The Challenge of Manning, Training, and Equipping Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Forces for the New Strategic Environment


By Robbin Laird

Earlier this year on March 12, 2020, Capt. Matthew Pottenburgh became the 58th Commodore in charge of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven.

In an article by Lt. Zachary Galcynski, the Wing Eleven Public Affairs Officer, the event was highlighted as follows:

The Navy’s Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) Eleven held a change of command ceremony aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, March 12.

Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, commander, Naval Air Forces/commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, served as the guest speaker for the ceremony and highlighted the accomplishments of Capt. Craig Mattingly during his tenure, and welcomed Capt. Matthew Pottenburgh as the 58th commodore.

“He’s a ‘mission first – people always’ leader and when he says, ‘take care of your Sailors and families and they will take care of the mission’ he means it,” said Miller. “He walks that walk and has walked that walk ever since his first day as an enlisted Sailor in 1987.”

Rear Adm. Peter Garvin, commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, served as the presiding officer for the ceremony and discussed the stalwart professionalism, inspirational leadership, and operational focus exhibited by both Mattingly, and Pottenburgh.

“Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven has been very well served by Capt. Mattingly during his time in command, and we look forward to continuing that brilliant record of success under Capt. Pottenburgh,” said Garvin.

Mattingly, a native of Austin, Kentucky, left the family dairy farm in 1987 to enlist as an aviation anti-submarine warfare operator in the Navy. He is a 1995 graduate of the United States Naval Academy where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Oceanography. He also holds a Master of Science in National Security Strategy from National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

He took command of CPRW-11 as the 57th commodore in June 2018 and reflected on his time in command.

“I am proud to have led this great team. I can only ask that you continue to strive to be a competent, professional force which has no equal; that you lead Sailors with compassion, that you excel in the air, and that most of all, you continue to be better today than yesterday,” said Mattingly. His flying tours include Patrol Squadron (VP) 50 during his enlisted days, and as a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) with VP-8 and VP-26 aboard NAS Brunswick, Maine, as a fleet instructor with VP-30, NAS Jacksonville and command of VP-9 at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to name a few.

As he thought about his original plans following the 2018 change of command and to present day, Mattingly reflected on the wing’s accomplishments.  “Our focus will be to take care of our most precious assets, the men and women of CPRW-11. We will sustain current readiness of our P-8A squadrons and reserve P-3C squadron while incorporating the MQ-4C Triton in to the maritime patrol and reconnaissance force,” said Mattingly.

During his tenure, Mattingly oversaw continuous squadron deployments, along with supporting Mobile Tactical Operations Centers engaged in various areas of responsibility.

Pottenburgh, a Galena, Ohio native, assumed command of the largest P-8 Poseidon, P-3 Orion and MQ-4 Triton Wing from Mattingly, who has commanded CPRW-11 over the last 21 months. Pottenburgh addressed the ceremony attendees and discussed the focus of the Wing after assumption of command.

“We will continue to man, train, equip, and operate combat-ready and lethal Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Forces who are ready to deploy to any corner of the globe,” said Pottenburgh. “We will continue to deter aggression and maintain freedom of the maritime domain.”

In 1996, Pottenburgh commissioned as an Ensign earning his Wings of Gold upon completion of Naval Flight Officer training in May 1997. Pottenburgh holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design, a Master of Science in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University of Dwight D. Eisenhower School. His recent flying tours include VP 40, VP-47 and command of the VP-5 “Mad Foxes” aboard NAS Jacksonville.

After relinquishing command at CPRW-11, Mattingly will serve as the Executive Assistant for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans, and Strategy (OPNAV N3/N5) at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

CPRW-11 squadrons include Patrol Squadrons (VP) 5, VP-8, VP-10, VP-16, VP-26, VP-45 and VP-62, along with the Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP-19).

There are two Patrol and Reconnaissance Wings in Florida and Washington State, composed of 14 Patrol and Reconnaissance squadrons.  There is a single Fleet Replacement Squadron located in Jacksonville, FL.

Patrol and Reconnaissance Wings serve as the Navy’s premier provider for airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, and Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operations.

But what does it mean to man, train and equipping the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Forces for the new strategic environment?

During my recent visit to Jax Navy, I had a chance to talk with Capt. Pottenburgh, Commodore of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN, and Captain T. J. Grady, Commanding Officer of VP-30 and the Triton Fleet Introduction Team. The two leaders have worked together on and off again throughout their careers and that collaboration informs and helps synchronize their current efforts as well. And both early on were part of the transition from P-3 to the P-8 and involved in the “training wheels” phase of P-8 development from 2012 through approximately 2017 and the next phase of the deployment of a global fleet and fleet wide modernization efforts since that time.

There were a number of takeaways from our conversation which provide an understanding of one might effectively answer the question posed above. I am not going to quote Captain Pottenburgh and Captain Grady directly, but will identify what I learned from that conversation.

