Touch down for the first P-8A Poseidon

13/12/2022 News

An official ceremony to welcome Aotearoa New Zealand’s first P-8A Poseidon aircraft took place today (13 December 2022) at Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Base Ohakea.

Minister of Defence Peeni Henare, Members of Parliament, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, members of the local community, distinguished guests, Ministry of Defence staff and Defence Force personnel gathered to formally welcome the first of four Poseidon aircraft, representing a once in a generation investment in the country’s maritime surveillance capability.

“The delivery of New Zealand’s first P-8A aircraft marks a major milestone since the 2018 decision to start replacing the Defence Force capabilities that have served the country’s interests, and those of our friends and neighbours, for more than three generations,” Peeni Henare said.

While operated by the New Zealand Defence Force, the aircraft’s capabilities will support multiple government agencies, including New Zealand Customs Service, the Ministry of Primary Industries, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Speaking at the event, Secretary of Defence Andrew Bridgman said “As a national asset, the capability exemplifies the principal of kaitiakitanga – it will support our stewardship over Aotearoa’s extensive maritime domain, today and into the future. It also reflects our whanaungatanga, our kinship, with the Pacific region and beyond.”

The aircraft was delivered to New Zealand by the US Navy where it was accepted by Ministry of Defence before being formally handed over to the Chief of Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark.

This is a significant milestone in the $2.34 billion Air Surveillance Maritime Patrol (ASMP) Project led by Integrated Project Team Leader Rob Whight and a team of dedicated personnel from both the Ministry and NZDF.

Secretary Bridgman also acknowledged the United States Government, the United States Navy, and Boeing Defence Services in his address. “You have delivered to us a fantastic capability, which as partners in the Pacific we will all benefit from.

“Experience has shown that the management of bespoke, small fleets, is not efficient. To this end, the decision to acquire the P-8A capability came with a commitment to remain in step with our partners as the aircraft is developed. The conclusion of sustainment contracts with Boeing Defence Australia and the United States Government for the life of type of the aircraft are evidence of this commitment.”

Minister Henare concluded his remarks by thanking the crew and support personnel who ensured the P-3K2 Orions were such a valuable asset over the past 60 years.

Work continues on $250 million infrastructure to support the new aircraft which will include two hangars, maintenance support and warehousing for spares, 5 Squadron administration, operations centre and a state of the art training wing. Supply chain issues have impacted progress on the build which is now due to be complete in 2023, with specialist fitout finished in 2024.

The remaining aircraft will be delivered by mid-2023.

Photos: NZDF DPA