A RAAF P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft has arrived in the Middle East to conduct operations in support of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC).
That’s the US-initiated mission prompted by escalating tensions with Iran amid rising concerns that a tanker war in the Straits of Hormuz could global oil supplies.
As well as the P-8A, Australia has also agreed to provide a warship, the Anzac frigate HMAS Toowoomba, which begins its deployment in January.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the P-8A’s advanced surveillance capabilities will provide a modest but meaningful contribution.
“The P-8A will work alongside our coalition partners to ensure the safe passage of merchant vessels through the region, boost security and provide an advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capability,” she said.
“This is the first time the P-8A aircraft has operated in the Middle East and its deployment will support freedom of navigation in the region, which is a fundamental right of all states under international law.”
Although, no RAAF Poseidon has operated in this area, the RAAF has plenty of experience, flying AP-3C Orion aircraft – predecessor to Poseidon – deployed to the Middle east between 2003 and 2012.
The government says the P-8A Poseidon aircraft will provide an advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capability, to support the safe transit of naval and merchant vessels.
That’s a brief deployment, running to the end of November 2019
The government hasn’t identified the P-8A’s operational base but it’s most like Australia’s longstanding support facility at the al-Minhad Air Base (AMAB) in the United Arab Emirates.
A small number of Australian Defence Force personnel are also serving in the IMSC’S Middle East headquarters in Bahrain.
Australia was an early backer of IMSC whose contributors are the US, UK, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, with, according to a report from Israel, some Israeli intelligence support.
Europe has a strong interest in maintaining uninterrupted oil supplies through the Straits of Hormuz. Although invited to contribute to IMSC, no European nation has yet signed on, apparently out of concern at being dragged into the US row with Iran.