Obviously, introducing a significantly different aircraft from the P-3, one which operates most effectively embedded in networks, is a challenge. It is challenge on several levels.

The first challenge is working through the kinks in the aircraft itself and getting that aircraft fully functional to deliver the baseline capabilities which the aircraft as a fleet might provide.

That takes time for the operators, the operational crew and the maintainers, to gain the experience to inform the engineers and the contractors of what needs to be fixed, improved or replaced.

That initial phase has been completed, but because it is a software upgradeable aircraft, there is an ongoing quality of what will change onboard the aircraft to adjust to the kill web operational realities of the aircraft within the fleet going forward.

The second challenge is training to operate an aircraft operating with a very different concept of operations than the P-3 which operated “alone and unafraid.”

Given the nature of the operational capabilities of the aircraft, and how the cabin is configured for operators, there has been a learning process to sort through the kind of crewing and squadron size most effective.

This phase is now under the belt for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community.

And operating the aircraft over time has led to different crewing approaches as well.

When we visited Jax Navy in 2016, there were five work stations onboard the aircraft. This now has been increased by one, or to having six work stations onboard the aircraft. They have added a second Electronic Warfare Operator or EWO to the operational crew onboard the P-8.

The third challenge is to adapt the enterprise not simply the P-8 as a platform.

Clearly, mastering an ability to operate the P-8 as a platform and one embedded in a kill web is the bedrock from which enterprise management can then be addressed. But because this is a sensor generating, receiving and embedded platform which is both a sensor and shooter, but a sensor-shooter that can enable third party targeting, the enterprise is an important part of the man, train and equip function as well.

Part of this challenge is to work ways to manage data much more effectively in support of the MPA fleet as well as the larger joint combat force.

This has led to the standing up of Tactical Operations Control Squadron (TOCRON) 11 as part of the Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing as well. This command is operational this month and is the latest member of CPRW-11. The squadron is tasked with data support and management for CPRW-11. They are tasked with imaging all of the fleet’s mission systems hard drives, and data with regard to software, mission planning and the flight profiles of the fleet.  They are the key enabler to maritime patrol’s Tasking, Collection, Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (TCPED) process, which helps drive the intelligence analysis cycle.

With the increase in mission system’s capability and increasing integration into the joint kill web, the MPRA community clearly relies on TOCRON with a P-8 enabled MPA force.

The fourth challenge is standing up of the Triton squadron and working the challenge of the co-development of Triton with the P-8 to deliver the common operating picture enabling the kill web force.

The Triton is the new kid on the block and is working through the “training wheels” phase much like the P-8 faced earlier.

But the Triton poses other challenges associated with the evolving nature of the enterprise.

How to manage orbital concepts of operations along with more traditional sortie generation operations by manned aircraft?

While the P-8 can operate with autonomy and networkability, the Triton is network generating and enabling asset.  CPRW-11 and VP-30 works cross training for the operators for the P-8 and Triton, as the Navy does want to create an isolated remote piloted operating community.

The Triton puts significant demands on the wave forms and networks enabling the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance and the equip function here certainly reaches beyond what the P-8 and Triton platforms organically carry themselves.

I have referred elsewhere as Triton being an example of manned-unmanned teaming but it was suggested in this conversation that there was a better way to put this idea.

What is being shaped are coordinate operations between the two platforms, where the Triton can sweep the field of operations to identify targets and allow the P-8s to focus on those targets and to focus their activity from take-off on where they need to go and what they need to do.

By training operators in both Triton and P-8 operations, crews gain first hand access to the wider range vision which Triton delvers compared to P-8.

In short, the evolution of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community poses significant challenges in mastering evolving platforms, notably ones designed to work together.

But even greater challenges are posed by the question of training for how that community operates within a distributed maritime force to deliver integrated effects.

Editor’s Note: Recently, VP-30 received the 100th Poseidon aircraft.

In a Navy article published on May 15, 2020, the event was underscored as follows:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) — The Navy’s 100th P-8A “Poseidon” was delivered to Patrol Squadron (VP) 30 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, May 14.

In July 2004, the Navy placed its initial order of P-8A aircraft to replace the venerable Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion, which has been in service since 1962. The Maritime Patrol community began transition to the P-8A in 2012. The delivery of the 100th P-8A coincides with VP-40’s successful completion of the 12th and final active component squadron transition to the Poseidon.

The final transition concluded amidst a global pandemic, which could have halted or delayed the schedule, however, VP-40 remained on track.

“We finished up VP-40’s transition this month, and it has been a challenge. Despite the travel restrictions, the additional required procedures, and the aircraft transfers, VP-30 answered the call. The VP-30.1 detachment at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington was grinding every day to keep the transition on schedule,“ said VP-30 Commanding Officer Capt. T. J. Grady.

