FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 13, 2012
(Photos available by request) [I will be requesting photos and posting soon. Chad]
Maritime Patrol Association Heritage Dinner Puts the Spotlight on the P-3, Hall of Honor Inductees
JACKSONVILLE, FL – The Maritime Patrol Association (MPA) celebrated 50 years of the P-3 Orion at the annual Heritage Dinner on March 28, 2012 onboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville by honoring the strength and commitment of the many members, past and present, who have helped shape the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community.
“Last year we celebrated the Centennial of Naval Aviation in which we noted that maritime patrol has played a key role in the U.S. military aviation operations since the very beginning,” said Rear Admiral Michael W. Hewitt, Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group. “And tonight, we are here to toast a major accomplishment within our own community; the service of the P-3 Orion for the last 50 years.”
The milestone anniversary of the celebrated aircraft attracted a crowd of nearly 450 guests in historic Hangar 117. One of the many distinguished attendees, guest speaker Vice Admiral Harry B. Harris, Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) member, spoke about the leaders who had helped mold the aviation community. He singled out dozens of active duty and retired members of the MPRF, many of them seated in the audience, who had played key roles in leadership and antisubmarine warfare (ASW), the critical mission of maritime patrol. It was clear that these people created the foundation upon which the community is currently run.
Included in that group of stand-outs were the three individuals inducted into the MPRF Hall of Honor during the dinner.
Commander Scott Carpenter, USN (Ret.), one of the original Mercury astronauts and a former VP pilot (VP-6), flew aboard the Mercury-Atlas 7 mission, becoming the 4th American in space and the second to orbit the earth. After the completion of his astronaut tour, CDR Carpenter later joined the navy SEALAB program, which made him the only person ever designated as an astronaut and an aquanaut.
Captain Arnold Isbell (deceased) was the commanding officer of Patrol Squadron (VP) ELEVEN during World War II, during which time he faced a hurricane while surveying military base sites in Newfoundland and skillfully maneuvered his aircraft to make an emergency night landing. Isbell later commanded the escort carrier Card (CVE-11), and coordinated action that destroyed eight U-boats in a two-month period in 1943. He then took his knowledge and experience to Washington DC where he set-up an antisubmarine warfare tactical research and development department. In March of 1945, en route to take command of the Yorktown (CV-10), Isbell was killed when a Japanese plane scored two bomb hits on the carrier in which he was embarked as a passenger.
Rear Admiral Daniel Wolkensdorfer (deceased) served in several VP squadrons throughout his career, commanding both Patrol Squadrons (VP) FORTY-SEVEN and THIRTY. Hailed for his dedication to the maritime patrol community, he was noted most for his service to the development of antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and tactics during the Cold War. Among other positions, Wolkensdorfer served as head of the Air Branch of the Antisubmarine Warfare Division of the Antisubmarine Warfare and Ocean Surveillance Program Office for the Chief of Naval Operations. Wolkensdorfer spent much of his 35-year career in ASW planning, acquisition, testing and operations, which helped shape much of current day ASW tactics.
Selected for their hand in shaping the heritage of the community and/or for bravery in combat, the awards for Carpenter, Isbell and Wolkensdorfer were accepted by family members and colleagues.
Another highlight of the evening’s attendees was a group of nine retired officers who were members of the original P-3C delivery crew in 1969 and/or instructors from Patrol Squadron (VP) THIRTY at the time of the aircraft’s arrival. The self-named “Det Burbank Crew” gathered at two distinguished tables at the Heritage Dinner where they recalled their infamous trip home with the first P-3C.
“When we arrived at NATC Pax River there was a large crowd gathering around to see the `new baby’,” recalled CAPT Ron W. Martin, USN (Ret.), Patrol Squadron (VP) THIRTY’s first P-3C Project Officer who delivered the first P-3C aircraft to the fleet from the assembly line in Burbank, California. “Would you believe the new fancy electronic ladder wouldn’t work?”
The primary aircraft of the US Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF), the P-3 Orion has aided in anti-submarine warfare since the early 1960s when it was introduced to the aviation community by aeronautics corporation Lockheed Martin. The P-3 turboprop was an answer to a late 1950s request by the Chief of Naval Operations for an aircraft with more cabin space, a larger radius and a longer endurance than its predecessor, the P-2 Neptune. In August of 1962, Patrol Squadron (VP) EIGHT took possession of the first P-3, and then in 1969, the final revamp of the Orion, the first “P-3C”, came online.
“From a tactical standpoint, this new `Charlie’ was a quantum leap in improved sensors, data processing, tactical displays, weapons delivery, and decision making assistance over any P-3 system flying at that time,” said Martin. “We all knew Maritime Patrol was about to become a force to be reckoned with.”
A half century later, the celebration of the P-3C Orion comes at both a historic and pivotal point in the MPRF’s future. In June of this year, Jacksonville-based Patrol Squadron (VP) SIXTEEN will receive the first of a fleet of replacement aircraft for the P-3. The P-8A Poseidon, a multi-mission maritime aircraft developed by Boeing, will be the first jet-powered maritime patrol aircraft commandeered by the US Navy.
Integration of the P-8A into the entire MPRF fleet, however, will take a minimum of six years. Until then, the P-3 Orion will continue to play an important role in the critical mission of the U.S. maritime patrol community.
“There are very few airplanes in the world that can tout the distinct honor of being in service for 50 years. This is testament to the ingenuity and innovation of the designers, manufacturers and assemblers who created the P-3 Orion,” said Lockheed Martin Vice President of P-3 Programs and Greenville Operations Ray Burick. “The P-3 is the world standard in maritime patrol and reconnaissance and will continue to serve operators around the globe for many more decades to come.”
As a token of appreciation to the community, Burick presented the first of 755 copies of a limited edition P-3 lithograph to Rear Admiral Hewitt. The lithograph is inlaid with 21 roundels representing all P-3 operators, past and present. The number of lithographs being produced, represents the number of P-3s built by Lockheed Martin worldwide over the last half-century, and brings even more significance in 2012, Lockheed’s 100-year anniversary.
“Throughout those years the men and women of Lockheed Martin have been by your side,” said Burick. “And it is our commitment that we will be dedicated to remain by your side during this period of transition.”
In addition to the Heritage Dinner, MPA coordinated several additional events during the 2012 Symposium in the last week of March, including the MPA general members meeting, a golf tournament, 5K, and flight suit social.
A 501(c)(3) Florida non-profit corporation established in 2011 and headquartered in Jacksonville, FL, the Maritime Patrol Association is the premier professional organization representing the U.S. Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community by promoting the use of the patrol and reconnaissance aircraft in the United States Navy. For more information on membership and corporate sponsorship opportunities, go to: www.maritimepatrolassociation.org
For more information, contact September Wilkerson, Executive Director, at (904) 563-4036 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or check out the MPA website at www.maritimepatrolassociation.org.