US Approves UK Purchase of Nine P-8A Poseidons

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon being refuelled at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, on March 10 this year during the type’s first visit to the base. US State Department approval has been granted for the purchase of nine Poseidons by the UK. US Navy/Shannon R Haney
A US Navy P-8A Poseidon operated by VP-10 being refuelled at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, on March 10 this year during the type’s first visit to the base. US State Department approval has been granted for the purchase of nine Poseidons by the UK. US Navy/Shannon R Haney

PLANS FOR acquisition by the UK of a new fleet of nine Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft have moved a further step forward with the granting of US State Department approval for the purchase. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) confirmed this clearance for the Foreign Military Sales deal on March 25 and said that it had delivered the required certification notifying US Congress of this possible sale on the previous day. Congress now has 30 days to consider whether it has any objections to the sale, but there is not expected to be any such opposition.

The DSCA says that the deal will be worth an estimated $3.2 billion, including the nine aircraft, plus associated major defence equipment, relevant training and support. The DSCA notes that “the UK is a close ally and an important partner on critical foreign policy and defence issues. The proposed sale will enhance US foreign policy and national security objectives by enhancing the UK’s capabilities to provide national defence and contribute to NATO and coalition operations.”

The proposed sale will allow the UK to re-establish its maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) capability, which was lost when it controversially cancelled the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) programme in 2010, leaving a major capability gap. However, the UK has retained core skills in maritime patrol and reconnaissance following the retirement of the Nimrod aircraft through personnel exchange programmes (PEPs) under Project Seedcorn.

The MSA has remained the United Kingdom’s highest priority unfunded requirement and finally, on November 23 last year, when the UK’s new Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) was unveiled, it was confirmed that nine P-8As would be purchased to fulfill this requirement.

At the time of the SDSR announcement, The UK Prime Minister’s office said the P-8s will be used for maritime surveillance, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare, increasing further the protection of the UK’s nuclear deterrent and its two new aircraft carriers. These roles require an aircraft that can carry torpedoes, as well as being fitted with a broad range of sensors, including radar and sonobuoys, said the PM’s office. They will also provide maritime search and rescue and surveillance capabilities over land. They will be operated by the Royal Air Force and based at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray. The first three are scheduled to enter service before the end of the current parliamentary term in 2020.

The prime contractor involved in this sale will be Boeing. The DSCA says that implementation of the proposed sale will require approximately 64 personnel hired by Boeing to support the programme in the UK. Additional contractors include: ViaSat, Carlsbad, California; GC Micro, Petaluma, California; Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Spirit Aero, Wichita, Kansas; Raytheon, Waltham, Massachusetts; Telephonics,  Farmingdale, New York; Pole Zero, Cincinnati, Ohio; Northrop Grumman Corp, Falls Church, Virginia; Exelis, McLean, Virginia; Terma, Arlington, Virginia; Symmetrics, Canada; Arnprior Aerospace, Canada; General Electric, UK; and Martin Baker, UK. Alan Warnes