The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s first Boeing-built P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) performed its maiden flight in the US ahead of its planned delivery later this year.
According to the New Zealand defense ministry, the test flight was performed ahead of the systems fitout stage and followed the official start of construction of the first airframe in March this year. The remaining three aircraft are to be delivered during 2023.
In total, four Boeing P-8A Poseidon MPA will eventually replace New Zealand’s current fleet of five active P-3K2 Orion aircraft. The Royal New Zealand Air Force has already retired the first of its six aging Orions, with the first airframe bowing out of service in September 2021, after over 50 years of operations.
New Zealand is investing NZ$2.346 billion into the acquisition of the capability under a contract from 2018. The country is one of eight global P-8 customers, with current operators including the US Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Navy, United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and Norway’s Royal Norwegian Air Force.
The first flight followed the official unveiling of the airframe in Kiwi livery in July this year.
A derivative of a modified Boeing 737-800ERX, the Poseidon P-8A was developed as a long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft for the US Navy. The armament of the Poseidon, in US Navy configuration, consists of five internal and six external stations for AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER, AGM-84 Harpoon, and the Mark 54 torpedo with a High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability (HAAWC) system.