The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed the deal to purchase nine Boeing P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) for the Royal Air Force (RAF). The new aircraft, which will be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, will play a vital role in protecting the UK’s nuclear deterrent and the UK’s two new aircraft carriers. They will also be able to locate and track hostile submarines, and will enhance the UK’s maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) capability.
The aircraft will fill a gap in UK defence capability since the abandonment of the problem-plagued Nimrod MRA4 programme in 2010. The announcement comes less than nine months after the government announced its intention to buy the P-8A.
The MoD says that the cost of developing and delivering the UK’s MPA capability, including paying for the people, their training, the infrastructure and necessary support at RAF Lossiemouth will be around £3bn over the next decade.
The announcement marks the point at which responsibility for leadership of the MPA Programme transfers from Joint Forces Command to the RAF. With the first aircraft due to arrive in the UK in 2019/2020, the RAF has been committed to maintaining the skills needed to operate these MPAs through the “seed-corn” programme, which has embedded former RAF MPA operators within the MPA squadrons of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.
The MoD also announced a $2.3bn deal to secure 50 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the British Army. Support and training arrangements will be finalised over the next year, with contracts being placed toward the end of the decade. Leonardo Helicopters will continue to lead the arrangements to support the existing Apache helicopters until they are retired from service in 2023/24.
The deal with the US Government includes an initial support contract for maintenance of the new helicopters, along with spare parts and training simulators for UK pilots.
The first UK helicopters are due off the US production line in early 2020 and will begin entering service with the British Army in 2022.