I am pleased to announce that Defence has taken the first steps in a $A5 billion project to acquire a manned Maritime Patrol and Response Aircraft by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States Navy (USN) to cooperatively develop upgrades to the P-8A Poseidon aircraft and support systems.
The manned aircraft, to be acquired under Project AIR7000 Phase 2, in conjunction with the Multi-mission Unmanned Aerial System, to be acquired under Project AIR 7000 Phase 1.
The P-8A is a modern, highly reliable aircraft based on the commercially-proven Boeing B737, and modified to incorporate the latest maritime surveillance and attack capabilities.
Defence will collaborate in Spiral One, the first in a series of improvements planned through the life of the P-8A. Through participation in the P-8A Spiral One cooperative development program, Defence seeks to gain information on the P-8A to support the acquisition and through life support decisions, provide opportunities for Australian industry, and influence the direction of P-8A improvements.
The 2009 Defence White Paper detailed the Government’s plans to acquire eight new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the capability currently provided by the AP-3C Orion aircraft, when that aircraft is retired in 2018 after 30 years of RAAF service.
These new aircraft will provide a highly advanced surface search radar and optical, infra-red and electronic surveillance systems. With these systems, along with a high transit speed and the ability to conduct air- to- air refuelling, these aircraft will provide a superior capability for rapid area search and identification tasks. They will also provide a highly advanced anti- submarine warfare capability, including the ability to engage submarines using air- launched torpedoes.