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Maritime Patrol Aircraft - Operational Versatility from the Sea

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Research paper

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U.S. Force structure in the post-Cold War security environment continues to be a subject of constant debate. While the Bottom-Up Review BUR thoroughly examined future defense requirements, it actually raised more questions than it answered since the result of that process remains unaffordable. In the absence of a bonafide National Security Strategy, efforts to size and shape the military will undoubtedly continue to be a very difficult undertaking. And with budgetary constraints essentially driving force structure decisions, it becomes imperative that the military incorporate and retain cost-effective platforms that have utility across a wide range of warfare areas. One such platform is the P-3 Maritime Patrol Aircraft MPA. Traditionally, with the aircraft carrier as the centerpiece of naval aviation, non-organic assets such as the P-3 have often been left behind when it comes to representation for programs and budget decisions in the Pentagon. Now that the Cold War is over, funding has become even more difficult for MPA, as pressure to reduce anti-submarine warfare assets in the absence of a Soviet submarine threat has translated into deep cuts for the P-3 community. In 1990, there were 24 active patrol squadrons by 1996, there will be 12 -- the largest cut among all navy platforms. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the value of MPA across a wide range of warfare disciplines and to underscore the importance of preserving current force structure. The author begins by examining two mission areas for which MPA has no equal maritime surveillance and antisubmarine warfare ASW. He then discusses MPAs capability with respect to integrated task group support and its utility in fulfilling forward presence objectives. Finally, he concludes with a look at platform capability in terms of OPNAVs Joint Mission Area Assessment criteria, which now forms the basis for all future resource decisions.

Subject Categories:

  • Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft
  • Military Intelligence
  • Undersea and Antisubmarine Warfare

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