The “Pelicans” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 returned home this week from a six-month deployment. Their deployment was impactful and highlighted by numerous operational achievements.
Since starting their deployment in April, VP-45 re-established Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft operations with the strategically located Naval Air Facility (NAF) Misawa on the Northern tip of Honshu, Japan.
With regular operations from NAF Misawa, the Pelicans provided the 7th Fleet commander immediate access to waters off the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Korean Peninsula, and the southern approaches to Japan.
This northern Japan deployment proved to be a perfect collaboration with our partners in the south, the VP-4 “Skinny Dragons,” enabling constant operations throughout the entire western Pacific Ocean. Additionally, VP-45 maintained the enduring commitment to the Joint Interagency Task Force South, conducting counter-narcotics operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Six months of P-8A operations in the 7th and 4th Fleet areas of responsibility (AORs) saw the Pelicans fly more than 3,800 hours during 600 operational sorties in support of national interests. Never satisfied with the status quo, VP-45 brought a new capability to the AOR, air-to-air refueling. The first operational use of air-to-air refueling significantly expanded the range and reach of P-8A operations and has been touted by Pacific Theater commanders as a vital force multiplier.
Showcasing air-to-air refueling and the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) expeditionary model, VP-45 operated in each of the far corners of 7th Fleet.
To the West, in Diego Garcia they responded to a distress call that resulted in the location and rescue of Sri Lankan Fishermen. To the South and East, theater security cooperation detachments found Pelicans operating in Australia, Indonesia, and Fiji, strengthening our maritime relationships and reaffirming our commitments to internationally recognized norms, rules, standards, and laws. To the North, the Pelicans validated critical warfare operating imperatives for operational planning considerations near the Aleutian Islands. Lastly, within the Western Hemisphere, the Pelicans coordinated with U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to support search and seizure operations for illicit narcotics in the Eastern Pacific. Overall, VP-45 supported 27 detachments throughout the region demonstrating their global presence and sustained flexibility operating in a 1 Hub, 2 Spoke construct for nearly the entire deployment. The Pelicans unequivocally demonstrated the global reach and full capabilities of the P-8A Poseidon, once again setting the standard for MPRF excellence.
Throughout the deployment VP-45 Sailors were encouraged to innovate to enhance integration with coalition and joint partners.
These efforts saw the Pelicans working with Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) VAQ-209, VAQ-138, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, 35th Fighter Wing, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s VP-2. As the squadron adopts new technologies and capabilities within Naval Aviation Enterprise and the MPRF community VP-45 Sailors continue to define, generate, and validate new concepts to increase the lethality of the P-8A.
The success of this deployment was due to the embodiment of fly, fight and lead, as well as the sacrifices and efforts of those families and friends who stay at the homefront supporting forward operations.