New Zealand has announced a plan to procure four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) from the United States.

New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark said on 9 July that the aircraft, including simulator training systems and infrastructure, will cost NZD2.346 billion (USD1.6 billion), with the cost spread over the fiscal years until 2026. He said the aircraft will be delivered and begin operations from 2023.

“This is an investment decision that has fallen on this government to make, but will be spread over the medium term and will deliver for New Zealand for many decades to come,” said Mark in a statement. “The P-8A was the most cost-effective maritime patrol aircraft option available.”

The procurement was initially approved by the US government in April 2017. At that time, Washington valued the programme, which will proceed through the Foreign Military Sale mechanism, at an estimated USD1.46 billion.

In service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), the P-8As will replace the service’s six Lockheed Martin P-3K2 Orion MPAs, which have been in operation since the 1960s and are scheduled to reach the end of their operational life in 2025. Mark said that to accommodate the P-8As, the RNZAF’s No 5 Squadron, which currently operates the P-3K2s, will shift its base from Whenuapai in the north of the North Island to Ohakea in the south of the North Island.

Mark added that the procured P-8As will undertake a variety of roles including maritime surveillance, humanitarian aid and disaster response, search and rescue, regional security operations, and resource protection around New Zealand and in the South Pacific.

Another important factor in operating the aircraft will be New Zealand’s ability to co-operate with allies including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.