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P-8A Poseidon

In July 2018 the Government announced the purchase of four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to replace the ageing six P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that have been operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) since the 1960s. This page provides information on the new aircraft and updates on the project.

P 8A mockup

Of the available options, the P-8A Poseidon was assessed to be the lowest cost and lowest risk option for New Zealand.

The P-8A Poseidon will be a key component of meeting obligations to our friends in the Pacific and our commitments to monitor and respond to events in the Southern Ocean. It will allow for:

  • Participation in international task groups
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Search and rescue
  • Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
  • Protection of the Southern Ocean

The aircraft will provide service to other government departments including the Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Customs Service, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), The Rescue Coordination Centre and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


The first P-8A aircraft was delivered in December 2022, with the remaining three to be delivered during 2023. 

By the numbers

P-8A Poseidon statistics

  • Wingspan: 123.6 ft (37.64 m)
  • Length: 129.5 ft (39.47 m)
  • Height: 42.1 ft (12.83 m)
  • Propulsion: Two CFM56-7B engines 27,300 lbs thrust
  • Speed: 490 kts (902km/h)
  • Range: 1,200 nmi with 4 hours on station
  • Ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,496 m)
  • Crew: 9

Tail numbers for the new aircraft

All our aircraft have a unique serial number that follows New Zealand Defence Force convention. An important step in the construction of our new P-8A fleet is allocating the tail numbers, which will have the numbers NZ4801 – 04.

Broken down this means:

  • NZ – the prefix for NZDF
  • 4 – denotes the aircraft’s role of maritime, our current P-3K2 fleet uses a 4 in the same way
  • 8 – this denotes the aircraft type in this case 8 was available and made sense to use it given it is a P-8A fleet
  • 01-04 – these final two numbers are the sequential tail numbers.

Project updates

The first flight | 17 August 2022

The first of our four P-8A Poseidon aircraft took to the skies in the United States today, completing a test flight ahead of systems fitout.

This aircraft will be delivered to Aotearoa New Zealand later this year. 

Video below is credit to Boeing

Screen Shot 2022 08 17 at 3.41.50 PM

Paint job | 22 July 2022

Today marks another major milestone as Boeing debuted the first of our P-8A Poseidon aircraft, the new maritime patrol aircraft. The aircraft features our RNZAF Kiwi roundel and is painted military grey.

The aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to the New Zealand Ministry of Defence later this year. 

View the video here. 

Raising the roof at Te Whare Toroa | May 2022

In May 2022, a 500-tonne roof was lifted into place 33 metres above the ground at Base Ohakea, a very visual sign of progress being made on the $250 million infrastructure build to support the P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

Read the full story

Roof1 Roof2 Roof3

A 500-tonne roof has been lifted into place 33 metres above the ground at Base Ohakea.

P-8A Poseidon fuselage | April 2022

The first P-8A Poseidon fuselage, one of four that the Government has purchased for our Air Force, rolls into the 737 factory in Renton, Washington US. From here the aircraft will be assembled and fitted out before heading to Aotearoa New Zealand.

These aircraft represent a significant investment to strengthen our maritime surveillance capability and we can’t wait to see the first one, which is scheduled to land at Base Ohakea in December.

Aircraft build | March 2022

In March 2022, we celebrated a huge milestone in the production of the four P-8A Poseidon aircraft. A keeling ceremony took place at Wichita, Kansas, United States, marking the second keel moving through the factory, with attendees able to view the first fuselage on a rail carriage ready to depart for Seattle. Once in Seattle the aircraft will be assembled and fitout will commence.

P 8A keeling 1 P 8A keeling 3 P 8A keeling 2

P-8A Poseidon keeling ceremony in the United States

Personnel training | 2020

As of late 2020, Royal New Zealand Air Force aircrew continue to be trained on the new aircraft in the United States. This ensures New Zealand will have enough qualified personnel to operate the P-8As when they arrive in New Zealand.

The RNZAF now has a fully qualified P-8A aircrew operating as instructors with the US Navy gaining operational experience with the new capability. Additionally, maintenance personnel are undertaking training with the Royal Australian Air Force in Australia. 

Infrastructure at Base Ohakea | November 2019

The first soil for the infrastructure required to support the operation of the aircraft at Ohakea was turned by the Minister of Defence in November 2019. The infrastructure component is an integral part of the P-8A project. Progress on this infrastructure was halted for a short time due to COVID-19 but the site is now back to operating at full capacity.