The final two Royal Australian Air Force surveillance aircraft, which also have anti-submarine warfare and maritime strike capabilities, are expected to arrive at Edinburgh on the northern outskirts of Adelaide early next year.
The P-8As have already been used for Australian border protection surveillance (Operation Resolute); in a multi-national effort to monitor the movement of maritime cargo into North Korea (Operation Argos), and to support international efforts to promote maritime security in the Middle East (Operation Manitou).
The 2016 Australian Defence White Paper flagged 15 new Poseidon P8-As with the Australian Government so far committing to 12. The White Paper also flagged seven unmanned MQ-4C Triton aircraft to complement the P8-A on border patrol and maritime surveillance. Two of an initial six of the unmanned Tritons have been approved with the first aircraft expected to be delivered to the RAAF in 2023.
RAAF Director of Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare and Space Group Captain Jason Lind said he expected all 12 P-8As to be stationed at Edinburgh by March.
He said the Boeing-built aircraft had exceeded expectations since the first P-8A was delivered in late 2016.
“Because they’ve been so effective they have been deployed ahead of what we might call final operational capability, which can put a bit of a stress on the people operating them,” Group Captain Lind said.
“But certainly they’ve been doing a really good job up north in border protection, they’ve also been deployed over in Japan enforcing the embargo on North Korea and one of our aircraft has gone over to the Middle East supporting a US-initiative patrolling the Gulf.”
The fifth-generation Poseidon and Triton maritime patrol and response program fall under the operational command of 92 Wing, which is based at Edinburgh, South Australia.
Eight Australian Defence Force personnel are working with the US Navy in the Joint Program Office developing Triton, which is currently undergoing test flights. There are about 40 personnel working on the Triton project in Australia with the operational unit expected to grow to 140 when the unmanned aircraft is delivered.
Group Captain Lind said although it was yet to be decided whether the Triton Unmanned Aerial Systems would be physically based at Edinburgh or Tindal Air Base in the Northern Territory, the remote pilots would be at Edinburgh.
“These fifth generation type aircraft provide more opportunity to move people between the platforms than we have done previously, so having the preponderance of people there in Edinburgh is a good way to get synergies from our workforce.
“Triton, which flies at 50,000 feet plus, can give you great perspective and endurance and the P-8 can be more responsive to what the Triton might see – certainly they are designed to work together.”
The P-8A aircraft and MQ-4C Triton will replace the AP-3C Orions, which are due for withdrawal this year following more than 50 years of RAAF service.
The Edinburgh Defence Precinct is home to 3500 RAAF and Australian Army personnel, Defence Science and Technology, and key defence primes including BAE Systems, Raytheon Australia and Airbus Group Australia Pacific.
The base hosted the RAAF’s first air show since 2016 last weekend, attracting more than 20,000 people each day. The Edinburgh Air Show included air and ground displays of the RAAF’s latest aircraft including the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the P-8A.
It was the first time Edinburgh hosted a major air show since 2007.
South Australia is also pivotal in Australia’s $90 billion plan to regenerate the Royal Australian Navy with new submarines, frigates and offshore patrol vessels. The Attack Class submarines will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, which is undergoing a $500 million upgrade.
The state also has a strong link with space. Late last year Adelaide was announced as the home of the Australian Space Agency, to which a $6 million Mission Control centre for small satellites and an educational space discovery centre has since been added.Jump to next article