Original news article located HERE
Community Update: October 28, 2011
The following is a community update distributed by Rear Admiral Rear Admiral Michael W. Hewitt, Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group.
Admirals, leaders, friends of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF):
The MPRF community remains on course and our squadrons continue to excel at home and abroad. Our aircrews continue to improve in all areas of combat readiness and our leaders continue to lean forward despite ever present budgetary challenges. I am confident that MPRF is in perfect alignment with CNO’s three main tenets; 1) War fighting First; 2) Operating Forward; and 3) Be Ready. These tenets guide us each and every day and even as we paused this year to recognize the Centennial of Naval Aviation and the unique contributions of patrol aviation, the force achieved significant milestones in its ongoing transition to the P‐8A Poseidon and Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV.
The Airspace in Pax River is full of P‐8’s with four currently flying test and evaluation events, and another two aircraft set to deliver to VX‐1 before the end of the year, we are on pace for initial fleet introduction to VP‐30 in March 2012. The Fleet Introduction Team (FIT) is at full speed and receiving initial P‐8 training with VX‐1. FIT aircrew and maintenance personnel will augment operational test events to gain valuable experience ahead of
VP‐16’s transition, which is slated to begin in JUL 2012. P‐8 is scheduled to achieve its Initial Operational Capability in DEC 2013. To this end, construction on a new 168,000 sqft Integrated Training Center (ITC) in Jacksonville is entering its final phase with the installation of the first of ten OFT’s and seven WTT’s. We look forward to officially opening the ITC building and rolling out the first fleet P‐8A during this year’s ASW fleet challenge and MPRF symposium scheduled for March / April in Jacksonville. We will lock in the dates soonest but please plan on attending this monumental week in our community’s history.
Of particular interest and to further reduce risk in our transition efforts, CNO has designated CPRG as lead for MPRF collaboration with U.K. on Maritime Patrol issues including support of P‐8 introduction. Following the cancellation of the U.K. MRA‐4 program, the US and U.K. began collaborating on a non‐reciprocal personnel exchange agreement to bring 2 experienced NIMROD crews to the US to support the MPRA community for a period of at least three years. The RAF personnel will consist of approximately 20 aircrew (4 pilots, 6 NFOs, 5 AWs and 5 EWs), and could start arriving early next year. These highly qualified NIMROD aviators will consist of fleet experienced instructors and test personnel to support the generation of tactical doctrine and participate in operational test events at the MPR Weapons School and VX‐1. This exchange agreement, dubbed project SEEDCORN by the UK, enjoys the full support of both Navy and RAF and will ensure the RAF maintains critical Air ASW skills.
The transition to P‐8 is complex and challenging but bolstered by recent improvements in the health of our P‐3 force. Navy’s investment in sustainment of legacy P‐3 aircraft is paying dividends. The Fleet has benefited immensely by the efforts of PMA‐290 and industry partners to grow the available number of mission aircraft to an inventory of 80 war birds on the ramp today. As a result we increased forward deployed aircraft last OCT and will forward deploy four squadrons in DEC 2011. This is a return to the 2 to 1 deployment model we all grew up with and is in alignment with QDR and CNO Maritime Strategy. Based on current NAVAIR projections we are on glide path to a P‐3 sundown that will allow us to fulfill MPRF requirements through transition to P‐8 FOC in 2019. The increased availability that comes with deployment of P‐8 will increase the MPRA capacity to the COCOMs with the same, or even fewer, total number of aircraft. With the continued support of Navy and OSD leadership, the MPRF community will be out of the legacy P‐3 by the end of this decade.
In support of this transition and to preserve operational resources, our two VPU and two VQ squadrons will consolidate into single VPU and VQ squadrons in FY‐12. The consolidation is well underway and will leverage efficiencies in manpower and material readiness. Leadership is working closely with PERS to ensure opportunities are available for our VPU and VQ warriors during this transition. Looking toward the future, we are partnering with NAVAIR to explore options to field a Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) in P‐8A. VQ will populate with 12 “best-of‐breed” spiral 3 EP‐3’s and 15 combat aircrews. Most notably, VQ will transition to a deployment model for the first time ever, ensuring that a reasonable OPTEMPO/PERTEMPO is maintained while a planned 75% aircraft availability rate ensures a robust IDRC and contingency capability. Navy is very focused on how best to recapitalize our EP‐3’s.
