Royal Air Force deploys P-8 Poseidon to monitor Channel migrants

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The British Ministry of Defence announced that the new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was flown from its base at Kinloss Barracks in Scotland to support Border Force Operations in the Channel.

Since the beginning of the summer, the United Kingdom is facing an increase of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the waters between Calais, France, and Dover, England. Because of the favorable weather of August 2020, British Coast Guard patrollers have been rescuing several hundreds of migrants on dozens of makeshift boats each day.

On August 10, 2020, the RAF deployed an A400M Atlas tactical airlifter to patrol the Channel and facilitate the interception of boats. While it is advertised as a versatile aircraft that can undergo different missions ranging from air refueling to troop transport and cargo airdropping, maritime patrols are quite far from the core missions of the Atlas.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that on August 12, 2020, the RAF deployed another aircraft more suited for such operations. Along with a Shadow R1 reconnaissance plane, a newcomer in the British arsenal, the P-8 Poseidon, was flown from RAF Station Kinloss, in Northern Scotland, to assist the Border Force Operations.

The P-8 Poseidon is a multi-role maritime patrol aircraft, equipped with a naval search radar for search and tracking capability.

“The aircraft has significant range and endurance, as well as the ability to support command and control and search and rescue operations, should the Border Force or UK Coastguard require it,” Chris Layden, Station Commander RAF Lossiemouth, said. 

Based on the fuselage of the Boeing 737-800, with the wings of the -900, it is powered by two CFM56-7B engines from CFM International, giving it a range of 5900 kilometers (3666 miles). 

It can also be fitted, both internally and externally, with an array of armaments dedicated to submarine and anti-ship warfare, such as torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and anti-ship missiles.

Nine were ordered for the Royal Air Force, and four should be delivered by the end of 2020. Operated by the No. 120 Squadron, one of their primary missions will be to help protect the nuclear deterrence system deployed by submarines and the two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. 

The maiden mission of the first RAF P-8 MRA (maritime, reconnaissance and attack) Mk.1. took place recently, on August 3, 2020, when it was scrambled to monitor the activity of a Russian warship cruising in the North Sea near the United Kingdom’s sovereign waters.


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