A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)-funded project is testing an extended search and rescue capability for the P-8A Poseidon.

The study is being conducted off the coast of the Naval Air Station Patuxent River (PAX) in Maryland and is evaluating the UNIPAC III Search and Rescue (SAR) kit on the P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.

The US Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) revealed that the kit will enable the P-8A to provide survivor assistance to 100 people in a single sortie.

RAAF Squadron Leader Nathan Mula said: “The UNIPAC III SAR kit is designed to substantially increase survivor assistance.

“The kit increases the survivor assistance capability of the P-8A from 16 to 100 people in a single sortie.”

Mula is a P-8A Flight Test Tactical officer stationed at PAX and is part of the cooperative programme between the US and Australia at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Office (PMA-290).

The test programme involves sustaining survivors with food, water, and communications for an extended period.

Mula further said: “Not only does the RAAF take a large step toward a major capability milestone, but the US Navy receives the developmental and operational test experience and results.”

“By leveraging the developmental experience, both countries are able to increase their capability to provide assistance to survivors in the oceans around the world.”

The P-8A is used for maritime patrol, reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance, and search and rescue missions.

It is operated by the US, Australia, and India. The aircraft has also been ordered by the UK, South Korea, Norway, and New Zealand.

P-8A Air Vehicle Stores Compatibility flight test engineer Katie Giewont stated that the team carried out several ground and flight tests over the past year to certify the UNIPAC-III SAR kit.

The RAAF will perform further operational testing with the new kit in Australia.

The US Navy will study the implementation of the UNIPAC-III kit for its P-8A Poseidon fleet.

Results from the operational tests conducted by the RAAF will be studied to explore the potential of adding the capability.