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Australia deploys Poseidon MPA to Italy for NATO operations

P-8A Poseidon deploys to the Mediterranean for NATO operation Sea Guardian
Illustration - RAAF P-8A Poseidon takes off from RAAF Base Darwin for a sortie on exercise Kakadu 2022. Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

A Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is deploying to the Mediterranean as part of NATO operation Sea Guardian 22.

The operation is an ongoing non-Article 5 NATO maritime security operation aimed at maintaining maritime situational awareness, deterring terrorism, and enhancing capacity building in the Mediterranean region.

According to the defense ministry, the P-8A will be based in Italy and will operate in the Western and Central Mediterranean until mid-October 2022.

Australia’s Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General Greg Bilton said the country’s participation in the operation reflected Australia’s ongoing partnership in exercising Australia’s memorandum of understanding with NATO.

“Australia is a NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner and an important Asia-Pacific member for the alliance,” Lieutenant General Bilton said.

“Our partner status recognises Australia’s significant contributions to NATO operations and the value that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has demonstrated over several decades.

“Our participation in operation Sea Guardian is an opportunity to extend Australia’s interoperability with the alliance to the maritime air surveillance domain.

“This represents a natural step-up in our ongoing partnership, focused on responding to today’s global security challenges. Wherever possible, the ADF supports European security initiatives to uphold the rules based international order.

“I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the deployment, which will guide our future maritime surveillance cooperation with NATO.”

The Royal Australian Air Force operates a total of 12 Poseidons, with two more on order under a contract from December 2020. The aircraft incorporates maritime surveillance and attack capabilities. P-8As can have internal and 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. Australia plans to integrate the Long Range Anti-ship Missile (LRASM) on the Poseidon, allowing it to strike adversary surface vessels at significantly increased ranges.