A P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron 16 returns to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., on July 16, wrapping up its first operational deployment. (Clark Pierce/Navy)
The inaugural deployment of the P-8A Poseidon is now in the books.
Patrol Squadron 16 returned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, after a seven-month deployment to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan. The squadron’s last P-8A touched down at NAS Jacksonville on July 16, signaling the beginning of the end for the venerable P-3C Orion, which will phased out over the rest of the decade.
“The P-8 Poseidon either met or exceeded any expectations I had for that aircraft,” said Cmdr. Daniel Papp, VP-16’s commanding officer.
Here’s what you should know about the airframe’s first time out:
1 Same mission, different tools. The squadron deployed with six aircraft and 12 aircrews — the same as with a P-3 squadron — and was assigned the same missions.
But a P-8 crew is smaller than a P-3 crew, with nine people instead of 11. One of those cuts was the enlisted flight engineer, a job made obsolete by technology upgrades. The two pilots, aided by high-tech avionics, are able to fill that role.
The P-8 is the first new maritime patrol aircraft to enter Navy service in more than 50 years. The P-8 offers greater payload capacity, higher operating altitude, and options to easily upgrade its systems, officials say.
2 Better ride. VP-16’s crews got to ride in style, after years of service with the notoriously turbulence-prone P-3.
The P-8 is built on the base of the venerable Boeing 737 airline frame, with the end result being a more steady ride.
“This was my observation about the P-8 going in: You could fly an eight- to nine-hour mission and I could walk away from that flight feeling more alert and much less tired than I could in, say, a five-hour P-3 flight,” Papp said in a July 17 phone interview. “It’s a smoother ride.”
The squadron flew 600 sorties and more than 3,800 hours.
3 The search for a missing jetliner. The P-8 joined the months-long, high-profile search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
In two months on scene, VP-16 kept two aircraft in the effort and rotated aircrews through Perth, Australia, to fly 38 missions, spending more than 300 hours in the air.
4 Less downtime. After debate in the airframe’s concept phase, officials decided sailors would shoulder the P-8’s service responsibility — just as in P-3 squadrons. Contractors remain in the picture as advisers, for now.
While on deployment, the maintainers did 14 extensive, pre-planned maintenance evolutions. Each one came in ahead of schedule.
5 What’s next. VP-16 will deploy in September 2015 and will move into the workup cycle immediately after post-deployment leave.
“We will begin to train and reform our aircrews and we will build on the experiences we had ... and we expect to come back even more capable next time we deploy,” Papp said.