The future is indeed bright as we work to replace legacy platforms with P‐8 and BAMS, which when joined with the TOC/MTOC make up the future MPRF Family of Systems.
I have included some detailed programmatic updates below. I recognize much of it is more detail than most of you desire but many of you asked for specific program updates, so here goes:
P‐3C Orion ‐ Planned legacy aircraft mission system obsolescence upgrades are progressing and will mitigate risk on P‐8A. C4‐ASW achieved full functionality with FITs complete on VP‐5 and VP‐8. On the acoustic front, APTR/MAC operational test is progressing with next test flights scheduled in mid‐OCT. These systems will provide the baseline capability for P‐8. The class desk also remains engaged with NAVSUP addressing Fleet logistics issues, which will become more acute as we move toward sundown. Of note, we recently achieved a significant Fleet Synthetic & Distributive Training milestone after the first successful connection of two Jax based TORT’s in support of a major FST‐J exercise with the Abraham Lincoln CSG, including H‐60R aircraft.
EP‐3 Aries ‐ On the EP‐3 side of the house, the current inventory of sixteen aircraft will reduce to twelve by FY 14. Early last spring the EP‐3 community chalked up tremendous success with the early operational test of the first JCC Spiral 3 aircraft. The JCC Spiral 3 program was approved for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) in the spring of 2011 authorizing the modification of three additional aircraft. Recently the JCC Sp3 program was approved for Full Rate Production (FRP) authorizing the modification of all EP‐3 aircraft.
MPRF Family of Systems (FoS) ‐ The MPRF & Air ASW Community of Interest (COI), led by CPRG and closely supported by PMA290, continues to provide an active forum for evaluation, leadership and action on significant MPRF acquisition issues. MPRF FoS Planning and Development Team produced the first detailed MPRF Tier 2 Roadmap. The Tier 2 Roadmap includes capability roadmaps for all MPRF FoS platforms, including ASW Rotary Wing, to beyond 2020. The FoS Team completed a detailed requirements analysis based on the P‐8A Increment 2/3 CDD providing refined requirements definition and representative solutions. INC 3 requirements areas include ASW improvements, upgraded Net Enabled Architecture, Net Enabled ASuW Weapons integration, Sensors and Targeting upgrades, and Communications upgrades. Furthermore, MPRF prototyping will continue to support TOC OPCON Watch Floor efforts to provide Service Oriented Architecture in support of all future programs.
P‐8A Poseidon ‐ One year out from a successful AUG 2010 Milestone C decision, P‐8 remains on track with all six test aircraft delivered or in the production line. The 1st LRIP lot of P‐8’s are under contract and the LRIP II contracts that provide P‐8A trainers, spares, training courseware, and integrated logistics support including support equipment, technical pubs and interim tech support have been approved. The Test and Evaluation schedule remains pressurized after some initial delays but expects to enter IOT&E as scheduled in FY‐12. In a tactical first, the P‐8 recently localized and tracked its first real submarine and T&E aircrew operators stated that the aircraft performed as well or better than advertised. P‐8 also dropped its first test Torpedo! Make no mistake; the P‐8A Fleet transition is underway and funded for success. Despite budgetary pressures we are tracking toward IOC in late 2013.
Broad Area Maritime Unmanned Aircraft System (BAMS UAS) ‐ The MQ‐4C BAMS UAS program is in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (aircraft and systems development) stage of the program and is progressing toward Integrated Test (IT), which combines developmental & operational test. Subsystems are undergoing lab testing right now at vendor locations, and system‐level testing at the contractor’s Systems Integration Lab will commence this winter. The production of the first two aircraft continues to progress at the production facility located in Palmdale, CA, and the rollout ceremony is scheduled for March 2012. We anticipate ground testing on the first air vehicle with the Mission Control System to start this winter, with first flight and commencement of flight testing occurring in mid-2012. The program continues to meet all cost and schedule targets set at program inception in 2008. Milestone C, which authorizes entry into the production and deployment phase of the program, is scheduled for mid-2013. Initial Operational Capability, which is defined as the 1st orbit and support system fully operational, is scheduled for first quarter of FY16.
