HISTORY OF PATROL SQUADRON EIGHT: CONTINUING A LEGACY OF EXCELLENCE
The "Fighting Tigers" of VP-8 were commissioned in September 1942 as Patrol Squadron 201 in Norfolk, Virginia. During World War II, VP-201 flew the sea-based PBM Mariner in combat missions against German submarines that threatened Allied shipping throughout the Atlantic. In September 1948, the squadron received its current designation, VP-8. From 1962 through 2016, the Fighting Tigers deployed the P-3 Orion in multiple conflicts and operations in support of American interests around the world. Throughout its history, VP-8 has answered the call to serve in a number of capacities, from monitoring Soviet submarines during the Cuban missile crisis, providing 24-hour support to two carrier battle groups in both maritime and overland combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, to conducting direct support of relief operations in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake. For over 50 years flying the P-3 Orion, the Fighting Tigers and other maritime patrol squadrons successfully demonstrated their pre-eminent ASW, SUW, and ISR capabilities in every ocean of the world.
In March of 2016, VP-8 began its inaugural deployment in the P-8A Poseidon, one of the newest aircraft in the Navy’s warfighting arsenal. Designed to continue the work-horse tradition of the P-3C Orion, the P-8A provides the fleet with more combat capability, responsiveness, and interoperability with both traditional manned forces and evolving unmanned sensors. The P-8A has significant growth potential, with planned technological improvements that extend global reach, payload capacity, and higher-operating altitude. Since transitioning to the P-8A, the Fighting Tigers have demonstrated continued excellence in all operational capabilities, winning both the 2016 Captain A.J. Isbell Antisubmarine Warfare Trophy and the 2016 Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy Award. Whether in direct support of the strike group, conducting long-range reconnaissance, anti-surface or antisubmarine warfare, the P-8A is firmly in place as an extension of the eyes and ears of the fleet.
Today, VP-8 is composed of seven P-8A Poseidon aircraft operated by 12 combat aircrews. Each combat aircrew consists of three pilots, a tactical coordinator, a co-tactical coordinator, two acoustic operators, and two electronic warfare operators. The combat aircrews are responsible for employing the aircraft mission systems to accomplish complex and dynamic tasking. Squadron manning includes almost 70 officers and more than 250 enlisted personnel.
VP-8 maintenance, comprising more than 160 highly skilled maintenance professionals, has earned a reputation as the best in the fleet through their record of generating superb levels of aircraft availability and material readiness. A motivated corps of administrative, intelligence, and information technology specialists supports the squadron's worldwide operations.
The Fighting Tigers have achieved a reputation of operational excellence without sacrificing safety standards, completing 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-8A Antisubmarine Warfare Aircraft
The P-8's first flight was on 25 April 2009. The second and third P-8s had flown and were in flight testing in early August 2010. On 11 August 2010, the US approved the P-8 for low-rate production. A P-8 released sonobuoys for the first time on 15 October 2010, dropping six sonobuoys in three separate low-altitude passes. In 2011, it was found that the P-8's ice detection system was defective due to the use of counterfeit components; allegedly these computer parts were poorly refurbished and sold to subcontractor BAE Systems as new by a Chinese supplier.
A Boeing P-8A Poseidon flying alongside a Lockheed P-3C Orion, close to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, 2010
The first production P-8A was handed over to the Navy on 4 March 2012. It flew to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, for training with the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30). On 24 September 2012, Boeing announced a $1.9 billion order for 11 aircraft. On 10 June 2013, a DoD Inspector General (IG) report noted that the Navy should delay full-rate production over a lack of key information to assess if the P-8 meets operational requirements. Additional testing was also needed to guarantee a 25-year lifespan. Boeing executives dismissed the report, saying that the test program was on track. In 2013, full-rate production was delayed until the P-8 could demonstrate it can survive its 25-year lifespan without structural fatigue, overcome mission-limited deficiencies, track surface ships, and perform primary missions.
On 24 June 2013, a P-8 successfully scored a direct hit with a live AGM-84D Block IC Harpoon anti-ship missile during weapons integration testing. On 1 July 2013, an initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) report found that the P-8A was "operationally effective, operationally suitable, and ready for fleet introduction." Six test and nine low-rate initial production aircraft had been delivered at that point. On 31 July 2013, Boeing received a $2.04 billion contract to build 13 P-8As in the fourth low-rate initial production lot, for a fleet of 37 aircraft by the end of 2016, and long-lead parts for 16 P-8As of the first full-rate production lot.
General Characteristics, P-8A Poseidon
- Primary Function: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-surface Warfare (ASuW), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
- Contractor: Boeing Defense, Space and Security
- Date Deployed: First flight, 25 April 2009; Operational, P-8A November 2013
- Unit Cost: US$256.5 million (procurement cost FY2015) / US$125 million (fly-away cost FY2016)
- Propulsion: 2 CFM 56-7B engines with 27,300 lbs. thrust each
- Length: 129.5 feet (39.47 meters)
- Height: 42.1 feet (12.83 meters)
- Wingspan: 123.6 feet (37.64 meters)
- Weight: Maximum takeoff: 189,200 pounds (85,820 kilograms)
- Airspeed: Maximum: 490 knots (564 mph) true air speed
- Ceiling: 41,000 feet (12,496 meters)
- Range: 1,200 nautical miles radius with four hours on station
- Crew: Nine
- Armament: Torpedoes, cruise missiles