A RAAF Poseidon has made its longest-ever trip to Sicily as part of Operation Sea Guardian 22.
The training exercise aims to deter terrorism and enhance capacity building in the region. The P-8A will be based in Italy, operating in the western and central Mediterranean until mid-October 2022.
“This is the first time a RAAF P-8A has travelled this far, and it’s our first visit to the region,” said Commanding Officer 11 Squadron Wing Commander Adam Saber.
“This is an excellent opportunity to collaborate with the United States Navy P-8s and test our ability to operate with NATO in the Mediterranean.”
A RAAF contingent of 60 personnel is supporting the mission, including aircrews, technicians, security force, communications specialists, and logisticians.
The team also had the opportunity to meet some of the US Navy P-8 Squadron personnel for a group photograph, above. Patches and handshakes were exchanged, along with shared stories of the aircraft and operation.
“This was an opportune moment to catch two busy crews together on the tarmac at Naval Air Station Sigonella,” WGCDR Saber said.
“It does not capture all the countries involved but it does demonstrate the close relationship we have with our partners here.”
The RAAF P-8 Poseidon is a maritime patrol aircraft used for various roles, including reconnaissance and search and rescue.
Last year, the federal government announced it is to purchase an additional two P-8A Poseidons, taking Australia’s total fleet to 14.
The Boeing-built P-8A is a military variant initially based on Boeing’s workhorse narrow-body 737 Next Generation.
It’s equipped with advanced sensors and mission systems, including a multi-role radar, high-definition cameras, a high-processing acoustic system, and an extensive communications suite.
Australia’s fleet is based at RAAF Base Edinburgh and was introduced to partially replace the RAAF’s fleet of AP-3C Orions, together with the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system.
The news comes months after the aircraft rose to mainstream prominence when a Chinese J-16 cut across the nose of the aircraft in May in what Defence called a “dangerous manoeuvre”.
The incident, which sparked a diplomatic incident, took place over the South China Sea and saw the fighter jet accelerate so close to the Australian aircraft that a “bundle of chaff” was ingested into its engine.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said the P-8 returned back to base safely but added the incident would not deter the RAAF from continuing to fly over the disputed area.