Navy may add up to 49 737-based P-8As to Whidbey

OAK HARBOR — The Navy is considering an increase in the number of P-8A Poseidon aircraft squadrons planned for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

The P-8As, which are modified 737s assembled in Renton, are scheduled to replace the older Orion P-3s, as the propeller planes are phased out of service. The Navy is studying three alternatives for the assignment of Poseidon squadrons, all of which would mean additional aircraft at Whidbey Island.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said he is pleased with the news because it shows a commitment to keeping the naval air station open.

“I have been a determined advocate to bring the P-8As to Whidbey Island. It is the right decision to serve our national security and it protects the future of the base on Whidbey Island,” Larsen said in a statement from his office.

“This is clearly great news for Whidbey Island.”

Originally, the Navy had planned to base four fleet squadrons at Whidbey for a total of 24 P-8As. Alternative plans, being considered as part of a supplemental environmental impact statement, could bring as many as seven squadrons and a total of 49 more aircraft to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Additional aircraft at Whidbey would require an expanded airport facility, Navy officials said.

The Navy plans to schedule public hearings during the 45-day public comment and agency review period that will follow the summer 2013 release of the draft supplemental environmental impact statement.

The P-8A Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Correction: An earlier headline misidentified the aircraft potentially being added at Whidbey NAS. The jets are P-8As. The headline is now correct.

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