HISTORY OF PATROL SQUADRON EIGHT: CONTINUING A LEGACY OF EXCELLENCE
The FIGHTING TIGERS of Patrol Squadron EIGHT were commissioned in September 1942 as Patrol Squadron 201 in Norfolk, Virginia. During World War II, VP-201 flew the sea-based PBM Mariner combating the German submarines that threatened allied shipping throughout the Atlantic. In September 1948, the squadron received its current designation, Patrol Squadron EIGHT. In October 1962, the FIGHTING TIGERS became the first operational squadron in the Fleet to fly the P-3A Orion.
Today, the squadron is comprised of seven P-3C aircraft operated by 12 combat aircrews. Each combat aircrew consists of three pilots, a Tactical Coordinator, a Navigator/Communicator, two Flight Engineers, two Acoustic Operators, a Non-Acoustic Operator and an In-Flight Technician. The combat aircrews are responsible for employing the aircraft mission systems to accomplish complex and dynamic tasking. Squadron manning includes a remarkably talented group of 65 officers and more than 300 enlisted personnel.
TIGER Maintenance, comprised of more than 200 highly skilled maintenance professionals, has earned a reputation of “best in the fleet” through their record of generating superb levels of aircraft availability and material readiness. These highly trained professionals include Aviation Machinist’s Mates, Aviation Electrician’s Mates, Storekeepers, Aviation Structural Mechanics, Aviation Ordnancemen, Aviation Support Equipment Technicians, Aviation Electronics Technicians, Aviation Maintenance Administrationmen and Aircrew Survival Equipmentmen.
A motivated corps of administrative specialists supports the squadron’s worldwide operations. A Career Counselor, Hospital Corpsmen, Information Systems Technicians, Intelligence Specialists, Personnel Specialists, Mass Communication Specialist and Yeomen execute numerous and substantive responsibilities daily that remain instrumental to the squadron’s operational effectiveness.
The P-3C Orion is recognized throughout the world for its capabilities as an Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Precision Strike Target and Under-Sea Warfare (USW) platform. The P-3C is unequalled in its ability to locate, track and, if required, attack hostile submarines beneath the waves. The FIGHTING TIGERS and other maritime patrol squadrons have successfully demonstrated their preeminent USW capabilities in every ocean of the world.
The success of these operations is made possible by the array of sophisticated communications, navigation, detection and monitoring systems installed on the P-3C aircraft. Non-acoustic detection systems include the APS-137 radar, Advanced Imaging Multi-Spectral System (AIMS) electro-optical sensor, ALR-95 Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system, USQ-78B Acoustic Signal Processor, and Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) system. Information from these tactical sensors can be transmitted via a satellite communications suite in near real-time.
One of the most dramatic improvements for the P-3C has been the Aircraft Improvement Program (AIP). Some of the upgrades include the APS-137 Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) / Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), long-range image radar used to identify land and sea targets; the Advanced Imaging Multi-Spectral System (AIMS), a sophisticated, long range electro-optical and infrared sensor suite; and a robust communications suite. This communications suite allows the aircraft to transmit imagery and data to shore nodes near real time. AIP aircraft has conducted ISR missions in support of Operations DELIBERATE FORGE over Bosnia-Herzegovina; JOINT GUARDIAN, ALLIED FORCE, and NOBLE ANVIL over Kosovo and the Adriatic Sea; ENDURING FREEDOM over Afghanistan; IRAQI FREEDOM and NEW DAWN over Iraq; and ODYSSEY DAWN over Libya.
In addition to its significant sensor capabilities, the P-3C is unsurpassed as an all-weather strike aircraft. The Orion is capable of carrying a payload of 20,000 pounds of ordnance – including the HARPOON missile, Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER), AGM-65F MAVERICK air to ground missile, MK-46 / MK-50 / MK-54 torpedoes, rockets, mines, depth bombs, and conventional bombs such as CBU-99 ROCKEYE cluster bombs and MK-80 series bombs. The multi-mission P-3C offers naval and joint task force commanders a potent weapons platform for worldwide employment with rapid response time.
Whether in direct support of the Strike Group or shore commands, conducting long range reconnaissance, strike warfare or anti-surface/anti-submarine warfare, the P-3C is firmly in place as an extension of the eyes, ears and arm of the Strike Group or Task Force.
In June 2012, the FIGHTING TIGERS began their dual-site deployment to the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Southern Command areas of responsibility (AOR). While deployed, VP-8 flew 652 sorties totaling 3,065 mishap-free flight hours and achieved an exceptional 97 percent mission completion rate. Based out of Japan’s Naval Air Facility Misawa and Kadena Air Base, while in the 7th Fleet AOR, the FIGHTING TIGERS performed anti-submarine warfare missions; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support; and maritime domain awareness flights. Simultaneously in the 4th Fleet AOR, VP-8 operated out of Comalapa International Airport, El Salvador, in support of counter transnational organized crime missions. Their efforts directly resulted in the interdiction and seizure of 18,800 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1.2 billion and 1,500 kilograms of marijuana valued at $8.7 million dollars, as well as the detention of 61 suspects. The FIGHTING TIGERS also found time to volunteer more than 1,600 hours in support of 30 community relations projects across both AOR’s, including tsunami disaster relief projects in Japan and support of local orphanages and homeless shelters in El Salvador.
Upon return, VP-8 began their inter-deployment readiness cycle consisting of supporting carrier strike group exercises, anti-submarine warfare training, and individual and command qualifications and certifications highlighted by a record score on the Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection (CWTPI). In December 2013, the FIGHTING TIGERS began their final P-3C Orion deployment prior to transitioning in 2014 to the newest maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8 Poseidon. The FIGHTING TIGERS are currently on a dual-site, seven-month deployment to Bahrain and El Salvador.
