As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, a Chinese Su-27 flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft over the East China Sea, on Aug. 19.
The P-8, a derivative of the Boeing 737, capable to carry the Mk-54 airborne torpedo and the Harpoon anti-ship missile, and to perform ASW missions as well as ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) tasks, was conducting a routine surveillance mission in international airspace when a Chinese Flanker intercepted it.
Routine stuff, until the Chinese jet flew within 50 feet of the Poseidon “and then carried out a barrel roll over the top of the aircraft” a maneuver meant to threaten the American aircraft, as commented by US officials familiar with the incident who have talked to Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz.
The American jet was one of the aircraft assigned to U.S. Navy’s VP-16, a squadron based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, that has been deployed to Kadena, Okinawa, one the largest U.S. airbases in the Asia-Pacific region, located about 400 chilometers East of the disputed Senkaku islands (Diaoyu for China), since December 2013.
One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.
The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.
UK Armed Forces and several partner nations arms battled each other in the air, at sea and on land in Europe’s largest military exercise this year.
From Mar. 31 to Apr. 12, Joint Warrior 14-1 saw over 35 warships, 25 types of aircraft and more than 13,000 military personnel focused on a realistic simulation of a live operation.
The core scenario of the Joint Warrior series of exercises (held twice a year in the UK) is based on the fragmentation of the fictional “Ryanian Empire” into its four constituent nations in the late 1960s, and the intervening period of “history” up to the present day.
A different scenario is then re-written for each edition. The 14-1 one simulated the creation of a multinational task force to perform a peace enforcing operation following a civil war in the fictional country of “Pastonia” and to support the legitimate government.
The aviation segment of the exercise saw RAF Lossiemouth as the drill’s Main Operating Base and featured the U.S. P-8A Poseidon, from VP-5, NAS Jacksonville, at its first deployment in Europe with a front line squadron (the aircraft deployed to the UK with the VX-1 in 2012), along with several other Maritime Patrol Aircraft, including two Royal Canadian Air Force Lockheed CP-140 Aurora from 404 Maritime Patrol and Training Squadron, CFB Greenwood; a Royal New Zealand Air Force Lockheed P-3K Orion from 5 Squadron, Whenuapai Mil; and a Royal Norwegian Air Force Lockheed P-3C Orion from 333 skvadron, Andøya airbase.
Although it has not been released yet, the outcome of the annual report on major weapons, by Michael Gilmore, chief of the Pentagon testing office, has already made the news.
Even if the report does not use the word “flop”, it depicts the new Boeing P-8A Poseidon as just not yet effective in two of its main missions: anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and wide area reconnaissance.
Flaws in the multi-million program (actually, a 35 billion USD endeavour) are almost everywhere: radar, sensor integration, data transfer.
According to Bloomberg News, Gilmore said the new aircraft shows “all of the major deficiencies identified in earlier exercises when subjected to more stressful realistic combat testing from September 2012 to March 2013.”
For this reason the P-8A “is not effective for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission and is not effective for wide area anti-submarine search.”
Obviously, at least “some” of the issues will soon be fixed, but the reports highlights that the B737-800 packed with sensors aren’t ready to be deployed and used in combat simply because they would fail in tracking Chinese subsmarines.
So far Navy’s comments on the plane have always been positive and this is also the official stance of Boeing, that has also said it they will closely work with the service to solve any issues that come up.
Although the test office found that, currently, the P-8A provide the same small-area search capabilities of the older P-3C Orion it is slightly replacing, the Poseidon is a quite young weapons system, hence it is provides the U.S. Navy a higher reliability, maintainability and availability with an increased range, payload and speed.
The problem is not with the airframe, but with the costly sensors that should be the real added-value of the new aircraft: radar and ESM (Electronic Support Measures) that make both ASW and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions possible.
These will be fixed in the next months.
The U.S. Navy plans to operate a fleet of 113 P-8A Poseidon next generation maritime patrol aircraft.
U.S. Navy VP-16 has just begun the first deployment with the new Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft.
The first aircraft departed from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 29. Destination, Kadena, Okinawa, one the largest U.S. airbases in the Asia-Pacific region, located about 400 chilometers East of the disputed Senkaku islands (Diaoyu for China).
The deployment was planned months ago and officially announced on Oct. 3, when US Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida and Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera, agreed to base two US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey squadrons in Okinawa, as well as detach US Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft beginning in December.
However, the situation in the region, with the growing tensions following the establishment of a Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and an incresing amount of aircraft and warships operating around the disputed islands, give a different meaning to the first deployment of the Poseidon, a derivative of the Boeing 737, capable to carry the Mk-54 airborne torpedo and the Harpoon anti-ship missile, and to perform ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) missions as well as ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) tasks.
Poseidons belonging to the VP-16 War Eagles squadron will not only keep an eye on Chinese submarines or perform intelligence missions, but will probably assist rescue efforts in the Philippines, supporting Operation Damayan.
On Jun. 24, a P-8A Poseidon from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 successfully fired a Harpoon AGM-84D Block IC missile at the Navy’s Point Mugu Sea Test Range in California and scored a direct hit on a Low Cost Modular Target.
The following image shows the target before and after the hit by “one of the U.S. Navy’s most dependable over-the-horizon all-weather anti-ship missiles, the Harpoon Block IC.”