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Navy Faces ISR Deficit After P-3 Groundings

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Feb 29, 2008

Michael Bruno/Aerospace Daily & Defense Report


The U.S. Navy’s “deficit” in its P-3 maritime patrol and reconnaissance

aircraft community has risen to a “significant” level after at least 39

P-3s, roughly a fourth of the service’s family, have been grounded,

according to Navy officials.

Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, told the Senate Armed

Services Committee (SASC) Feb. 28 that some aircraft were grounded due to

wing cracks. In his remarks and prepared testimony, Roughead said the

airborne ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) fleet’s

importance and high-operations tempo in Iraq operations, as well as

traditional submarine-hunting missions, have stressed the aircraft and

boosted the need to replace them more quickly.

“The recent groundings of high-demand P-3 aircraft highlight the need to

bring the next generation of aircraft in service and retire our aging

aircraft,” Roughead said.

To that effect, the Navy has highlighted more than $548 million eyed for

“critical maritime patrol improvements” as its top concern under the service’s

so-called unfunded fiscal 2009 programs list as recently delivered to

Capitol Hill.

If provided by Congress, $384.1 million of that amount would go toward P-3

kit installations this fiscal year, which ends in September, along with

another $312.2 in FY ’09. Another $100 million would go toward accelerating

P-8A Multimission Aircraft (MMA) research and development (R&D), minus an

unidentified amount of funds already being transferred to MMA R&D via an

existing Defense Department reprogramming effort.


The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is designed to replace legacy P-3C Orions and

upgrade maritime patrol anti-submarine (ASW) and antisurface warfare, as

well as armed ISR capabilities that reside in P-3 squadrons, for combat and

theater security operations and homeland defense. According to the Navy,

initial operational capability is expected in FY ’13, while $1.1 billion is

included in the regular FY ’09 budget request announced Feb. 4.

According to the sea service’s unfunded list, any additional funds for MMA

R&D specifically would go to speed up testing ASW capabilities, leading to

an accelerated low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) contract in the first

quarter of FY ’10.

“Funding P-3 wing crack kits in FY ’08 and ’09 while accelerating MMA LRIP

helps bridge capability gaps in both the near and long term,” the Navy said.

In testimony, the Navy stressed that despite “several” successes in

delivering aircraft, such as the first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the high

demand for air assets in Afghanistan and Iraq expended a “significant”

portion of the “limited” service life remaining on EA-6B electronic attack

aircraft, MH-60 multimission helicopters, F/A-18 C/D strike-fighter aircraft

and P-3s.

“The accelerated depletion of service life could translate into aircraft

shortfalls if the expended aircraft are not replaced,” the service said.

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