The P-3C to P-8A transition has been on glideslope, on course, maintaining the original schedule over the last seven years, all while continuing to meet VP Global Force Management and deployment obligations.

“The P-8A program has delivered ahead of schedule and under budget since its inception, which is why the delivery of the 100th P-8A is such a significant milestone,” said Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group.

Between January 2016 and now, the P-8A fleet has grown from 33 to 100. The U. S. Navy is on contract to deliver a total of 117 P-8As in support of a larger fleet.

VP-30, the “Pro’s Nest,” is the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS).  VP-30’s mission is to provide P-3 specific training to pilots, naval flight officers, and enlisted aircrew prior to reporting to the fleet.  More than 650 staff personnel train over 800 officer and enlisted personnel annually, utilizing 21 P-3 aircraft.

And in a June 6, 2019 article, the way ahead was highlighted for VP-30.

As the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for the MPRF, Patrol Squadron THIRTY (VP-30) is ground zero for new developments.

The VP-1 “Screaming Eagles” are the latest to receive training on the P-8A. With VP-1 complete, there are only two active duty VP squadrons still flying the P-3, one of which is currently transitioning.

This winter, VP-30 graduated the very last class of P-3 pilots it intends to send to the Fleet. There remains a small cadre of pilots who will continue to train students on the electronic intelligence-gathering variant of the P-3 — the EP-3 — but from this year forward almost all students at VP-30 will be trained solely on the P-8.

“It’s exciting to see firsthand how the community is changing,” said LCDR Darryl Abriam, the Student Control Officer at VP-30.

The EP-3 will remain in service until the full integration of the MQ-4C Triton, an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The Navy just broke ground on a new facility for Unmanned Patrol Squadron ELEVEN (VUP-11) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

In a US Navy article by June 17, 2020 by Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, the standing up of the new TOCRON 11 command was highlighted.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tactical Operations Control Squadron (TOCRON) 11 took the first step toward standing up as an official command aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, June 17.

Capt. Matthew Pottenburgh, commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11 served as the guest speaker at the assumption ceremony welcoming the command’s first commanding officer, Cmdr. Anne Gilson.

“This is a watershed moment for the Maritime and Patrol Reconnaissance Force to welcome Tactical Operations Control Squadron 11 officially to Naval Air Station Jacksonville,” said Pottenburgh.

As of June 2020, 179 personnel, to include 26 officers and 153 enlisted personnel, have reported to TOCRON-11 commanded by Gilson who is from Concord, N.C.

“As the first commanding officer of TOCRON-11, I am proud to serve alongside such committed and dedicated Sailors in this critical mission,” said Gilson. “Our efforts provide the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force with robust, agile, and reliable Tactical Operation Centers to maximize maritime domain awareness, command and control, and lethality.”

Assuming command of TOCRON 11 marks the first commanding officer position in her 17-year career. Upon assuming command, she will wear the command pin, established in 1960 to recognize the responsibilities placed on those officers of the Navy who are in command.

“We are committed to the success and wholeness of the entire P-8A fleet and aim to unite MPRF against any and all adversaries by expanding situational awareness throughout the globe,” said Gilson.

CPRW-11 squadrons include Patrol Squadrons (VP) 5, VP-8, VP-10, VP-16, VP-26, VP-45, VP-62, Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP-19), and TOCRON-11.

There are two Patrol and Reconnaissance Wings in Florida and Washington State, composed of 14 Patrol and Reconnaissance squadrons, one Fleet Replacement Squadron and over 45 subordinate commands.

Patrol and Reconnaissance Wings serve as the Navy’s premier provider for airborne Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, and Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operations.

Finally, this is how the US Navy describes the command:

Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven’s history and reputation are unparalleled. Commissioned on Aug. 15, 1942 at Norfolk, Va., Patrol Wing Eleven relocated five days later to San Juan, Puerto Rico to provide support for allied shipping convoys in the Navy’s Caribbean Sea Frontier. As the Navy overcame Germany’s Atlantic/Caribbean U-boat campaign, Wing Eleven PBY-5Ns patrolled a million square miles of ocean, providing spotting and assistance to scores of wounded allied ships and sinking 10 German submarines while damaging 18 others.

The post-World War II drawdown culminated for Wing-11 in 1950 with a homeport shift to NAS Jacksonville and a transition to the P-2V Neptune.  Throughout the decade, Wing-11 squadrons continued to patrol vast areas in support of long-range reconnaissance and fleet exercises.  Operational commitments grew as the Cold War intensified and Maritime Patrol Aviation (MPA) continued to refine warfighting competencies in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), aerial mine warfare, search and rescue, and aerial photographic intelligence.

