VP-9 “Golden Eagles” Poseidons currently deployed to NAS Sigonella, Italy, are quite busy these days.
Four P-8 Poseidon aircraft belonging to U.S. Navy’s Patrol Squadron 9 (VP-9), from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, are currently deployed to NAS Sigonella Italy. The “Golden Eagles” have replaced the VP-26 “Tridents” at the beginning of this month and have immediately started operating across the Mediterranean Sea.
The aircraft involved in the deployment are s/n 168997, 168852 (this one seems to be “on loan” or recently delivered to VP-9), 169004, 169002, 169328, 169329 and 169332.
These assets are much more than MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft): they are multi-mission platforms that can gather valuable intelligence using a wide array of sensors. Among these, an Advanced Airborne Sensor (a dual-sided AESA radar that can offer 360-degree scanning on targets on land or coastal areas, and which has potential applications as a jamming or even cyberwarfare platform according to Northrop Grumman); an APY-10 multi-mode synthetic aperture radar; an MX-20 electro-optical/infrared turret for shorter-range search; and an ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure (ESM) suite, able to geo-locate and track enemy radar emitters. Moreover, all sensors contribute to a single fused tactical situation display, which is then shared over both military standard and internet protocol data links, allowing for seamless delivery of information amongst U.S. and coalition forces.
The U.S. Navy Poseidons regularly fly across the Med: they can be frequently tracked orbiting off Syria, flying over the Black Sea or hunting Russian Navy subs and warships in the western Mediterranean Sea around Gibraltair.
For instance, on Apr. 9, P-8 169328 took off from Sigonella and headed to the Black Sea area of operations.
On Apr. 11, 169004 performed an intelligence gathering mission off Syria, as done few days later, on Apr. 16, by both 168852 and 169329. In the past years, we have observed and reported hundred similar missions flown by the U.S. Navy Poseidons out of Sigonella.
Generally speaking, when deployed to “Saigon”, the P-8s take also part in NATO exercises (such as “Dynamic Manta” advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercise series – the latest iteration was held last month and involved VP-26) and cooperate with U.S. aircraft carriers that transit through the 6th Fleet AOR (Area of Responsibility). As happend on Apr. 13, 2019, when two P-8s, 168997 and 168852 “escorted” USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group while it entered the Mediterranean Sea, most probably providing ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) overwatch.
Besides the operative missions, the U.S. Navy P-8s also carry out routine training flights, performing visual patterns and instrumental approach procedures at civil and military airports across Italy: Aviano Air Base and Lamezia Terme airport are frequently (almost daily) visited by Poseidons deployed to Sigonella.
Interestingly, on Apr. 12, 169004 performed pattern activity at Decimomannu airbase. It was not the first time a P-8 flew to the Sardinian airfield, but training missions to “Deci” are quite rare.
The Aviationist’s contributor Giampaolo Mallei took some interesting shots of the P-8 at Decimomannu.