a more appropriate article.

  16. says

    Can our supers get upgraded to block 3 without having to buy them? I know we aren’t going to because we are buying the extra squadron of 35s ,but a good move to keep the growlers.

  17. Derrick says

    Slightly back on topic, the US have approved the sale of 4 P-8 TO RNZAF. So I’m guessing the NZ crews will be training with the Australian crews.

  18. John N says


    Whilst the NG Gov has sought and received approval from the US for ‘up to’ four p-8A’s, there has not been an order as yet, approval doesn’t necessarily mean the sale will happen, probably a good chance, but still not a guarantee.

    As for ‘if’ NZ does proceed, I would suspect that ‘initially’ the training of RNZAF crews would happen in the US with the USN, same as what is happening with the RAAF’s procurement, beyond that, it would depend on what capacity the RAAF will have to train future RAAF crews locally plus crews from NZ, too early to know that yet.


    Can our Blk II SHornets be upgraded to Blk III? The configuration of the current Blk II’s will be very much dependent on what the USN does, you have to remember that the RAAF stated that ours would be kept in exactly the ‘same’ configuration as the USN aircraft (for all the reasons of commonality, support, spares, etc).

    If, and again ‘if’, the USN did institute a program to upgrade all the Blk II’s to III, then the possibility exists, probably more so for the RAAF Growler fleet than the SHornet fleet.

    The other factor for the RAAF is ‘timing’, lets not also forget that between 2018-2023, we will see the Classic Hornets leave service and the F-35A enter service, the last thing the RAAF would want is major disruption to the SHornet fleet while all that is going on too.

    Which then brings us to the time the Govt would be about to make the decision to order that last batch of F-35A to replace the Shornets, so why waste money on a major fleet upgrade and then replace them shortly thereafter?

    If Blk III does filter through to the USN’s fleet, then yes I’d imagine the Growler fleet will see an upgrade, Super Hornets, don’t think so.


    John N

  19. Mick181 says

    Derrick NZ hasn’t actually ordered the Aircraft yet, all that has happened is the paperwork has gone to Congress and been passed for a possible FMS sale, which is a must for a future purchase. NZ are stiil weighing up there options. But yes if they do buy them then i would expect to see Kiwi crews in OZ being imbeded with RAAF Sqns as well as in the US.

  20. Jasonp says

    Paul – no decision has been made on the extra squadron of F-35s. That decision will be made in the 2022 timeframe once we have a couple of F-35 squadrons in service and bedded down.

    We already own the Super Hornets, so if a decision were to be made to retain them through the 2030s, I’m sure any Block II elements which are able to be added to existing jets will be considered.

  21. says

    There’s a great article on how the BLK 111 will be in service up until 2050.The ASH will enhance the F-35s capabilities and vice versa.