P 8A mockup WEB

Air Surveillance Maritime Patrol

This project seeks to ensure that the Defence Force maintains an air surveillance capability that is fit for purpose.



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

In July 2018 the Government approved acquisition of four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft 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 be operated by the New Zealand Defence Force, and 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.

The Government will further consider options for a complementary capability or capabilities for lower-end, civilian maritime tasks, through the use of cost-effective options that could include smaller manned aircraft, remotely-piloted aircraft systems, or satellites.


Four P-8A Poseidon aircraft will be purchased via 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 will be managed by the US Government contract and management entities on New Zealand's behalf.


The P-8A aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2023.

First soil for the infrastructure required to support the operation of the aircraft at Ohakea was turned by the Minister of Defence in November 2019. The infrastructure component is an integral part of the P-8A project. Progress on this infrastructure was halted for a short time due to COVID-19 but the site is now back to operating at full capacity.

As of late 2020 Royal New Zealand Air Force aircrew continue to be trained on the new aircraft in the United States. This ensures New Zealand will have enough qualified personnel to operate the P-8As when they arrive in New Zealand.

The RNZAF now has a fully qualified P-8A aircrew operating as instructors with the US Navy gaining operational experience with the new capability. Additionally maintenance personnel are undertaking training with the Royal Australian Air Force in Australia. 


Contact: Sarah Minson, Acting Director, Air Domain

Email: industry@defence.govt.nz 

Last updated: July 2021