The government of New Zealand is purchasing four Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to replace its aging fleet, Minister of Defence Ron Mark announced.
“The purchase ensures the Defence Force can continue to deliver the country’s maritime surveillance, resource protection, humanitarian and disaster response around New Zealand and across the South Pacific,” Mark said in a government press release on Monday, July 9.
The new P-8A aircraft, training systems, infrastructure and introduction into service costs will total NZ$2.346 billion ($1.61 billion). They are expected to enter service in 2023, in time to replace the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s six aging P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that will reach the end of their operational life in 2025.
The U.S. Department of State approved the purchase at an estimated cost of $1.46 billion in April 2017. New Zealand had requested up to four of the aircraft, commercial engines, Tactical Open Mission Software (TOMS), Electro-Optical (EO) and Infrared (IR) MX-20HD, AN/AAQ-2(V)1 Acoustic System, AN/APY-10 Radar, ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measures.
No. 5 Squadron will shift from Whenuapai to Ohakea air force base to operate the P-8As.
The planes will be used for maritime surveillance, humanitarian aid, disaster response and resource protection around New Zealand and the South Pacific, as well as international peace and security operations. New Zealand’s search-and-rescue region stretches from the South Pole to the Equator, covering 1/11th of the earth’s surface, Mark said.
The government will consider additional complementary maritime surveillance capability during its upcoming Defence Capability Review, including “smaller manned aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or satellites, for additional maritime surveillance tasks within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and near region,” he added.
“This will free up the new P-8A fleet to fly more missions, in the South Pacific and further afield.”
The purchase will allow New Zeland to have interoperability with Australia, the United Kingdom and United States, which all operate or plan to operate the aircraft, Mark added.
In December, Boeing was awarded a $1.2 billion contract to produce 10 P-8A Poseidon aircraft for the U.S. Navy and United Kingdom. Seven will go to the U.S. Navy and the U.K. will purchase the other three for the Royal Air Force.
The U.S. Navy ordered three additional P-8As in May for $416 million.
Developed for the U.S. Navy, the P-8 Poseidon is a modified Boeing 737-800ERX designed to conduct anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and shipping interdiction, as well as providing early warning protection. It can carry torpedoes, depth charges, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and other weapons and can drop and monitor sonobuoys.
It is designed to operate alongside the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance drone.
The Poseidon is operated by the U.S. Navy, the Indian Navy, and Royal Australian Air Force, and has been ordered for the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Norwegian Air Force.
A Boeing representative said during the Singapore Air Show this year that the company anticipates additional demand from the Asia-Pacific, both as a replacement for the P-3 Orion and due to increasing interest in maritime domain awareness among the U.S. partners in the region.