Last month, the Fleet received delivery of our first P-8A Poseidon – our Navy’s newest multi-mission maritime aircraft. The P-8A will eventually replace our P-3C Orion aircraft, which has been in service in the Fleet since 1962 (50 years!).
I had the opportunity this week to participate in a training flight in the P-8A and observe its operational capabilities as well as the significant knowledge and skill it takes to serve as a crew member.
My flight started in the cockpit jump seat, where I observed the pre-flight checks and take-off. Once we were safely airborne and on-station, I transitioned back to the mission area of the aircraft to load sonobuoys in the rotary launchers. Like our P-3C, the P-8A uses sonobuoys to detect and localize a submarine. Once the sonobuoys were loaded, I cycled through each of the mission crew stations to observe and learn about their specific roles in executing the many P-8A missions. After using the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Inverse SAR (ISAR) to view surface contacts, I moved to the Tactical Coordinator (TACCO) station. Now, this is the part of the flight in which I saw firsthand the tremendous capabilities of this aircraft. While sitting as the TACCO, my “tutor” and I developed a buoy tactics pattern that would be used to track a sub-surfaced target (and potential threat) in the water. We then displayed the pattern to the flight deck where the pilots flew the pattern and the launcher system automatically dispensed the buoys from the aircraft into the water. Once the buoys were in place, I transitioned to the acoustic station to see the data we were receiving (from the buoys) and begin tracking the target. Using that data, we were able to simulate an attack on the target and complete the kill chain.
The P-8A is not simply an improved P-3C; it’s an entirely different and far more capable platform. From the airframe (based on the Boeing 737), to the advanced mission systems, to the payload capacity, everything about this aircraft reflects tremendous capability improvements in every mission area. You can count me among the many who are eager to get more P-8As into the Fleet so our Sailors can begin learning and unleashing the true potential this great aircraft brings to the fight.
Of course, at the heart of every platform are the Sailors who bring it to life. Thanks again to the Patrol Squadron THIRTY (VP-30) team for a very beneficial demonstration and training flight. It’s now up to all of you at the “Pro’s Nest” to make sure our Sailors are trained and ready to operate the P-8A for our Navy. You have a very important mission ahead of you, but I am certain you are absolutely ready to go. All the best, JCHjr