EVEN BEFORE THE first of nine Poseidon P-8A aircraft are delivered to RAF Lossiemouth reports from the United States are suggesting the aircraft is evolving well beyond its existing capabilities.
Built from one of the most successful airframes in the world, the Boeing 737, the P-8A has already proven to be a massive hit for manufactures Boeing – not just with domestic US sales but to allies such as Australia, India and now the UK.
Moray will see a lot of the aircraft in the near future – as well as a multi-million pound investment in the form of a new Boeing support centre at Lossiemouth.
While the RAF is purchasing the aircraft to fill the massive hole in UK Defence left by the departure of Nimrod, there is a suggestion this week that the P-8A could well fill a far greater – and perhaps more important – role in future.
That comes because the US Navy has placed a sixty million dollar contract with Boeing for enhancements to the P-8A that appears to indicate their intention to use it as a high-altitude surveillance platform.
The enhancements include Minotaur, which according to reports “most likely involves an integrated sensors, computing, and communications system to enable P-8A aircrews to gather and process surveillance information for transmission to shore and surface operators”.
Speculation is increasing that that US may be looking to the P-8A as an eventual replacement for the now ageing RC-135 Rivet Joint which has for many years provided intelligence gathering operations.
Last month David Cameron’s final act before his resignation was to confirm the deal had been signed with Boeing that would see nine P-8A’s being delivered to RAF Lossiemouth, along with a £100million investment by Boeing in the operational and training base in Moray.