The US Navy transitioning from Orion to Poseidon

More than 60 years after its first flight, the role of the P-3C in the US Navy is coming to an end. Long-range anti‑submarine warfare (ASW) missions have been handed over to Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon. The transition from P-3C to P-8A, as well as the training of fresh Naval Aviators for the P-8A, is in the hands of the men and women from VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida. 

P-8A Poseidon
In 2004, the P-8A Poseidon was selected to become the successor of the Orion. The aircraft is based on Boeing’s 737-800ERX airliner. The first flight of the Poseidon took place on 25 April 2009 and three years later the first production P-8A was handed over to the US Navy’s VP-30 – nicknamed the “Pro’s Nest” – to start training crews for the Poseidon. The P-8A can fly higher, faster and longer than a P-3C, and has better technology and more capabilities.

Training P-8A crews
After basic training, future P-8A crewmembers head as qualified Naval Aviators to Fleet Replacement Squadron VP-30. They will learn about the P-8A’s avionics and flight management computers. Two-thirds of the events are conducted in the simulator building, whereas a third is done in the plane. The students have fewer flights but use the simulator more often in a more controlled training environment. After the students have finished the operational flight trainer, the tactical crew is brought in. This crew has been doing their own training separately in the weapons tactics trainer. All are merged together and fly together on tactical events and they do tactical simulators in the weapons system trainers. The crew of the P-8A consists of nine people: three flight crewmembers and six tactical crewmembers. The average time to get fully qualified on the P-8A is six to eight months.

To the operational squadron
When the Naval Aviatiors get to their operational squadron after finishing P-8A training, they will join a crew. There are generally three pilots that fly in a crew – the aircraft commander, the 2nd pilot who is the level below that and who is the systems expert for the flight crew, and the 3rd pilot, which is the brand new junior pilot. The new pilot joins the crew as a fully qualified P-8A pilot. In their squadron these youngsters will increase their knowledge and become more proficient.

P-8A missions
The Poseidon is used for a variety of missions. Its primary mission is anti‑submarine warfare. It also is used for anti-surface warfare. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, including counter-drug missions, search and rescue, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief, are also common missions of the P-8A.

Our article about the transitioning from Orion to Poseidon is published in the June 2021 issue of Combat Aircraft Journal