Tracking U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon Aircraft Missions Across The Mediterranean Region

VP-9 P-8 in short final at Decimomannu on Apr. 12, 2019. (Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei)

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.

P-8 s/n 169004 has arrived at NAS Sigonella on Apr. 4, 2019. (Image credit: ADSBExchange)

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.

P-8 169328 flying to the Black Sea area of operations on Apr. 9, 2019. (Image credit: ADSBExchange).

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.

P-8 169004 off Syria on Apr. 11, 2019. (Image credit: ADSBExchange).

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.

P-8 168852 mission on Apr. 13. (Image credit: ADSBExchange)

P-8 168997 track on Apr. 13. (Image credit: ADSBExchange)

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 mission of 169004, flying as “VV PD001” on Apr. 12, 2019. (Image credit: ADSBExchange).

The Aviationist’s contributor Giampaolo Mallei took some interesting shots of the P-8 at Decimomannu.

P-8 169004 on approach to Deci on Apr. 12. Note the lack of tail code and markings. (Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.