Whidbey-destined Poseidon unveiled at Boeing Field

More than 300 spectators witnessed the official P-8A rollout Thursday at Boeing Field in Renton.

Bob Feldmann, vice president of the Boeing Company and program manager of the P-8A Poseidon integrated defense systems, described the occasion as a “milestone event.”

The unveiling occurred at a time when the P-8As are needed more than ever, said Admiral Gary Roughead.

“We have no time to lose,” he said. “It must be delivered on time and on budget because we are literally flying the wings off the P-3.”

Thirty-nine aging P-3C aircraft were grounded in December for service and only six have since been repaired, according to Capt. Mike Moran, P-8A program manager for the United States Navy. He spoke at a news conference following the unveiling.

Earlier this year Boeing reported that the Navy agreed to purchase 108 P-8A planes; however, Moran said today that the Pentagon will now seek 117 planes.

Production of the P-8A is great for the Puget Sound economy, Feldmann said.

“This is a huge project to Boeing and a huge project to Puget Sound,” he said. “Two thousand jobs are tied to the P-8A project inside Boeing.”

Of those 2,000 employees, Feldmann estimates 80 to 90 percent of them live in the Puget Sound area.

The first P-8A squadron, made up of six or seven planes each, will hit the skies in late 2013, said Moran, adding that each six months a new squadron will take flight. The Navy hopes to complete the transition from P-3C to P-8A by 2018.

Capt. Gerral David said Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will receive the P-8As in 2016.

NAS Whidbey is currently flying 20-to 25-year-old P-3C planes.

“The P-3s are at the end of their service life. This is the future,” he said, of the P-8A.

Mark Hamilton, VP-46 commanding officer, attended the unveiling with 20 of his squadron members, some of whom will eventually fly the P-8A.

“I’ll never fly the P-8A, but these guys are the future of the flight community,” he said.

The P-3C Orion is a four-engine, turboprop, anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft. Its mission has evolved in recent years to include surveillance of battlefields.

The P-8A Poseidon will serve the same functions as the Orion with upgraded technology. The P-8A is a derivation of the Boeing 737 airliner.

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