MPA excellence continued in the 1960’s with Wing-11 aircraft on-station for the recovery of our first astronauts and in support of President Kennedy’s quarantine of Cuba at the height of the 1962 Missile Crisis.  By 1970, Wing-11 squadrons had transitioned to the P-3 Orion.  In the years that followed, Wing-11 squadrons recorded thousands of hours ‘on top’ of Soviet submarines in Cold War operations from Greenland, Iceland, Bermuda, Ascension, the Canary Islands and Azores, and bases throughout the Mediterranean.

Wing-11 units met the challenge of the immediate post-Cold War period, supporting Operation Desert Shield/Storm, establishing an airborne presence during the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s, and supporting counter narcotics efforts in the Southern Hemisphere.  The Navy formally recognized the close link between VP and VQ missions in 1998, bringing Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Two (VQ-2) into Wing-11 and amending the command name to Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing-11.

Wing-11 units continue to excel in multi-mission roles.  P-3 Aircraft Improvement Program (AIP) delivers traditional maritime capabilities, real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and standoff land attack missile (SLAM) capability to theater and fleet commanders.  Wing-11 units proved their continued relevance and vitality during operations over Kosovo in 1999 and in subsequent stabilization efforts there. 

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 signaled a new focus for Wing-11 units.  In addition to traditional missions, units support homeland defense and the Global War on Terrorism in Operations Vigilant Shield and Enduring Freedom respectively.  During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Wing-11’s VP-45 was the first east coast squadron to establish a permanent detachment site in Iraq, flying combat missions in direct support of the troops on the ground. 

Additionally, supporting Department of Defense’s initiatives, Wing-11 transferred administrative control of VQ-2 to Wing-10 in Whidbey Island, Wash., and subsequently acquired Jacksonville’s Aviation Support Detachment.  The BRAC decision in 1995 to shut down NAS Brunswick forced a major transition for Wing-11 with the arrival of Brunswick’s four squadrons beginning with VP-8 and VPU-1 in June 2009.  Today, eight squadrons and Aviation Support Detachment fall under Wing-11, making it the first “Super Wing” in Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance history.

Wing Eleven’s squadrons include VP-5, VP-8, VP-10, VP-16, VP-26 and VP-45. Additionally, the unmanned patrol squadron is VUP-19.

The featured photo: Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 Commodore Capt. Matthew Pottenburgh, gives his remarks as guest speaker during the Assumption of Command for Tactical Operations Control Squadron (TOCRON) 11, formerly known as Mobile Tactical Operations Center (MTOC). The former MTOC Officer in Charge was Cmdr. Donte Jackson (center) and the new commander for TOCRON 11 is Cmdr. Annie Gilson. (U.S. Navy photo by Julie M. Lucas/Released)

For more information on NAS Jacksonville-based patrol squadrons go to:












“The U.S. Marine Corps is the nation’s crisis response service, forward deployed and poised to rapidly respond to crises as necessary.

“Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR), are Marine Corps units tailored to conduct crisis response, contingency operations, theater security cooperation, enabling operations, and all other missions as may be directed throughout their assigned Combatant Command (COCOM).

“They are characterized as:

  • Land based, self-supporting, and self-sustaining.
  • They are capable of command and control at multiple locations simultaneously.
  • They are postured to respond to requirements across the full range of military operations, anywhere within their respective regions.
  • They are an enduring, short notice crisis response capability for the Marine Corps.

“The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) is a rotational contingent of approximately 2000 Marines, sailors and support elements on the CENTCOM AOR.

“SPMAGTF-CR-CC is commanded by a colonel and is comprised of air, logistics, and ground combat elements.  These elements provide the crisis response force with organic lift, sustainment and support, and strike capabilities.”

The slideshow highlights adivision of U.S. Marine Corps KC-130Js with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352, assigned to the Special Purpose Marine-Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 20.2, flying in formation during a division flight in Kuwait, June 24, 2020.

The purpose of the division flight was to maintain aircrew proficiency with flying more than two aircraft in formation during aerial operations.



Photo by Cpl. Cutler Brice 

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit    

The 158th Fighter Wing Transitions from F-16s to F-35s


In a June 6, 2020 article by Michael Strasser, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Drum, 158th Fighter Wing the transition from F-16 to F-35 was highlighted:

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 5, 2020) — Members of the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard took to the skies over Fort Drum this week while training on the F-35 weapons system at Range 48.

Located in South Burlington, Vermont, the 158th Fighter Wing is the first Air National Guard unit to transition from flying F-16s to the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The pilots have spent months conducting flying operations, and this was their first experience releasing inert training ordnance from their new fighter jets.

“For several pilots, this was their first time employing heavyweight ordnance from an F-35,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Cady, chief of weapons and tactics for the 134th Fighter Squadron. “We pulled several lessons learned from the employments this week that would not have otherwise been gained if we hadn’t been carrying actual munitions.”

The surface attack training was supported by personnel from Fort Drum Range Control and the 174th Operations Group Detachment 1, a New York Air National Guard tenant unit on post.

