First P-8A at Ohakea

Air Surveillance Maritime Patrol

Four P-8A Poseidons have been delivered to the New Zealand Defence Force.  


The first aircraft – NZ4801 – arrived in country on 12 December 2022, and the first fully NZDF-controlled flight took place the following month. The second and third aircraft arrived at RNZAF Base Ohakea on 18 March and 19 May 2023 respectively. The final aircraft arrived on 17 July 2023.(external link)

A planned, phased process is being used to release the capability. In 2023, this included a focus on Interim Operational Release of the Search and Rescue (SAR) capability. SAR training was undertaken in March with the Royal Australian Air Force at RAAF Base Edinburgh, and operational trials were conducted out of Nadi, Fiji in early April.

This project, led by New Zealand's Ministry of Defence Te Manatū Kaupapa Waonga, is delivering the P-8A aircraft, flight training capability, and supporting infrastructure.

The first of four P-8A aircraft to be be delivered landed in New Zealand on 12 December 2022.

These four aircraft will be based at RNZAF Base Ohakea and will be used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 5 Squadron Airborne Surveillance and Response Force capability. The new fleet replaces the P-3K2 Orion fleet that retired from service(external link) in January 2023. 

Learn more:

The journey of Aotearoa New Zealand's first P-8A as it's handed over before making its way to its new home.


The infrastructure build of Te Whare Toroa (the new home for the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 5 Squadron and the P-8A Poseidon aircraft) continues to take shape at RNZAF Base Ohakea. The first soil was turned(external link) for the new fleet's supporting operational infrastructure at Ohakea in November 2019. Building this infrastructure is an integral part of the wider Air Surveillance Maritime Patrol project. On 26 May 2022 the work to lift the 570 tonne Roof 1 was completed(external link) over the course of the day. Once the structure is complete, fitout will commence.  


The Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018, launched in July that year, provided a basis for the P-8A proposal to be considered against the Government's priorities and policy settings. The Statement emphasised the importance of New Zealand's maritime domain, and that maritime security is fundamental to national security.

On 2 July 2018 Cabinet approved acquisition of four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft(external link) to replace the six aging P-3K2 Orion aircraft. Of the available options, the P-8A Poseidon was assessed to be the lowest cost and lowest risk option for New Zealand.

The P-8A Poseidon will be a key component of meeting obligations to our friends in the Pacific and our commitments to monitor and respond to events in the Southern Ocean. It will allow for:

  • Participation in international task groups
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Search and rescue
  • Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
  • Protection of the Southern Ocean.

The aircraft will provide service to other government departments including the Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Customs Service, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, The Rescue Coordination Centre and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This is a once in a generation purchase, with the aircraft expected to be in service for at least 30 years.


Four P-8A Poseidon aircraft are being acquired through a direct source procurement through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process. New Zealand regularly purchases defence equipment through this process, which is well-developed and understood. The FMS procurement is managed by the US Government contract and management entities on New Zealand's behalf.


Contact: Pete Fitness, Director, Air Domain

Updated: October 2023