P-8A Poseidon – P-3C replacement or just another big idea?

I’ll offer this up as plane pr0n to the highly esteemed denizens of the site, along with the querulous query: Will the P-8A become the operational and financial sinkhole that I believe the F-35 series already is?

The new Navy P-8A Poseiden home based at NAS Patuxent River was the first P-8A to visit Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu. The P-8A flew missions here at NBVC Point Mugu as the Navy gets ready to deploy the aircraft to replace the P-3C Orion in Fleet service. The P-8A made its RIMPAC debut in late July last year while flown by two aircrews from VX-1 at MCB Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.

The new Navy P-8A Poseiden home based at NAS Patuxent River was the first P-8A to visit Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu. The P-8A flew missions here at NBVC Point Mugu as the Navy gets ready to deploy the aircraft to replace the P-3C Orion in Fleet service. The P-8A made its RIMPAC debut in late July last year while flown by two aircrews from VX-1 at MCB Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.

Obviously it can get from here to there summat faster than the venerable 4 turnin and whirlin P-3C, but is the cost per flight hour comparatively lower or higher?

Question: Can it shut one down and still safely conduct the patrol as the P-3 does? Heh!

Can it get low enough and slow enough to effectively prosecute a target, as the P-3 certainly has proven capable of doing?

Has it got the hang time of the P-3, or does it need to have Texaco standing by? (Can it refuel in air? Now, THAT’S a question!)

What, with the bigger airframe and all, does it have for galley? Does it have fold down racks, or does an AW still have to earn their stripes sleeping on the deck?

Can it hang in its belly and on its wings as many toys that go boom as the P-3? Which, just for the food fight that’s in it, I’m not sure they’ve ever maxed out on the P-3 and broken a wing spar by trying.

Admittedly, the B737 airframe has proven reliable and durable enough to become trustworthy, but are the projected unit cost so high and the projected production level so low that those in thin air section at the top are going to be reluctant to put them in harm’s way in the worst of times?
“Umm, we can hang Harpoon on it, but I don’t want it anywhere inside of 500 miles of anything that can shoot back! Besides, I might have a RADM onboard coordinating ISR and getting his flight pay! We don’t pay Admirals to go out and get shot at!”

If the Navy can field the P-8 Poseidon, what about another shipborne, fixed wing, ASW platform? Why not them?

So, there are more questions, but it’s Friday.

Ladies and Gentlemen (don’t smirk!), the 28 June 2013 edition of Battleshots is about to begin.

In five…four…three…two…huh? Oh yeah, thanks.

AW’s and assorted ASW Ossifers get priority shot at this.

So, where was I?

Duh…okay…two…one…fire!

(U.S. Navy photo by Vance Vasquez ) Thanks, Vance. Nice shot!

5 Comments

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5 responses to “P-8A Poseidon – P-3C replacement or just another big idea?

  1. Bill Brandt

    Mongo – I’ll make a comment. I won’t let my lack of being in the Navy or no ASW experience dissuade me 😉

    I doubt that this airframe has the performance envelope of the venerable P3 – I was thinking a bit ironic since the Lockheed Electra had only nominal success as an airline but saw decades of Navy service.

    But what choice did they have? What airframes would have been more suitable?

    I would think in this mission time aloft would be more important than speed

  2. Mongo, I will readily admit to having zilch P-3 expertise other than trying to scare P-3’s doing their business in WestPac, so my input may be without merit. Our spouses iterate that to us sometimes in more subtle ways.
    Having said that, I looked at the range and weapons load stuff and at first was cynical. 1200 nm range is pathetic and that is the number I find on the web sites, until the caveat “with 4 hours loiter time over target” shows up.
    THAT is a pretty darn good number.
    Weapons: under the wing missile stuff but more importantly an internal bomb bay with the latest and greatest torpedoes stuffed inside. OK, sounds good.
    Beyond that, open architecture, meaning lots of components can be interchanged/replaced easily. And a zillion 737 parts out there to help with the availability thing. How many P-3 parts (which were the Lockheed Electra of short airline life) were out there?
    Then I read about all the net-centric stuff, which I know less than zilch about but can assume the thing can link into all the cyber stuff the Navy and the world generates while doing the mission. Hey, maybe someone in the Navy actually used their brain pan for more that a hat rack this time.
    Might have to grudgingly admit the ASW community has, on paper, a good thing going here.
    Give it a couple of years in service and ask the JO’s for input. Or the bad guys for their opinion!

  3. bmq215

    Mongo,

    I’m by no means a navy or even an aircraft expert BUT I’m quite sure that the answer to “Will the P-8A become the operational and financial sinkhole that I believe the F-35 series already is?” is NO.

    I mean this has a proven airframe (at least a something), a defined objective, and there aren’t a bunch of allies cancelling their own programs in anticipation of it. How can anything be worse than the F-35?

    Now, as for the actual fitness as a replacement for the P-3 I’m not sure. I’ll leave that debate to more knowledgeable minds.

  4. The P-8 and F-35 are worlds apart on most fronts. The P-8 definitely will not be anyone’s economic sinkhole as the 737 airframe has well and truly paid for itself many times over.

    As for questions of the P-8 getting down low or staying up as long as the P-3 can; the better question is will it really need to. The air defense systems of modern naval ships are extensive and ASW has had to change to match. This is part of why you don’t see fixed wing shipborne ASW aircraft these days, sending smaller aircraft up against today’s fleet air defense systems is suicide. you need the bigger shore based aircraft for crew safety and standoff ability. Incidentally, this is also why you don’t see fast jets being used for anti shipping so much anymore.

    Were fixed wing shipborne ASW somehow to make a comeback, I’d say it would be in UAV form only.

    Weapons capability may not be so important these days as sensor capability. I suspect strongly that the P-8 would carry sonobuoys primarily and any actual weapons would be carried by drones possibly controlled from the P-8 at a safe distance from targeted ships.

    Of course, I’m no expert. However in an age of much better fleet air defenses along with UAVs becoming more prominent, I just can’t see the P-8 mission parameters and expectations being so wholly in line with those of the P-3 that you could draw a direct comparison between them.

  5. I was a Cold War era AW in the US Navy. I was in helos vice P-3s, so I can only speak in generalities based on 30-year-old experiences. There were four ASW platforms in my time and they all had their purposes. Protecting surface assets from subsurface threats were broken up into zones. The carrier (considered the greatest asset, of course), utilized its dipping sonar H-3s for inner zone defense. Which meant tracking subs that had already been found by other players. Those other players were S-3s working the carrier’s outer zone and P-3s tracking datums provided by SOSUS nets.

    Carrier-borne fixed-wing ASW assets still have a place. They work the outer zones to keep subs distant from the carrier. Subs work alone and fleet air defenses are not really a threat when single boats are the norm.

    The last platform was the small-ship based LAMPS helo. They generally worked singly on ASW pickets (destroyers) with idea of “sweeping the path” ahead of the Battle Group’s PIM. That was the plan, but it didn’t work out like that very often. In my 300 hours of LAMPS flying on det (we flew a total of 600 on that deployment), I got a total of six hours of sub contact. Yes, 1% of our total flight time was spent chasing a sub.

    I don’t know if the P-8 will be an item-for-item replacement of the P-3, but I do know that something had to be done. P-3s are aging airframes and Big Navy was having a harder and harder time keeping their readiness up.

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