“Our detachment runs the Adirondack Gunnery and Bombing Range, commonly referred to as ‘Range 48’ at Fort Drum,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Fulmer, 174th Operations Group Detachment 1 commander.
“We manage approximately 4,000 acres of the training area, providing targets for door/aerial gunnery training from rotary-wing assets, as well as targets for fixed-wing assets from all services.”

Fulmer said that the 158th Fighter Wing is one of the primary fixed-wing units that train at Range 48.

“This is due to both proximity to Burlington, and the unique training afforded by the vast military airspace that surrounds Fort Drum – and much larger portions of northern New York,” he said.

“The close proximity of Range 48 to our unit has certainly demonstrated its significant value to our training as we work towards being officially certified for combat missions in the near future,” Cady added.

Restoring North Carolina Oyster Beds

A U.S. Fleet Forces Command-sponsored video production highlights the creation of an oyster reef habitat – 880 concrete reef ball structures placed in the Long Shoal Oyster Sanctuary in Pamlico Sound, N.C.

Within a few months, young oysters (called spat) began to colonize the new reef, expanding the oyster sanctuary system.

The “Stewards of the Sea: Defending Freedom, Protecting the Environment” outreach program is designed to showcase the Navy’s efforts to monitor and mitigate the potential environmental effects of activities without jeopardizing the safety of our Sailors or impacting military readiness.

Copyright disclaimer: (c) 2019 U.S. Government as represented by the Secretary of the Navy. All rights reserved.

Portions of the audio and video of this production are subject to copyrights owned or administrated by other entities, including Pond5 and Firstcom Music, NOAA, Google, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio or others; and copying of such portions independently of this production is prohibited without the permission of the owner or administrator of that copyright. (U.S. Navy video).


Courtesy Video

Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command

Visiting Jax Navy, June 2020


By Robbin Laird

Ed Timperlake and I visited Jax Navy almost four years to the day of when I visited Jax Navy this month.

In 2013, the first P-8 squadron prepared for deployment; and this year, the 100th P-8 was delivered to the Navy.

When we visited in 2016, the Navy was in to only three years of deployment and the partner of the P-8, the Triton, was not operating as it is today in the Pacific.

During the 2016 visit, we got a clear sense of how the fighting Navy was re-calibrating to deal with the new strategic context, in which it was spearheading the new generation ISR and anti-submarine fight.

During that 2016 visit, the CO of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11, Captain Anthony Corapi highlighted the launch point of the transition in the Navy from a P-3 enabled ASW enterprise to a P-8/Triton enabled ASW enterprise.

“As I transitioned and learned how to fly the P8, I was still using like a P3. It’s hard to break 3000 plus hours of flying in a P3 and looking at it as something radically different. I’ve had to even teach myself that this is not a P3 replacement.

“What struck me the most when I got on board the aircraft for the first couple of flights is how it is so integrated into a network. For years the P3 was alone and unafraid. It was really good at doing it. It had some good sensors at the time, but it’s ability to be networked was very, very minimal. This airplane is completely different. It is much more automated, so much more. Everything is just set up so much different in the cockpit, just in particular.”

Captain Corapi argued that with the new networked enabled ISR/ASW aircraft which the P-8 clearly is, innovation will be driven from the operating level going forward, and notably so for the digital native generation.

“Because there’s so many young aviators now that have never seen a P3 and they’re innovating from the ground up, they’re learning how to fight the airplane in a completely different way.

“In my opinion, if you want innovation to really happen you got to just let it go. You can’t hold onto it. If you hold onto it and you try to mandate innovation, you will not innovate. These young crews, do not know what they don’t know. They are not unlearning P-3 behavior; they are shaping new behavior appropriate to the digital age.”

During that 2016 visit, all the squadrons in Wing 11 were baseline P-8s.

Now four years later, the software upgradeable aircraft has evolved, and the capabilities of the now global fleet of P-8s as well.

My recent visit provides a series of insights into the evolution over the past few years, as well as the nature of the foundation being laid for the next leap of capabilities within the fleet and the joint force.

For the P-8/Triton combination is clearly a key capability for the dynamic targeting which the USAF and the USN are focusing upon for deterrence in the new strategic environment.

In a number of the interviews conducted at Jax Navy and Mayport, I had a chance to discuss with P-8, Triton, Seahawk crews and with a MISR officer how the Navy is leveraging these capabilities to shape a kill web approach for the fleet.

I started my visit with a discussion with CDR Mike Kamas, Commanding Officer, Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School and his Executive Officer, CDR Matt Griffin, who will assume command of MPRWS on July 24, 2020.

Both of these Naval aviators have a wide range of operational experience and are clearly leveraging that experience in shaping a way ahead for the maritime patrol enterprise as a plank holder in a kill web enabled maritime force.

