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thedrifter
01-03-07, 04:06 PM
January 03, 2007
Navy considers basing new patrol plane at Kaneohe

By William Cole
The Honolulu Advertiser

A 1960s-era Navy sub-hunting aircraft that has been a familiar site on Oahu for decades is scheduled to be replaced by a bomb-laden version of the Boeing 737.

The Navy now is looking at whether to base the P-8A Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station or Hickam Air Force Base, or simply to maintain a detachment presence in the islands. An environmental impact statement will assess the potential effects, and a public meeting to seek input on the scope of the assessment is scheduled for Jan. 18 in Honolulu.

A Navy notice said it plans to replace its aging P-3C Orion turboprop aircraft with the P-8A at existing continental patrol home bases “while maintaining a maritime patrol presence in Hawaii.”

“We have 12 P-8 squadrons that we will be fielding, and the EIS process will help us determine how many will be located on each coast and on what sites,” said Ted Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

Finding a base

The Navy is looking at basing three squadrons at Kaneohe Bay, or basing those aircraft at Hickam, Brown said. Another possibility is having a detachment of the jets here for training and other missions, but without being based here.

Each squadron will have six aircraft, Brown said. Among the factors that would be examined is jet noise, which is particularly an issue for Kaneohe residents.

Whatever the decision, it will mean the end of the venerable P-3C Orion, a maritime patrol aircraft designed during the Cold War as a Soviet sub hunter.

Three squadrons of P-3Cs are based at Kaneohe Bay. Each has about 10 aircraft and 400 personnel.

A usual six-month deployment takes one of the three squadrons to locations including Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and countries such as Bahrain, and Japan.

During budget testimony in March, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael G. Mullen said the P-8A mission will include maritime and littoral surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and surveillance and reconnaissance.

Mullen said the jet aircraft will replace the P-3C Orions “on a less than one-for-one basis, and trades 4,500 military billets for 900 contractor billets.”

The Navy plans to buy 108 P-8As.

According to the Navy notice, introduction of the aircraft will begin in 2011 and be completed by 2019.

Beginning transitions

P-3 Orions flew out of Barbers Point Naval Air Station, and Patrol Squadron 4, or VP-4, became the first P-3C squadron at what is now known as Kalaeloa in 1984.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the P-3, with its long range, was pressed into overland service in Afghanistan, and Patrol Squadron 9 out of Kaneohe Bay conducted imaging, long-range targeting and firing of Stand-off Land Attack missiles against Taliban and al-Qaida targets.

In February, a P-3 Orion from VP-47 at Kaneohe Bay flew for 15 hours assisting Egyptian authorities and using infrared imaging capabilities to search for survivors of a sunken ferry in the Red Sea.

According to the Navy, the P-8A is designed to increase combat capability using a smaller force.

The jets will carry torpedoes, missiles and naval mines.

Ellie