With just over 8 months until the delivery of the first Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), commonly known as the P-8A Poseidon, personnel from Number 120 Squadron and Poseidon Line Squadron have started training at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The initial cadre of 38 personnel, drawn from RAF Lossiemouth, are a mix of aircrew and engineers and will be trained on the US Navy training squadron Patrol Squadron THIRTY (VP-30). RAF personnel will be trained in the USA during the next 3 years before the RAF transitions to train all their P-8A Poseidon personnel in the UK at RAF Lossiemouth. Each training course is tailored to the role and trade of the trainee and takes approximately 6-months to complete.
Wing Commander James Hanson, Officer Commanding CXX Squadron, said:
It is really exciting to be among the first cohort of RAF aircrew and engineers to begin conversion to Poseidon, the people we have are among the most experienced in the RAF. This is the best maritime patrol aircraft available; a potent deterrent to our adversaries and a dependable asset for the United Kingdom and our allies. The commencement of our training marks the start of a new chapter for the RAF and a vital enhancement to our military capabilities in the maritime environment.
VP-30 trains over 600 students per year as well as overseeing the US Navy transition from P-3 Orion to P-8A Poseidon MPA for all the US Navy’s front-line squadrons. VP-30 has also taken on the responsibility of introducing air-to-air refuelling to the P-8A fleet as well as training the crews of several overseas nations. Despite such a large workload, the squadron is excited and eager to train its oldest allies – the RAF.
The group of RAF personnel that arrived during the first weeks of January are a mixture of pilots, Weapon Systems Officers, Weapon Systems Operators and ground crew who will all be training with VP-30 Instructors. Each training section will have up to 50 visiting personnel and last about six months. The final US-based training session should conclude around the summer of 2021. The RAF will procure a total of 9 Poseidon aircraft which will be based at RAF Lossiemouth from late 2020.
Air Commodore Iain Gale, Senior Responsible Owner for the P-8A Programme, said:
This first cadre of RAF aircrew and engineers undertaking training on the P-8A Poseidon mark the resurgence of the RAF’s long range maritime patrol capability. The P-8A Poseidon will enhance the UK’s maritime patrol capability with advanced, state-of-the-art, Anti-Submarine Warfare and Anti-Surface Warfare sensors. The first Poseidon aircraft will enter RAF service in October 2019, initially at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and will arrive in Scotland in Spring 2020, bringing future opportunities for hi-tech employment to Scotland. The first aircraft’s components are being manufactured now and the first aircraft will begin construction in the next few weeks. This is an exciting time for RAF Lossiemouth and the personnel who will be part of this force.
Several UK aircrew have been stationed at NAS Jacksonville in anticipation of this week’s historic event. The RAF Seedcorn program, started in 2012, has helped re-grow the UK’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft capability, sending experienced maritime operators around the world, including 12 instructors to VP-30. These RAF instructors have been embedded within VP-30 and have helped VP-30 introduce the P-8A to the US Navy and its allies. The RAF members of VP-30 are looking forward to using this experience to train the first generation of the new RAF Poseidon Force.