CDR Mike Kamas has 20 years of USN service in a variety of roles.  Starting out his career as a P-3 Naval Flight Officer at VP-16 in Jacksonville, he has also operated aboard aircraft carriers, served as a flag aide at the Undersea Warfighting Development Center in San Diego, and worked with the surface warfare community in Hawaii. He has operated forward in Europe and the Middle East, providing ISR to the joint force during the land wars of the past two decades. He also served as a Staff Officer at the United States Africa Command as well. In 2017, CDR Kamas came back to Jacksonville, made the P-3 to P-8 transition and assumed command of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School.

CDR Mike Kamas

CDR Kamas noted that even though the mission sets for the P-3 and P-8 were similar, ASW, surface warfare support and maritime ISR support, the approach is radically different.

The P-8 is part of a wider sensor network which is interconnected through various C2 links and the platform shapes innovative new ways to do third party targeting, or essentially operated as part of interactive kill webs rather than like the P-3, which flew “alone and unafraid.”

His XO is CDR Matt Griffin who came from an ROTC background at Ohio State. He first deployed from Brunswick Maine as a Naval Flight Officer with VP-26, a P-3C squadron primarily supporting ASW. Midway through this tour, the focus of the squadron’s effort transitioned to support the land wars of OPERATIONS IRAQI AND ENDURING FREEDOM in support of the joint force. During his time in the Gulf, he became familiar with the challenge of operating in an area which is chock full of ships of varying sizes, purposes and capabilities, which of course, is a major challenge facing the US and allied maritime forces in the Pacific.

CDR Griffin noted that even while involved in the Middle East, the Navy made sure that his team’s ASW skill set did not atrophy too much.

For example, during one of his deployments, his team was sent to Japan for a period of time to work ASW even while their primary mission had shifted to overland ISR for the joint force.

He later went to the Undersea Warfighting Development Center in San Diego where new staff members received insight from very experienced commanders who did ASW in the Cold War period as well. “We were learning from retired Naval officers with hours and hours and hours of real-world operations against adversary submarines.”

After his time at the Undersea Warfighting Development Center, he went to serve on the staff of a Destroyer Squadron (DESRON). Here he worked on the challenge of translating the language and world of the MPA community into the language and world of the black shoe navy community. Obviously, this translation challenge becomes crucial to work given that with the third-party targeting capabilities being shaped by the networks and wave forms enabling interactive kill webs, empowering effective distributed strike and sensing collaboration is crucial.

CDR Griffin then went to NAWDC where he served for two years as the P-3 WTI program coordinator. This added the integration with the carrier air wing aspect to his training and education, in which the fast jet pilots also need to relearn their roles within a kill web concepts of operations whereby interactive networks both inform their targeting but also guide their roles in the kill web going forward. And with the sensor rich F-35 coming to the fleet, the role interactions among F-35, Triton, and P-8 is reshaping significantly how the fleet can operate a distributed integrateable force.

Next he transitioned to the P-8 and on his first deployment was intercepted by the Chinese Air Force in the South China Sea.

Both Commanders underscored that for the MPA community their home cycle readiness focus is geared toward dealing with peer competitors.  

“We practice killing submarines and surface ships with a larger fight in mind.”

They both emphasized as well that the sensor networks are evolving and within that context the MPA community is learning new ways to shape interactive approaches within the fleet and in the joint community to manage ISR and strike capabilities.

A key aspect which often gets lost when addressing the competition with China is the importance of the combat experience of the joint force being taken forward to provide a combat advantage.

I asked them how they looked at how their combat experience from the land wars is leverageable going forward to the new strategic environment.

The answer: experience in adaptability and agility.

CDR Kamas noted that during his time in the Middle East, they would operate a significant amount of new roll on and roll off gear on their P-3s.

“The gear would be new to use, and we never trained for it during our home cycle. We learned on the fly. The level 500 instructors would shape a rapid learning course and we were able to fly a new technology in a very short period of time.

‘We flew missions in strange places the P-3 was never designed to operate in, and that kind of learning and the incorporation of new technology rapidly is a skill set we are taking forward toward current and future variants of the P-8 Poseidon and MQ-4 Triton.”

The P-3 ended up being a global aircraft.

The P-8 fleet is being built out as a global fleet, and there is a concerted effort to provide for greater information sharing and interoperability with P-8 partners, like the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Norway.

There is a clear effort to do better in this domain than was done with regard to P-3.

And that interoperability can yield a major advantage with regard to expanding the reach of interactive kill webs as well. The two leaders underscored that the P-8 is a key piece in the evolution of coordinated dynamic targeting.

“We are agnostic to who the shooter is. We think the P-8 has significant value in a kill web approach.”

They emphasized as well the importance of ongoing modernization of the sensor networks within which the P-8 is embedded, including key capabilities such as the sonobuoy sensors.

