P-8A Poseidon: Scotland Welcomes New Submarine Hunter Aircraft

The 'Pride of Moray' is the first P-8A Poseidon to land in the UK.

The first of the RAF's new P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft has landed in Scotland.

The 'Pride of Moray' touched down in the UK for the first time, when it arrived at Kinloss Barracks.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is spending £3 billion on the fleet of nine P-8As which will be used to hunt submarines and to carry out search and rescue missions. 

The RAF received its first P-8A last October during a ceremony in the United States - where 120 Squadron has been training in the US to handle the latest air force addition.

Britain has been without any long-range Maritime Patrol Aircraft for more than a decade.

Wing Commander James Hanson, Officer Commanding, 120 Squadron, said "We've had people out at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, in Florida, for the last eight years, and they've embedded themselves with the US Navy training squadron, to give defence an option - to regenerate the maritime patrol capability."

By the end of 2021, the RAF will have a fleet of nine of the aircraft all based at Lossiemouth.

The base is currently being modernised, ahead of becoming the P-8A's permanent home from the autumn.

P-8A Poseidon taxiing at Kinloss Barracks

The RAF base is 12 miles along the coast from the Kinloss Army barracks, with a £460 million revamp for the arrival of Poseidon - including a £132 million facility for the completion of the fleet.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, said he was "delighted" about the "game-changing" aircraft's arrival in Scotland.

He told Forces News: "It's a great feeling, I'm very proud

"It's been a long wait to return to maritime patrol and anti-submarine operations from the UK by the Royal Air Force and I'm delighted that the next chapter of that story is just about to start."

First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said he was looking forward to working with the RAF on the Poseidon.

The Pride of Moray's Captain, Squadron Leader Mike Faulds, said it was a "great day for Moray, great day for Scotland, great day for the UK".

"This aeroplane really is at the cutting edge of anti-submarine warfare technology so we fly around, we look for submarines and deal with them appropriately," he said.

"It's quite an aeroplane, it really is a good day for the Air Force."

The Poseidon will take over the role carried out by the nine-strong Nimrod fleet, which was scrapped in 2010. 

The new addition will fill the void in dedicated aircraft protecting the coast from unidentified vessels.

RAF new P-8A Poseidon aircraft in the skies over NAS Jacksonville (Picture: MOD).
RAF new P-8A Poseidon aircraft in the skies over NAS Jacksonville (Picture: MOD).

However, they will also protect UK submarines and the new Royal Navy aircraft carriers, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Defence minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: "Our Poseidon fleet will soon join an integrated UK force of fighter jets, ships, submarines, helicopters and highly-trained Royal Marines, ready to operate in Arctic conditions.

"The UK will not stand by if peace in the Arctic region is threatened.

"RAF Lossiemouth’s strategic northerly location makes it one of the most important air stations in the UK: already home to half of the UK’s Typhoon Force, and now sitting at the heart of our anti-submarine operations."

The Poseidon is based on the Boeing 737-800 Next Generation Aircraft, but has been adapted for its military role. 

With automated identification systems, weapons for high altitude and a strengthened fuselage for low altitude missions, it is more than ready for duty.

The production of all nine P-8A aircraft is due to be completed by next year.

Cover image: MOD.