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P-3 Crew

A P-3 crew may seem large, but there are just enough people to handle the mission. Three pilots share the burden of the long flights, and three aviation warfare systems operators (AW) fill sensor positions-two coordinate the acoustic mission and one acts as nonacoustic radar operator. The two flight engineers (FE) take turns sitting in the center of the cockpit to monitor all systems for the aircraft. The in-flight technician (IFT) makes any avionics repairs on the aircraft while airborne, and launches internally stored sonobuoys. The navigator/communications officer plots and maintains all flight data and coordinates communications, while the tactical coordinator (TACCO) coordinates the crew of the P-3 to employ the sensors, systems and tactics to carry out the assigned mission.

Crew efficiency is increased not only through improved equipment, but also by an improved environment. Instead of the cramped, confined spaces found in earlier patrol planes, the P-3 boasts 250 percent more floor area than the Neptune. It has a pressurized cabin, air conditioning, electrically heated floor panels, and plenty of stand-up and walk-around space. Controllable, polarized lighting reduces eye strain, and comfortable adjustable chairs cut crew fatigue.

The tactical coordinator (TACCO), along with sensor operators, monitors the plane's sophisticated electronic detection gear, including sonobuoys, radar, MAD and electronic countermeasure equipment. Navigation and position location are assisted by inertial and Doppler navigation systems, as well as tactical navigation devices used in the submarine contact area.

When hunting a submarine, the crew drops several sonobuoys loaded with acoustic charges. The acoustic charges of the buoys cause a pressure wave in the water, creating an active ping and making any submarine in the vicinity show up on the acoustic sensors. The acoustic operators relay their information to the TACCO, who then directs the crew in the localization, tracking and simulated attacking of the submarine. If the sub were hostile, the crew could easily launch one of its torpedoes during the attack phase of the prosecution.

Armament available for ASW attacks include torpedoes, depth charges, bombs and rockets, which may be carried in the bomb bay or on underwing pylons. Pilot or TACCO may select and release weapons as the tactical situation requires. Status panels provide a continuous display of the weapons inventory available for use. A similar panel gives a visual reference to the search store's status.

Each Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) squadron has nine aircraft and is manned by approximately 60 officers and 250 enlisted personnel. Each 11-person crew includes both officer and enlisted personnel. The MPA squadrons deploys to sites outside the United States for approximately six months, and generally spends one year training at home between deployments.










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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:34:45 ZULU