At the pointy end.

| January 7, 2021

P-8A Poseidon “On Top”

Waaaay out there alone, looking for a specific threat or just looking for trouble. AW1 Rod sends.

Why China Never Wants to See America’s P-8 Poseidon Flying Nearby

Hunting submarines from the air, however, is an airpower-intensive job.
by Sebastien Roblin

Here’s What You Need to Remember: As trans-Pacific relations assume new prominence in the twenty-first century, the P-8 will remain one of a number of means by which the United States and other operators assert their presence over international waters. In the event of conflict, they would also serve a vital role hunting down marauding submarines and tracking the movements of surface adversaries. These qualities explain why the docile-looking patrol plane is in such heavy demand around the world.

There is a decent chance you have already flown on one of the U.S. Navy’s key new aircraft—or rather, the 737 airliner it is based on. The P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol plane may not be as sexy as an F-35 stealth fighter, but in some ways it is far closer to the forefront of international flashpoints in the Pacific Ocean. Maritime patrol planes are essential for tracking the movement of ships and especially submarines across vast oceanic waters—and potentially sinking them in the event of hostilities.

Hunting submarines from the air, however, is an airpower-intensive job that requires numerous airframes spending thousands of flight hours flying long-distance patrol patterns over the ocean. Since 1962, the U.S. Navy has operated the P-3 Orion patrol plane, based on the four-engine L-88 Electra airliner. The turboprop-powered aircraft could spend a dozen hours flying low over the ocean to drop sonar buoys, scan the water for metallic hulls of submarines with its Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) and potentially launch torpedoes. After fifty-five years of able service, however, the P-3s have accumulated thousands of service hours and their hulls are growing fatigued.

In 2004 the U.S. Navy selected the jet-powered Boeing P-8 Poseidon to succeed the aging P-3. Development proceeded relatively smoothly, in part due to the use of a preexisting airframe and the decision to phase in the P-8’s advanced systems in a series of increments rather than delivering them all at once. This led the P-8 unit costs to actually come in under budget, at $150 million per aircraft.

The P-8 is based on the 737-800ERX short-to-medium-range airliner. It typically has a flight crew of three and boosts stronger power generators for its onboard electronics. The Poseidon reportedly offers a much smoother ride than the Orion, thanks to its broader-swept wings and flight computers. Orion crews were often nauseated by the strong turbulence their low-altitude flight operations required.

Docile looking?

Pretty good write-up at National Interest
Thanks, Rod.

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Not too shabby for a high speed, low drag, forward observer, aerial Artillery Platform. From reports it does a pretty good job of locating and bringing the dam dam down on bad guy surface and submersible floating Artillery Platforms.

I guess, if you have in flight refueling capability, you don’t need to be able to land on a carrier…or have the wings and motors on top. Oh…wait…there is an Army Aircraft that has all of that AND can land on a carrier. (dodges a thrown flight helmet)

Is the linky a no worky linky for OPSEC or need to know? Inquiring minds and all of that.


Tanks Boss, had to get a little jiggly with it and dial back my firewalls. Prolly something to do with the site(?) cookies(?) or whatnot. Or maybe the inherwebz twixt here and yon. Sometimes I have to pull a little hard on the string that the snuff can is attached to so everything works right.


Is the red thing in that photo a torpedo or a drone?

Nice-looking plane, too.

Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 A Gang Snipe

flying in a Poseiden must be some adventure.

AW1 Rod

*** Ugh! ***

Prior Service

Well played.

F/E Dave

I flew the P-3 as a flight engineer for over 15 years racking up 6500 flight hours. Patrols under 1000 feet were the best and sub-hunting at 200 feet most exciting. Never got sick but the back seaters sitting sideways at the grams did sometimes.

Name edited to protect PII.

AW1 Rod

If you opened the gaspers above SS-1/SS-2 all the way, blowing directly into your face, you could usually weather the ops at 200 feet. But it still wasn’t pleasant.


Ah, yes! Flying under 1,000 feet.

One time we were trying to rig a Soviet ship and the weather was crap. Very foggy.

Still, the Mission Commander decided that it made sense to dip down low.

All of a sudden, the flight deck asked over the IC, “Anybody know how tall the mast is on this ship?”

Chills up and down the spine, followed by urgent requests to ASCEND!!!

The fun op was trying to fly tandem with an IL-38 or any other bird that did NOT want to fly tandem. I was walking back to the galley during one such evolution. One second my head was hitting the overhead, the next I was 6 inches tall!

What fun!


While you guys are telling war stories, did you ever have the chance to fly near a Tu-95/Tu-142? Always thought those were cool aircraft. I’ve heard that the tips of the contra-rotating props are trans-sonic and wicked loud, deafeningly so even for those intercepting them. Any truth?

AW1 Rod

If I told you, I’d have to kill you. 🙂

Milo Mindbender

Hunting submarines from the air, however, is an airpower-intensive job that requires numerous airframes spending thousands of flight hours flying long-distance patrol patterns over the ocean.
I used to provide the cuts the P-3 would prosecute. My first rate way OT, and we have 95% of the tracking data for 5% of the budget because all our equipment was stationary.
Rode in the back of a P-3 a couple of times as a reward for special details. P-8 doesn’t appear to have the same capabilities, back in the late 80’s they were talking about using blimps as ASW platforms, but then “peace” broke out and my rate was disbanded.

AW1 Rod

Knew several OTs at the Wing-5 ASWOC in Brunswick, Maine. Fine analysts, all!


When Gropey Joe gets his orders from the ChiComs there will be little actual monitoring of the Chinese Navy. Plus, the Green New Deal will eliminate non-green Jet A to fuel those Poseidons.


Yep, there will many changes when His Fraulence is crowned.


Does the P-8A have a per diem ATM installed inside the fuselage?

And are the new P-8A crews salty enough to effectively manage/control a place like the old Fly Trap?


Back in the good ole Cold War, there was a guy who was legendary.

Let’s say his last name was Zakerly (it’s not, but close).

It was said that the squadron he flew with had discovered a new measurement of time: the amount of time it took from when the wheels touched the deck to when he figured out the per diem rate at the place he just landed.

It is known as the Zaknon. The shortest measurement of time imaginable!


Occasionally we get P-8A’s from Whidbey down at JB Lewis-McChord shooting touch and go’s. The hilltop parking lot overlooking the McChord runway always fills fast. Definitely quieter than the C-17.

On a semi-related note, the Washington State AG in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the Navy over expansion of the Growler airfield operations at NAS Whidbey Island.

Recently there has been a lot of editorials in the Seattle Times referencing Growler operations “destroying the Olympic National Park’s soundscape or harming its wildlife” to include submerged Orca whales.

AW1 Rod

And then there was the bailout drill!


Guy in one of my squadrons took a check ride. Freaked the evaluator out when he asked to see the pocket with his flare launcher. Said guy had a flare screwed onto the launcher.


Somehow he still passed.

AW1 Rod

That’s a UQ in a Critical Sub-Area. He should’ve been grounded!


Walking the dog at that hilltop parking lot while waiting for wife to get off work this afternoon when a P-3 appeared in the pattern and shot a few touch and go’s.


According to Wikipedia, the Indian Air Force has found that the Poseidon makes a good spotter aircraft for keeping an eye on Pakistani and Chinese troops trying to make moves on or near their border.


Correction, its the Indian Navy, not Air Force.