JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Navy's new patrol aircraft is deploying for the first time ever and the War Eagles have the honors to take it overseas.
The P-8A Poseidon is the first new marine patrol and reconnaissance aircraft the Navy has had in 50 years.
Patrol Squadron 16, the War Eagles (VP-16), the first to switch to the new aircraft, are now taking the airplane to Japan for it's first deployment overseas.
"It has been a challenge over the last year getting everything ready to go, " said Lt. Cmdr. David Mims. "A challenge to make sure we are all up to speed on everything we need to be with the new aircraft for deployment. We got there. We are taking it out the door today. It has been a fantastic trip."
Lt. Cmdr Mims will leave behind his wife and first child when he leaves for Japan. Operations Officer Eric Thomas leaves behind a wife, son and a baby daughter. That part is tough, he said, but he's ready for the mission ahead.
"It is what we have been training to do for a long time, we're been training to execute, it's game day," said Thomas.
The new jet airplane has a greater payload capacity, can operate at a higher altitude and go faster and farther than the old P-3. and pilots say it is more enjoyable to fly. Being a new aircraft, less time is spent making repairs. The squadron is excited about the deployment in Japan.
Mellissa Cansler is looking forward to it, even though it won't be easy. "A lot of hard work, long hours, get to do some different things. I have never been to Japan, so I am excited. "
Yoeman Cansler says it is bittersweet leaving behind her three children. The squadron said their goodbyes at an NAS hanger Friday morning. Squadron members were able to spend Thanksgiving with family, the deployment was originally scheduled a week earlier.
"It was absolutely a great thing," said Commander William Pennington Jr, the commanding officer of VP-16. "Nothing better than family time, we were very fortunate that we had Thanksgiving day to celebrate with our families before we headed out on this maiden deployment."
The War Eagles will be the first to experience a deployment and write the first book on how P-8's deploy. Two other squadrons at NAS will deploy at a later date.
First Coast News