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.
The Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft is nearing fleet service with the U.S. Navy (USN).
USN VP-16 is approaching completion of a training syllabus at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida and is expected to reach IOC (initial operational capability) in Feb. of 2013.
Five Poseidon aircraft, serials 168428 through 168432, are being used for pilot and mission operator indoctrination. The aircraft are augmented by an extensive suite of synthetic trainers, including Level D equivalent flight simulators and mock mission crew workstations.
Image credit: Drewski2112/Flickr
The introduction of the P-8A marks an important milestone for the USN, which has operated various versions of the legacy P-3 Orion turboprop patrol plane for over five decades. The Poseidon is a derivative of the Boeing 737, incorporating a 737-800 series fuselage mated to 737-900 wings and featuring raked winglets to improve low-altitude fuel burn. The aircraft can carry the Mk-54 airborne ASW torpedo and the Harpoon anti-ship missile.
The P-8A offers greatly improved communications and connectivity in comparison with the P-3C. Additionally, the open-architecture mission systems allow for simple and relatively inexpensive software upgrades to quickly introduce growth capabilities. The USN plans to operate the Poseidon in conjunction with the MQ-4C Triton UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), itself based on the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk. Current budgets call the purchase of 117 P-8 model aircraft.
Test flights of the P-8A are still in progress at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Flight characteristic evaluation is being conducted by VX-20 while operational weapons and test evaluations are being carried out by VX-1.
Michael Glynn for TheAviationist.com
The Spanish Air Force (Ejercito del Aire) detachment in Djibouti, inside the structure of the EUNAVFOR (European Union Naval Force) in the Operation ATALANTA, reached the 4,000 flying hours in operational missions in support of the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.
Image credit: Spanish Air Force
This unit of the Spanish Air Force deployed in Djibouti has a Tactical Air Detachment entity with the mission of the surveillance, reconnaissance, information gathering and prevention of maritime piracy in the framework of Operation ATALANTA, within the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and has been deployed continuously since the beginning of the mission, now three and a half years.
The past Aug. 19, during a flight with the Lockheed P-3 Orion, the ORION Detachment surpassed 4,000 flight hours in this mission. Of this total, approximately one quarter represents the contribution of the crew and staff of the 48 & 49 Wings, when they are deployed with a CN-235 VIGMA aircraft supporting the operation.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
This important figure coincides with the 50 years being in service of the Lockheed P-3 Orion, joining a very few club of airplanes in the world that can tout this distinct honor such as the spy plane Lockheed U-2 and the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress in the USAF, and the British Vickers VC10 in the RAF.
The P-3 Orion has been in the frontline from the Cuban Missile Crisis, three months after delivery of the first unit to the US Navy in 1962 to nowadays anti-piracy missions over the Gulf of Aden, with the spaniards P-3M Orion, flying tens of thousands of missions over the world’s seas and oceans.
According to the Norwegian newspaper Andoyposten which gave the news, Apr. 10, 2012 will go down as a date that one particular Royal Norwegian Air Force P-3 crew will never forget.
Whilst flying over the Barents Sea on a routine mission, the P-3 Orion came across a Russian Air Force Mig-31 Foxhound. Nothing unusual, apparently, as the RNoAF planes come close to the Russian ones, especially when the Norwegian F-16s are called to intercept Russian aircraft approaching Norwegian airspace, normally without incident.
However, on this occasion, the Norwegian crew initially observed the Mig-31 twice shadowing the P-3 at a safe distance, then disappearing. Moments later the Russian fighter jet came back from behind the patrol aircraft, so fast and close it was in danger of a mid-air collision.
Fortunately, in spite of the “uncomfortable distance” the Orion did not collide with the Foxhound and the aircraft could safely return to its homebase.
Quite upset by such shows of bravado by the Russian interceptor Lt. Col. John Espen Lien, communications director of the RNoAF HQ said that the incident “will be dicussed with the Russian Armed Forces”.
Reportedly taken on Apr. 10, and brought to my attention by some of my Twitter followers, the following image shows what’s in my opionion a U.S. EP-3E flying at high altitude over Libya.
People who saw the image thought the aircraft was a drone. However, it seems quite clear to me that it is an EP-3E ARIES II, a highly modified version of the P-3C that became famous on Apr. 1, 2001 when one such planes and its crew were detained for 11 days following a collision with a Chinese J-8IIM fighter (that crashed causing the death of the pilot) and the subsequent emergency landing at Ligshui airbase, in Hainan island.
What the intelligence-gathering plane was doing in the Libyan airspace is hard to say. The most obvious hypothesis is that the plane was monitoring activities on the eastern Libyan city, where new extremist forces have taken root and car bombs, assassinations and looting have been reported quite often.
The U.S. Navy spyplane could also be involved in operations aimed at detecting and tracking smuggled weapons travelling towards Egypt: according to a recent Washington Post article, Egyptian officials have already intercepted several surface-to-air missiles, most of them shoulder-launched, on the road to Sinai and in the smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
There is also a last, less intriguing and less likely, theory: the picture was taken with a powerful zoom as the aircraft was quietly transiting many miles off the Libyan coast, during a ferry flight or routine mission out of Souda Bay or Sigonella, where EP-3Es are regularly deployed.