The RAAF has sent one of its P-8A Poseidons to conduct surveillance on North Korea.
The deployment is part of Operation Argos to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea and deter illegal ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned goods in the region.
The P-8 is a maritime patrol aircraft used for various roles, including reconnaissance and search and rescue. It’s a military variant initially based on Boeing’s workhorse narrow-body 737 Next Generation.
Joint Operations Chief Lieutenant General Greg Bilton said Australia has deployed RAAF maritime patrol aircraft on 11 occasions and RAN vessels eight times in support of the operation since 2018.
“Operation Argos reinforces Australia’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and directly contributes to maintaining the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region alongside our partner nations,” he said.
“Australia remains committed to enforcing UN Security Council sanctions and our own sanctions against North Korea.
“This operation is Australia’s contribution to a multinational effort, alongside Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, who all conduct operations in support of UN Security Council resolutions.”
In 2021, the federal government announced it is to purchase an additional two P-8A Poseidons, taking Australia’s total fleet to 14.
The aircraft is 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.
Last year the Poseidon rose to mainstream prominence when a Chinese J-16 cut across the nose of one 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.