The first of twelve Australian P-8A Poseidon aircraft has been unveiled by Boeing at a roll-out ceremony in Seattle, Washington State, USA on September 27.
Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, attended the ceremony and accepted into service the Royal Australian Air Force’s newest aircraft.
“It is a privilege to accept the first Australian P-8A Poseidon aircraft, said CAF AIRMSHL Davies.
“The P-8A is the latest in a pedigree of Boeing aircraft that have provided important and significant operational capability to Australia. This history includes the C-17A Globemaster, E-7A Wedgetail, F/A-18 Classic Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet, Helicopter Aircrew Training System and in the near future E/A-18G Growler.” CAF said.
Built from the ground up as a military aircraft, the P-8A is based on the proven commercial designs of Boeing’s 737-800 fuselage, but is substantially structurally modified to include a weapons bay, under wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons, as well as increased strengthening to allow for continued low level operations and high angle of bank turns.
Director Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Response Transition Office, GPCAPT Roger McCutcheon, said the P-8A was a fundamental element of Australia’s future maritime patrol and response strategy in replacing the current AP-3C Orion fleet - due for withdrawal in 2018-19.
“Over the next three years the P-8A will replace our current fleet of AP-3C Orion aircraft currently based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, said GPCAPT McCutcheon.
The first aircraft will arrive in Australia on 15 November 2016, with the remaining 11 aircraft to be delivered by March 2020.”
Air Force aircrew and maintenance personnel have been busy training for the arrival of the P-8A since early 2015 - working side by side with the US Navy at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The first P-8A Australian pilot flew a four-hour sortie around the Air Station on 14 April 2015.
CAF AIRMSHL Davies said that close cooperation with the US Navy to develop mission, system and training requirements for the P-8A was crucial and has helped strengthen an already close relationship.
“Speaking to my team today, it is obvious they have been the recipients of some of the best training in the world from the US Navy,” said CAF AIRMSHL Davies.
“The bilateral cooperative program for the P-8A between Australia and the United States has been very successful. It is now the model to which our other Air Force projects must aspire.”
“The passion, pride and dedication of the all the Boeing team is evident in every aircraft produced,said CAF AIRMSHL Davies.
“I have no doubt that the aircraft Boeing has proudly built here today, along with the collaborative input from both Australia and the United States, will serve our nation with consummate success. I congratulate Boeing on this significant occasion and I thank you for all for your work.”
For Boeing Mechanic Paul Lingenfelter - a Washington State native whose work on Sonobouy structure rake installations directly resulted in zero manufacturing defects and improved time management for the P-8 program - CAF AIRMSHL Davies had a more personal message.
“Paul you are a great asset to the P-8A program and I thank you for your work, but sorry mate - your aircraft is coming with me.”