BAMS Demonstration (BAMS‐D) ‐ This program, which was intended to be a six month demonstration, continues to provide ISR critical to Combatant Commanders. 2011 marks the third year of deployed operations where BAMS‐D flew its 5,000th hour in support of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). BAMS‐D has flown over 6,500 total program hours, with the remaining flights conducted at NAS Patuxent River to train and qualify additional BAMS‐D pilots and sensor/payload operators. BAMS‐D greatly benefits from the continuous support and operational experience of Fleet aircrew via Individual Augmentee (IA) billets. These IA tours provide these individuals, and the overall MPRF community, an early look at persistent maritime UAS capability in real‐world operations. We intend to further explore BAMS‐D potential through support of fleet exercises in the very near future. Bams‐D is bridging the MPRF to BAMs.
TOC/MTOC ‐ TOC Jacksonville and MTOC 1 are preparing to receive delivery and installation of the first P‐8 mission support network and gear set in November of 2011. The TacMobile Increment 2.1 network brings the P‐8 mission planning construct (MPC) and P‐8A Media Interfaces. It also delivers significant Tactical Mobile Acoustic Support System (TACMASS) upgrades for P‐8A, to include multi‐static active modes that will support P‐8 and legacy P‐3 ASW missions. The 2.1 network delivers new situational awareness tools that enable effective tactical picture management as well as network mass storage/content management. On the communications front, 2.1 delivers Link‐16, robust SHF satellite terminals and new tactical common data link nodes and ROVERs. Successful completion of 2.1 IOT&E is the keystone to a successful P‐8A IOT&E. As such, the TacMobile Increment 2.1 is on schedule to conduct Initial Operational Test and Evaluation beginning in mid‐JAN 2012 in Jacksonville. Once complete, TOC Jacksonville and MTOC 1 will be ready to support P‐8A IOT&E in the spring of 2012.
Retirements: We bid a fond farewell to a stalwart in the MPRF community this fall with the well deserved retirement of CAPT Ken Seliga. Ken and his wife Kim are two of the most dedicated Americans you will ever meet and have been completely devoted to the United States Navy family for over 26 years. Having logged a distinguished career by any standard, Ken’s impact as Commanding Officer of the Screaming Eagles of VP‐1 and Commodore of CPRW‐10 will reverberate for years to come. Most recently serving as my Chief of Staff, I could not have asked for a better officer and advisor to keep us on track and the entire MPRF community owes him a great debt. We all wish him and Kim the very best as they transition to civilian life. We also said goodbye to Gregory “Scotty” Hanson this month. After a 17 year run on the CPRG staff, Scotty is taking a well deserved sabbatical to travel the USA with his wife, Nellie. Scotty joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 and performed as a P‐3B AAW aircrewman and ASWOC analyst before retiring from active duty. He first joined CPRG in December 1994 and performed brilliantly as the IRAS Program Manager and Senior Analyst, Assistant Training Officer/ Readiness, Deputy Director, Future Plans, Policy and Integration, Director Future Plans, Policy and Integration. We wish him, Fair winds and Following Seas.
MPRF Symposium/Fleet ASW Challenge / ITC Dedication and P‐8A Rollout / MPRA 50th Anniversary ‐ Building on the successes of the last two years, we will come together again for a professional symposium in Jacksonville, FL in March 2012. This year we will proudly mark the 50th anniversary of the P‐3 Orion by rolling out the first Fleet P8A, hosting an ASW competition for our best USN and international aircrews, and dedicate the new Integrated Training Center building as it readies to accept the first class of P‐8A Fleet aviators.
As we close out the first 100 years of Naval Aviation and celebrate the rich heritage of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, I look forward to a bright future with the P‐8A Poseidon and BAMS UAS. Now that we have begun the complex transition from a legacy aircraft that has served us well for over fifty years, it is more important than ever to bring together our past, present, and future warriors. I want to thank those that have made the new Maritime Patrol Association a reality. The synergistic efforts between those great Americans assigned to our squadrons, the organizations that support them, and our many dedicated industry partners will continue to deliver unmatched capability to the Fleet. Continuing communication and collaboration between Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force and our civilian partners is vital to our overall success. Be sure to mark your calendars and look for future details on www.mprfreunion.org and www.maritimepatrolassociation.org as these professional gatherings promise to be the best yet. You can also see the many photo’s from this year’s CoNA events along with the latest on P‐8.
That is all for now. Thanks to so many of you out there ‐ active, reserve, civilian and retired ‐ thank you for your service, support and sacrifice. Keep the lines open and I look forward to seeing many of you in Jax for the MPRF symposium next Spring. Fly Safe.