Five years ago, in the midst of managing fatigue-life issues with our P-3 fleet, we developed a plan to transition the fleet to the P-8A Poseidon beginning in spring 2012. I’m pleased to report today that P-8 transition is well underway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., in accordance with the plan we laid out.
With the hard work and support of our fleet, the Naval Air Systems Command, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and industry team, the Navy accepted the first six low-rate, initial-production P-8s on or ahead of schedule, with the last LRIP Lot 1 aircraft delivered on Jan. 31. Furthermore, Boeing is on contract to deliver seven additional LRIP Lot II aircraft over the next year.
Our Fleet Replacement Squadron, VP-30, commenced “training the trainers” in April 2012, and our first fleet squadron, Patrol Squadron 16 (VP-16), began P-8 Fleet Introduction Training in July 2012 after returning from a deployment. VP-16 aircrews and maintenance personnel successfully completed P-8 transition on schedule and the squadron was certified “Safe-for-Flight” to operate P-8s from its home port last month. The squadron is training to build advanced combat readiness in its P-8s in preparation for deploying to the Western Pacific with six P-8s in December.
None too soon. Read the whole thing to see the parlous state of the P-3 fleet. And if you read my piece on the Falklands, you’ll know just how devastating the lack of patrol aircraft was to the Argentinians.
The P-8 has been a remarkably smooth program compared to so many others. Why? Because it was extremely tightly focused, and the trend to gold plating/multi-missioning was held in check. NavAir wanted a P-3 replacement, and wanted it to be as cheap as possible. They held the line on that, and got what they asked for.