August 6, 2021 – A drogue parachute slows the descent of a Mk54 lightweight torpedo seconds after it was dropped by the new guardians of the UK’s strategic deterrent.
A Poseidon P8 from 120 Squadron dropped the practice weapon into the Moray Firth – the last act in a simulated attack on a submarine.
It’s the first time the American-built aircraft – a militarized version of Boeing’s 737/800 airliner – has tested its primary weapon system.
As Poseidon is of US stock, she drops the Mk54, rather than the UK’s standard lightweight torpedo Sting Ray (used extensively by the Fleet Air Arm and surface fleet).
It’s 9ft long, a little over 12in in diameter and races through the water at speeds in excess of 40 knots, delivering a blow of 108kg TNT to its target.
But not on this occasion. The ZP805 – known as Fulmar in a nod to Lossiemouth’s 26-year spell as a Fleet Air Arm base, HMS Fulmar – launched a REXTORP: Recovering Exercise TORPedo.
With no propulsion and no warhead, it landed safely in the water and floated there until it was recovered.
Wing Commander James Hanson was at the controls of Fulmar for the drop and hailed it as a “major milestone in the Poseidon program”.
He continued: “This event was very significant for the anti-submarine warfare capability of the UK, proving the lethality of Poseidon.
“On the whole, we are going from strength to strength here at Lossiemouth, working with our partners in the Royal Navy and across NATO.”
Poseidon is just one layer of the defensive ring around the Navy’s V-boat fleet, which also includes Merlin Mk2 helicopters from Culdrose, Type 23 submarine-hunting frigates from Portsmouth and Plymouth, and A and T-boat hunter-killers beneath the waves.
By the end of the year, the Poseidon fleet at Lossiemouth will be complete with the delivery of the final four aircraft.
Although owned and flown by the RAF, the Poseidons are a strategic asset given their mission, with RN personnel among the crew.