The P-8 is the first new maritime patrol aircraft to enter Navy service in more than 50 years. (Liz Goettee/Navy)
The inaugural deployment of the P-8A Poseidon will begin Friday when the War Eagles of Patrol Squadron 16 depart Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., for Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.
VP-16 returned to Jacksonville from its last P-3C Orion deployment in June 2012 and began the transition into the new airframe the next month. The squadron completed the transition in January and has been preparing for the deployment ever since.
The squadron will deploy with six aircraft and 12 aircrews. However, the crews will be smaller than those flying P-3s, as each only has nine people instead of 11. One of those cuts was the enlisted flight engineer, which the Navy decided was expendable due to technology upgrades. The job can now be fulfilled by the two pilots, aided by high-tech avionics.
The P-8 is the first new maritime patrol aircraft to enter Navy service in over 50 years. Building on the experience from the half century of flying the P-3, the P-8 brings to the plate a greater payload capacity, higher operating altitude, and its technology can be easily upgraded as capabilities improve, officials say.
The deployment begins the era of the P-8, as the “Mad Foxes” of VP-5 have completed their transition in August and will deploy in mid-2014. They will be followed by the “Pelicans” of VP-45, who started their P-8 transition July 15.