More P-8As Coming To Asia-Pacific
AeroBD | The AERO news Company…Singapore, December 07, 2015 : The Asia-Pacific’s U.S. Task Force 72 aircraft fleet will be getting more P-8A Poseidons in the coming months as part of the nation’s regular cycle changes for the Navy’s new antisubmarine and intelligence-gathering patrol workhorses, says the task force commander.
“The number shifts, depending on global force management, which is determined by Navy leadership,” Capt. Richard Prest tells Aviation Week. “Every six months we get a new allocation of aircraft in theater. While fairly steady, it varies based on any number of variables — especially as we continue our transition from the P-3 aircraft to the P-8A Poseidon.”
Usually, the Navy says, the 7th Fleet fields between 13 and 16 P-8As or P-3 variants, the aircraft the Poseidons are replacing. With the Asia-Pacific rebalance, there will be more P-8As, the Navy says, and fewer P-3s as the service strives to get more of the technologically advanced aircraft into the theater to provide a “leap forward” for U.S. maritime patrol and reconnaissance capability.
When the last deployment schedule went into effect a few months ago, the total aircraft numbers for the Asia-Pacific task force dipped slightly as part of the normal ebb and flow of the Global Force Management process and the ongoing transition, Prest says. “The next cycle is in the spring,” he says. “We’re going to see an increase in aircraft. But it’s really about the capability – not the airframe numbers.” What the final fleet makeup will look like is hard to say now.
“The number of the end state deployed is still to be determined, based on operational requirements within the theater,” Prest says. “That’s constantly being reevaluated and refined as we continue to build P-8 inventory and transition from the legacy P-3 aircraft. The P-3 has been a workhorse for decades but the P-8 will bring new and advanced capability across the full range of maritime, patrol, and reconnaissance mission areas. The aircraft and crews are performing very well, and there’s a lot to be excited about.”
He notes the patrols in the large 7th Fleet area of operations are far-ranging. “Depending on our base of operations, our crews can go as far north as the Sea of Okhotsk and the northern Pacific, as far west as the Indian Ocean, and as far south as Australia,” he says.
“Mission profiles can last anywhere from eight to 12 hr. depending on the tasking. Sometimes we extend [time] on station, as required. It can be a very dynamic and exciting environment.”
While Navy intelligence flights in the region had focused on regional submarine operations – and the P-8As are designed to be the service’s premier sub-hunters – recent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights have become increasingly important because of disputed maritime territories involving China and neighboring nations.