18 February 2011
Whidbey loses Poseidon, thousands of jobs in doubt
By JUSTIN BURNETT
The Navy’s announcement this week that Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will not be among the recipients of the new P8-A Poseidon jets has left many pondering an $87 million dollar question: What does this mean for the base’s existing P-3 squadrons and its 2,600 personnel?
Unfortunately, it’s an answer no one seems to know.
“We don’t know anything yet,” said Kimberly Martin, NAS Whidbey public affairs officer. “We haven’t received any official statement. ... We’re waiting to hear just like everyone else.”
Base officials only learned of the news from a statement Congressman Rick Larsen released early Monday morning. It reported that the Navy has decided that Jacksonville, Fla. and Kaneohe, Hawaii would be the first two homes of the new P8-A Poseidon squadrons, which just last year had been promised to Whidbey.
“This was a difficult decision for the Navy,” Larsen said in the news release. “I am not happy about it.”
Larsen, a Second District Democrat and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Navy believes the P8-A Poseidon – a submarine hunter and surveillance aircraft – should be stationed as far forward in the Pacific as possible…
This news further cements this blog’s prediction that the officially planned 108 P-8s will never be realized. Originally scheduled for 156 such aircraft, the P-8 will end its run after perhaps 20 aircraft, and even that number is questionable. The P-8 concept of Open Ocean Control was based upon also procuring dozens of unmanned, high endurance Unmanned Air Vehicles, perhaps subsequently upgraded to Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles. However, the concept of designing and fielding a specific, dedicated vehicle for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) airframe is also continually more in doubt. The Obama Administration’s continued assault on the US’ ability to protect itself from war has left the military ragged around the edges as even more “investment” in the president’s political allies is demanded, per the White House’s latest budget which increases the national debt even higher to keep public union allies well fed. The Navy’s recent admission that “lean manning” does not work aboard the surface fleet (esp. the LCS) is just one other piece of the puzzle. As previously predicted here on The Nav Log, this blog predicts a total P-8 build of perhaps 20 aircraft, with eight stationed each at NAS JAX and MCAS KANEHOE and another four at FRS VP-30 in JAX. BAMS will prove to be the ability to request a more generic UAV, if available, for ISR. In the meantime, the P-3s will be extended further in life with constant re-winging and ever more restrictive operational envelopes (for instance, P-3s are now banned from any extended low-level maneuvers which stress the aircraft the most).
As has been the case in every war since WW I, ASW (along with anti-mine warfare) has always been left to starve between wars while all available money is dedicated to carrier battle groups. It is indeed ironic that scrimping on ASW and AMW can lead only to greater loss of carrier battle groups when the shooting war hits and the latest generation of AIP submarines attack. As WHIDBEY follows NAS BRUNSWICK into the history books, there can be no happy ending. What is happening to the Navy makes the Honda Point disaster look like a minor incident.