Lt. j.g. Nikee Giampietro
The newest addition to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community, the P-8A Poseidon, took flight for its very first detachment by a fleet squadron during a visit to the Boeing facilities in Seattle, Wash. Sept. 14.
VP-16 sent 21 aircrew, maintenance and support personnel on this momentous occasion. The “War Eagles” have been busy training since July, learning how to operate and maintain the P-8A. This detachment gave the squadron a unique opportunity to see the aircraft from the beginning stages of production to testing the newest improvements to mission equipment that will be incorporated in future upgrades.
The War Eagles started at Boeing’s Weapon System Integration Lab, known as the WSIL. The lab represents the brainpower of the P-8A mission systems. It contains a mock replica of the Poseidon interior and was the first place Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven and VP-30 instructors trained before NAS Jacksonville’s Integrated Training Center was complete.
At the WSIL, Boeing employees, including many former P-3C aircrew, work on current and future P-8A technologies. Their prior military experience gives them unique insight into how aircrew operators work and think.
Their mission is to continuously test the P-8A software and systems, looking for any malfunctions that need to be corrected. They also focus on new features that make the system more intuitive to the operators, allowing the mission to be completed as efficiently as possible.
The aircrew were excited to see all of the new updates the aircraft will soon receive as well as the exposure to the “behind-the-scenes” of how the mission systems are designed.
The maintenance and support personnel were eager to fly the simulator as well as get some hands-on experience and learn what their fellow “War Eagles” do operationally.
PS3 Cori Shea said, “It’s interesting to see how much effort goes into how the airplanes are designed. There’s so much more to the process than I ever imagined.”
After seeing the future of the P-8A, the VP-16 personnel headed to Renton, Wash. to see where every 737 and P-8A begins – the Boeing production lines. Boeing representatives Carl Lang, David Robinson, and James Detwiler led an eye-opening tour throughout the facilities. Lang first showed the main production line where all of Boeing’s 737 commercial aircraft are assembled and painted before being sent out for final testing. The tour then moved over to the P-8A line to show the similarities and differences in the process.
For many personnel, the most exciting part of this tour was being able to see the aircraft in various states of assembly, knowing that they are the first aircraft VP-16 will proudly fly during their first operational deployment with the P-8A.
The tour concluded at the Boeing Military Facility, where the aircraft is sent to have all of the mission equipment installed after it is fully assembled.
Lt. Ryan Burke said, “Seeing the aircraft in this state was a good learning tool for the aircrew. It gave us the chance to see how things are connected and flow together, which gives us a better understanding of how to operate the equipment.”
The information learned on this tour gave VP-16 an appreciation for all of the hard work that has been put into the aircraft design, production and mission system integration. Although it was a short detachment, the Sailors and officers of VP-16 view it as a sign of great things to come for squadron. VP-16 is scheduled to complete their transition to the P-8A by the end of the year and will commence pre-deployment training in January.