Moray first as Poseidon sub-hunter arrives

After a decade-long gap, the Silent Service once again has its ‘long-range ears’ with the arrival of the first new maritime patrol aircraft.

The Pride of Moray touched down in Scotland today – the first of nine P8 Poseidon aircraft brought to safeguard the nation’s nuclear deterrent, as well as generally scouring the waters in Britain’s ‘backyard’ for threats on and below the waves.

The aircraft – military versions of Boeing’s 737-800 – will be operated by the RAF’s 120 and, later, 201 Squadrons at Lossiemouth, but with Royal Navy personnel as part of the crew on each sortie.

Pride of Moray was handed over to the RAF late last year, since when they’ve been learning how to pilot, maintain and operate the P8 from the US Navy’s air base at Jacksonville in Florida.

And it was from there that the jet took off at midnight, local time, for the 4,060-mile journey to its new home – landing at Kinloss a little over seven hours later.

The arrival of the first Poseidon – part of a £3bn investment by the MOD, which includes nearly £500m building/improving facilities at Lossiemouth – was greeted by political and military leaders, including the navy’s Commander of Operations (and a submariner) Rear Admiral Simon Asquith.

Those improvements means Pride of Moray will operate from the former air base at Kinloss, 20 miles away, until the autumn, when £75m resurfacing Lossiemouth’s runways and taxiways is finished.

The arrival of the first Poseidon marks a significant upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin

Poseidon’s advent fills the gap left by the demise of the Nimrod MR2 which bowed out in 2010 and the plug was pulled on its over-budget and long-delayed replacement, the MR4A.

The P8 is tried and trusted technology, in service with the US and Indian Navies and Royal Australian Air Force, with several more nations (including New Zealand and Norway) lined up to receive the patrol aircraft.

Each one is equipped with 129 Sonobuoy listening devices – dropped in the ocean in the path of a suspected submarine to help locate and track it – plus high-resolution area mapping to locate contacts of interest on and below the waves.

And in time of war, Poseidon carries torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles to prosecute any targets.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin said the P8 was a “superb aircraft” and its introduction would allow Britain to work seamlessly with our NATO allies at the cutting edge of anti-submarine warfare.

“The arrival of the first Poseidon marks a significant upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations,” he added.

“It will maintain operation freedom for our submarines and apply pressure to those of our potential foes.”