In contrast to 2016, now the Triton is part of the operating force, and the approach for P-8 is being modified to leverage this capability as well.

Here the opportunity being generated is for the Triton to provide for wide sweep ISR data, with the P-8 then being able to prioritize targets during its time on station.

And to get full value out of the P-8/Triton interactivity, the ability to correlate spiral software development on the two platforms is a key opportunity to evolve the overall ISR/strike enterprise.

At the time of this interview, the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School was executing its 7-week Maritime Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course, focused not only on current capabilities but also on what the future has in store for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force.

“A lot of our focus during the WTI course is on challenges like third party targeting and execution of integrated strike tactics.

‘We deep dive the current way P-8s contribute to the kill web and give the class some ideas of how the platform’s software and sensor packages will evolve in the next 3 to 5 years.

‘This gives the students the opportunity to use their imagination on the role of the P-8A and MQ-4C Triton in a future fight.”

Third party targeting for the Navy means that the tac air community now is beginning to appreciate fully what a P-8/Triton dyad can bring to the party.

“They are clearly starting to see all of the goodness that the P-8 and Triton can provide.

“As a result, our staffs are talking at a significantly greater level than when you were here four years ago.”

The coming of MISR is clearly a major change as well in bridging the large wing aircraft and tac air communities as well, but I will focus on that in greater detail later.

But the software upgradeability piece which we discussed four years ago is clearly becoming a more significant part of the way ahead for the MPA community.

When we visited Jax Navy four years ago, all of the P-8s were baseline aircraft.

Now the community is seeing more rapid advances with software upgrades to changing baseline aircraft.

CDR Kamas noted that they are now able to feed operator input “back to the engineers and resource sponsors to inform the requirements process and software upgrades, in a way that integrates into the spiral software that comes out every two years and the D.C. budget cycle.

‘We keep a running list of software discrepancies that have been observed by the fleet and need to be corrected and we also prioritize new ideas for software features that can fill tactical capability gaps.”

CDR Kamas added that they host an annual conference where the fleet operators meet to formally deliberate on the list of desired changes.

“We have a contractor that helps us with the rack and stack prioritization process, transfers those suggestions to the program office, and engages with the resource sponsor to fund the top candidates on the list.”

This approach is laying down the foundations for further fundamental change within the procurement system and the way spiral software upgrades are managed as well. The speed brake is largely the information assurance piece.

“The whole process takes time, but it ensures we comply with DoD Information Assurance requirements.”

In short, 2013 was the beginning; 2016 laid a solid baseline aircraft to the fleet operational reset; and now we see the foundation being set for a build out of the integrated distributed fleet empowered by interactive kill webs.

The UK in Baltic Defense: The View from Moray, Scotland

The RAF is participating in the current Baltic Air Policing effort with Spain and France.

An article by Sean McAngus published on June 26, 2020 by The Press and Journal highlighted the role of RAF Lossiemouth aircraft in the effort.

Crews from RAF Lossiemouth based at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, are carrying out a Nato Baltic Air Policing mission along with the Spanish Air Force and French Air Force.

Moray Typhoon jets are leading 150 personnel from all over the UK in the peacetime mission that is being run until August 31.

It involves aircraft being ready to scramble 24 hours a day to monitor unidentified or enemy aircraft approaching Nato airspace.

Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, 135 EAW commander, says that these missions help grow relationships with NATO allies over a longer time.

The RAF are providing a “credible layered defence” of Nato airspace to prevent any “aggressive acts” similar to the annexation of Crimean in 2014 by the Russians.

He added: “The UK’s commitment to Nato is really important and it is great to provide the capability that is expected of us.”

“It is also a opportunity to work with allies while on ops as normally we just come together for an exercise for a week or two.

“In this deployment, we are there for four months so we can establish relationships and share where appropriate.

“We all learn from each other in this mission.

“Working with allies is really important in building bridges and sharing our experiences.”

And Moray’s contribution to the defense of the Polish through Baltic and Nordic North Atlantic defense zone is going up as the P-8s operate from RAF Lossiemouth as well. 

As we noted in a 2017 article:

“In effect, an MDA highway being built from Lossie and the F-35 reach from the UK to Northern Europe are about shaping common, convergent capabilities that will allow for expanded joint and combined operational capabilities.

“At this is not an add on, but built from the ground up.

“Flying the same ISR/C2/strike aircraft, will pose a central challenge with regard to how best to share combat data in a fluid situation demanding timely and effective decision-making?

“The UK is clearly a key player in shaping the way ahead on both the P-8 and F-35 enterprises, not just by investing in both platforms, but building the infrastructure and training a new generation of operators and maintainers as well.”

