SHAH ALAM: A RAAF Boeing P-8A Poseidon MPA has deployed to RMAF Butterworth, marking the type’s first overseas. The deployment was part of Operation Gateway, which provides maritime surveillance patrols in the North Indian Ocean and South China Sea, says the Australian Defense Department on June 7.
The department did not revealed when the Poseidon was deployed to RMAF Butterworth but its likely it was in the first week of June.The Poseidon was deployed to Malaysia in support of the Operational Test and Evaluation of the P-8A as it is introduced to service. This deployment was a key milestone on the path to declaring Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the aircraft and its system over the next 12 months, says the department.
The Poseidon’s predecessor, the AP‑3C Orion, has operated from RMAF Butterworth for a number of decades as part of the bilateral Malaysian and Australian Operation Gateway, says the department.
Operation Gateway is a key element in the bilateral defence relationship between Australia and Malaysia. The state of the art Poseidon is refining its ability to take over this surveillance role in 2018, says the department.
Commander of Surveillance and Response Group, Air Commodore Craig Heap said the successful first overseas deployment of the Poseidon was a significant step towards realising the full capability of the P-8A in an Australian context.
Missions flown by the aircraft included patrols in the Northern Indian Ocean and South China Sea aimed at testing and refining how the P-8A will be operated in those environments. Each mission utilised the Poseidon’s advanced sensor suite and data connectivity.
During each mission the aircraft conducted routine maritime surveillance on merchant and naval shipping along some of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
“With this overseas deployment complete, the next step from June through to July will be the completion of the operational evaluation of the Poseidons’s Search and Rescue capability. This will be another important step as we move toward declaring Initial Operational Capability of the P-8A system,” Air Commodore Heap said.
It is interesting to note that without the release above we would have not known that a P-8A was deployed to Butterwrorth. RMAF also as usual did not say anything about the deployment though several officers were taken on a tour of the aircraft (as shown by the picture provided by the Australian Defense Department, above).
It was not revealed how much intelligence are shared with Malaysia for this operations though a number of reports suggested that Australia started the operation following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. RAAF AP-3Cs reportedly deployed to RMAF Butterworth between four and eight times a year where they conduct regular flights for fortnight.
As the RAAF also regularly deployed to the RMAF Butterworth in support of FPDA exercises, it will be difficult to determine these deployments are for those missions or Operation Gateway. As you are aware, the Australian Army also maintained Rifle Company Butterworth to maintain security for its aircraft and personnel on deployment there.
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