The first in a fleet of “game-changing” submarine-hunting jets has been delivered to the RAF.
Nine Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) are being taken over by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as part of a £3 billion nuclear deterrent investment.
Following an unveiling ceremony in Seattle, the jet was flown to Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida where RAF personnel are being trained to operate the aircraft.
It will arrive at its base at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray in early 2020, with the remaining aircraft to be delivered by November 2021.
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, chief of the air staff, said: “Poseidon is a game-changing maritime patrol aircraft, able to detect, track and if necessary destroy the most advanced submarines in the world today.
“With Poseidon MRA1, I am delighted and very proud that the RAF will once again have a maritime patrol force working alongside the Royal Navy, securing our seas to protect our nation.”
The state-of-the-art jets will enhance the UK’s tracking of hostile maritime targets.
They will work to protect the British continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and play a central role in Nato missions across the North Atlantic.
Poseidon is designed to carry out extended surveillance missions at both high and low altitudes.
It is equipped with cutting-edge sensors which use high-resolution area mapping to find threats above and below water.
The MPA will also be armed with Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles and Mk 54 torpedoes capable of attacking both surface and sub-surface targets.
First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said: “Poseidon marks a superb upgrade in the UK’s ability to conduct anti-submarine operations.
“This will give the UK the ability to conduct long-range patrols and integrate seamlessly with our Nato allies to provide a world-leading capability.
“This will maintain operational freedom for our own submarines, and apply pressure to those of our potential foes.
“I look forward to working with the RAF and our international partners on this superb capability.”
The aircraft will initially be flown by 120 Squadron, while 201 Squadron will join the programme in due course.
The 120 Squadron was originally stood up on January 1, 1918 and was the leading anti-submarine warfare squadron in the Second World War.