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Navy Deploys First High-Tech Surveillance Aircraft to Okinawa

Two Boeing-built P-8A Poseidons have arrived at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Two Boeing-built P-8A Poseidons have arrived at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. // United States Navy

Two Boeing-built P-8A Poseidons -- among the Navy’s newest surveillance aircraft -- have arrived at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Katharine Cerezo said.

Okinawa is 260 miles east of the new Air Defense Identification Zone, which was established by China on Nov. 23 around the disputed Senkaku Islands claimed by both Japan and China.  The P-8 has a range of 1,200 miles.

Due to time differences, Navy representatives in Japan were unavailable for comment on whether or not the P-8s will patrol in the China air defense zone. The aircraft arrived in Japan on Sunday.

The P-8s, built on a Boeing 737 commercial airframe, achieved initial operational capability on Friday, Cerezo said, with two aircraft from Patrol Squadron 16, based at the Jacksonville, Fla., Naval Air Station deployed to Okinawa on the same day.

The Navy plans to buy 122 P-8s at a total cost of $33.6 billion to replace its aging fleet of turbo-prop powered Lockheed Martin P-3s, the first of which entered service in 1961.

The P-8s have a crew of nine, including five systems operators and observers who manage and use onboard systems such as the AN/PY-10 multimission radar from Raytheon, which can eyeball targets at long range with high fidelity. These crew members also operate a hydro-carbon sensor to detect ships and diesel-powered submarines. The P-8 features a secure, wideband satellite communications system and carries a mix of weapons, including torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and depth charges.

Boeing started production on the P8 in August 2010, and last Friday, Capt. Scott Dillon, program manager for Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office, said the declaration of Initial Operational Capability “means the Navy can effectively deploy the P-8A for operational missions and continue to successfully transition from the aging P-3C." The Poseidon program is on track to complete the remaining preparations for the first operational deployment of a P-8A squadron. To date, 12 low rate initial production aircraft have been delivered to the fleet.

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