The FIGHTING TIGERS have achieved a reputation of operational excellence without sacrificing safety standards – the squadron has completed more than 200,000 mishap-free flying hours since 1978. The pride and professionalism of every squadron member serves as a reminder to all of VP-8's dedication to excellence and service to our Nation.
P-3C Antisubmarine Warfare Aircraft
- P-3C Orion long range ASW aircraft Description Four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.
- Features Originally designed as a land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) patrol aircraft, the P-3C's mission has evolved in the late 1990s and early 21st century to include surveillance of the battlespace, either at sea or over land. Its long range and long loiter time have proved invaluable assets during Operation Iraqi Freedom as it can view the battlespace and instantaneously provide that information to ground troops, especially U.S. Marines. The P-3C has advanced submarine detection sensors such as directional frequency and ranging (DIFAR) sonobuoys and magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment. The avionics system is integrated by a general purpose digital computer that supports all of the tactical displays, monitors and automatically launches ordnance and provides flight information to the pilots. In addition, the system coordinates navigation information and accepts sensor data inputs for tactical display and storage. The P-3C can carry a mixed payload of weapons internally and on wing pylons.
- Background The P-3 Orion has been the Navy’s frontline, land-based maritime patrol aircraft since the 1960s. The most capable Orion version is the P-3C, first delivered to the Navy in 1969. The Navy implemented a number of major improvements to the P-3C (Updates I, II, II.5 and III) during its production run. P-3C aircraft communication, navigation, acoustic, non-acoustic and ordnance/weapon systems are still being modernized within several improvement programs to satisfy Navy and joint requirements through the early part of the 21st century. Current modernization programs include installation of a modernized communications suite, Protected Instrument Landing System, IFF Mode S and Required Navigation Performance Area Navigation, GPS, common avionics improvements and modernized cockpit instrumentation. The USQ-78(V) Upgrade Program is improving the USQ-78(V) Single Advanced Signal Processor system Display Control Unit, a programmable system control processor that provides post processing of acoustic data and is the main component of the Update III acoustic configuration. Up to 100 P-3C aircraft are being upgraded to USQ-78B configuration with System Controller (SC) and Acoustic Sub Unit (ASU) Tech Refreshes. In addition, all analog acoustic data recorders are being replaced with digital data recorders. The Critical Obsolescence Program (COP) began in fiscal year 2004 to improve aircraft availability through replacement of obsolete and/or top degrader systems. COP systems include the ARC-230 HF as replacement for the ARC-161, the USQ-130 Data Link as replacement for the ACQ-5, the ASW-60 Autopilot as replacement for the ASW-31, the ASX-6 Multi-Mode Imaging System (MMIS) as replacement for the AAS-36 IRDS and the Telephonics Secure Digital Intercommunications System (SDI) as replacement for the AIC-22 ICS. The Navy has shifted the P-3C’s operational emphasis to the littoral regions and is improving the antisurface warfare (ASUW) capabilities of the P-3C. The antisurface warfare improvement program (AIP) incorporates enhancements in ASUW, over-the-horizon targeting (OTH-T) and command, control, communications and intelligence (C4I), and improves survivability. The AIP program presently includes 72 kits on contract; 69 aircraft have been delivered to the fleet as of September 2006. Upgrades to the armament system include the addition of the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER missile and Mk54 torpedo capabilities. P-3 mission systems sustainment, necessary to ensure the P-3 remains a viable warfighter until P-8A Poseidon achieves full operational capability (FOC), include acoustic processing upgrades through air acoustic rapid COTS insertion (ARCI) and tech refreshes, mission systems obsolescence management, and the upgrade of P-3 tactical communications and networking through over-the-horizon C4I international marine/maritime satellite (INMARSAT). The ongoing P-3C airframe sustainment program inspects and repairs center and outer wings while reducing Fleet inventory to the mandated 130 aircraft by 2010. The P-3C fleet has experienced significant fatigue degradation over its operational life as quantified through the Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP). The Navy has instituted special structural inspections programs and replacement kits to refurbish aircraft structures to sustain airframe life. The 12 active patrol squadrons (down from 24 in 1991) operate P-3C AIP and Update III configured aircraft. Other P-3 variants still in service include one VP-3A executive transport, four NP-3C and eight NP-3D research and development, testing and evaluation and oceanographic survey aircraft. Numerous countries also fly the P-3 Orion, making it one of the more prevalent Navy aircraft available for foreign military sales and support.
General Characteristics, P-3C Orion
- Primary Function: Antisubmarine warfare(ASW)/Antisurface warfare (ASUW).
- Contractor: Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Company.
- Date Deployed: First flight, November 1959; Operational, P-3A August 1962 and P-3C August 1969.
- Unit Cost: $36 million.
- Propulsion: Four Allison T-56-A-14 turboprop engines (4,600 hp each) FONT>
- Length: 116.7 feet.
- Height: 33.7 feet.
- Wingspan: 99.6 feet
- Weight: Maximum takeoff, 139,760 pounds
- Airspeed: Maximum, 411 knots; cruise, 328 knots.
- Ceiling: 28,300 feet.
- Range: Mission radius, 2,380 nautical miles; for three hours on-station at 1,500 feet, 1,346 nautical miles.
- Crew: (P-3C) three pilots, two naval flight officers, two flight engineers, three sensor operators, one in-flight technician.
- Armament: 20,000 pounds of ordnance, including AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84E SLAM, AGM-84H/K and AGM-65F Maverick missiles, Mk46/50/54.