The Boeing-built P-8A Poseidon is the multi-mission maritime patrol, initially based off Boeing’s classic workhorse B737NG. The Poseidon excels at anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and search and rescue. It has a maximum height of up to 41,000ft and can fly at speeds up to 490 knots.
Australia currently houses one P-8A at RAAF Base Edinburgh, north of Adelaide, South Australia. The Poseidon will form a vital part in the future of Australia’s maritime patrol and response strategy, with an additional 13 P-8A aircraft already approved for acquisition, as of January 2021. RAAF's first Poseidon was delivered on 16 November 2016, and the remaining 13 P-8A jets will be delivered by March 2023. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the first eight P-8A aircraft is scheduled for 2017-2020.
The Poseidon was introduced to partially replace the RAAF’s fleet of AP-3C Orions, together with the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system. The P-8A is equipped with advanced sensors and mission systems, including a multi-role radar, high-definition cameras and an acoustic system that is said to boast four times the processing capacity of the AP-3C’s, as well as an extensive communications suite. An internal fuel capacity of almost 34 tonnes allows the P-8A to conduct low-level anti-submarine warfare missions at a distance of greater than 2,000 kilometres from base. The P-8A will be compatible for air-to-air refuelling with the KC-30A MRTT.
In January, Defence Minister Reynolds said, “Together, the Poseidon and the Triton will provide Australia with one of the most advanced maritime patrol and response capabilities in the world. The Poseidon is a proven capability that will conduct tasks including anti-submarine warfare, maritime and overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and support to search and rescue missions.
“These additional aircraft will enhance Air Force’s flexibility to support multiple operations and will play an important role in ensuring Australia’s maritime region is secure for generations to come.”