The featured photo shows a Russian surveillance plane being shadowed by an RAF Typhoon. SAC Iain Curlett/© MOD Crown Copyright 2020

For our earlier study which focused on the transformation of RAF Lossiemouth, see the following:




O.K I am a P-8 Operator: But How do I Train to Work in a Kill Web?


By Robbin Laird

Kill webs rely on networks, wave forms, connectivity, distributed C2 and platforms which can leverage all of the former.

Platforms are the time-space entities which enable the force; integrability allows a distributed force to deliver the desired combat effect.

At Jax Navy, the P-8 operators are trained to be P-8 operators at VP-30 to be proficient at working the platform. At VP-30 takes the operators fresh out of flight school and introduces them to the P-8 as a platform and gets them safe to fly and operate in the aircraft.

Now I am a competent “newbie” on the aircraft, beyond gaining actual operational experience, how do I train for the higher end warfighting capabilities which the aircraft can achieve when operating within interactive kill webs?

My guide to thinking through the answer to this question was my guide for my time in Jacksonville and Mayport, Lt. Jonathan Gosselin.

He has a rather unique path to where he is currently within the Navy. “Duck Duck” is his call sign which probably comes from not wanting to have him referred to as the great baseball player “Goose” Goslin. He was enlisted navy before being recruited for the Seaman to Admiral Program. He went to The Citadel and then became a commissioned officer. He was an early P-8 officer, entering VP-45 as it became the third squadron to deploy with the P-8 in 2015. He has certainly experienced the “training wheels” phase of deployment and is now a P-8 Weapons and Tactics Instructor at the Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Weapons School.

When he first deployed, the P-8 was an anomaly.

Now it is deployed to all of the COCOMS worldwide.

The P-8 global fleet provides ISR, Anti-Submarine Warfare and Surface Warfare products to the combatant commanders.

In his current position, he serves an innovation, cross-functional team lead where he works with innovation experts, defense industry and the Navy to shape projects which are then generated for implementation by industry. He works as well on process changes where advances in TTPs can be enabled as well.

We discussed at some length the training processes from baseline operator to weapons expert and I will outline that in a later article.

But in this article I want to highlight how the process of thinking through a kill web enabled P-8 is being shaped and trained.

For Lt. Gosselin, at the heart of the effort is really understanding, training for and executing third party targeting.

He argued that moving from a stove-piped mentality where I am both the sensor and the shooter, to a kill web perspective where the P-8 could provide the sensors for a firing solution, or whether the P-8 would deliver a weapon provided by another asset to perform the firing solution is at the heart of the change.

According to Lt. Gosselin: “What I am working on right now is shaping a curriculum to bring that capability to the MPRA community.”

He added: “We are working to develop con ops and integrate with other platforms such as the B-1, the B-52 and eventually with the B-21.

“This is where we’re trying to go with the force.

“We’ve realized that we’ve put ourselves in a stovepipe, and we have to break ourselves out of that stovepipe and understand that we are not going to win this fight alone.

“It does not matter who the adversary is.

“This is a joint fight.”

In effect, what we are discussing is dynamic targeting across a distributed integrated force.

As Lt. Gosselin put it: “We’re talking about taking targeting data from one domain and quickly shifting to another, just like that. I have killed target under sea.

“I am now going to go ahead and work the surface target and being able to understand the weapon sensor pairing network, and being able to call in fires from different entities using commander’s intent to engage the target.

“That’s what we’re trying to do.

“Get our operators to understand that it is not just a one-piece answer.

“here may be a time when you have to kick to another shooter.”

To do so, he is engaging significantly with the Triton squadron as well to shape a way ahead for kill web dynamic targeting.

Lt. Gosselin noted: “With the P-8 and Triton we are able to expand our envelope of situational awareness.

“We can take that and now take the baseline concepts from what the P-3 did and apply them to a more advanced tactics, techniques, and procedures in the form of integrating with the B-21, the B-1, the F-18’s, the F-35 joint strike fighter in a dynamic targeting kill web.”

And with regard to the cultural shift, this is what he added:

“It’s important to talk not about how can I defeat this target, but really it should be, how can we defeat this target?

“Let’s break ourselves out of this stovepipe and understand that I may not always be the best shooter.

“I may be the best sensor, but I’m not be the best shooter.”

He focused on the key role which the weapons school is and will play within the US Navy to shape this cultural shift.

I will focus on the discussion about the shift in training to achieve this dynamic targeting function in a later article.

His call sign may be “Duck Duck,” but it seems more appropriate to think of the MPA community is operating like the Ospreys flying outside of windows here in North Carolina – if you are a fish, you certainly do not want to see an Osprey overhead.

ISR, C2 and Strike: All in One Package

But for the adversaries who operate below and above the sea, the evolving MPR community is not just watching those adversaries is working ways to kill you with weapons that they are not even carrying.

The featured photo is from a briefing given to the Williams Foundation by Rear Admiral (Retired) Manazir.