A P-8 Alpha Poseidon has touched down at Ohakea air base for Royal New Zealand Air Force crews to get accustomed with the aircraft.
The Government has purchased four of the military aircraft, which are being made in the United States and are set to be used in New Zealand from early 2023.
“It presents an opportunity for us to get where we need to be a bit faster and quicker and provide a little bit more time, a little bit more endurance from a search and rescue perspective,” RNZAF squadron leader Mark Chadwick said.
The fleet will replace six ageing Orion, which have been in use since the 1960s.
“The age is creeping up on the serviceability of those aircraft,” Mr Chadwick said.
The purchase of the aircraft, upgrading Ohakea to hold the fleet and the cost of training totals $2.34 billion.
The United States Navy will be based at Ohakea for 10 days with their Poseidon, during which training flights with RNZAF will take place.
“We’re going to work with the Number Five Squadron to work on that interoperability between the two squadrons, work together on a couple flights, internal training,” United States Navy commander Carl White said.
“The P8 brings the absolute best avionics, communications, weapon systems and sensors…It is simply the best of the best when it comes to maritime patrol,” he said.
The aircraft has the latest sensory equipment for use during search and rescue missions, fisheries surveillance and disaster relief operations, a spokesman for Defence Minister Ron Mark said in a statement.
The spokesman said the aircraft’s weapon capability will be similar to that of the Orions with anti-submarine torpedoes, and there are no current plans from the Government to equip the fleet further.
The first RNZAF crew planned to fly a Poseidon will leave for the United States Navy base in Jacksonville next January for a two-year training programme.
Initial groundwork constructing a home for the new fleet at Ohakea will begin in November.