JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Fleet Challenge 2014 wrapped up its annual anti-submarine warfare competition April 10 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
This year's winners were the allied P-8A Poseidon aircrew from the Pro's Nest of Patrol Squadron (VP) 30, followed closely in second place by VP-4 Skinny Dragons flying the P-3C, and third place taken by a VP-5 Mad Fox crew in a P-8A.
"Fleet Challenge was a great, challenging experience and a superb opportunity to fly together as a British crew on a real submarine target," said Royal Air Force Master Aircrewman Mark Utting from VP-30. "As with all anti-submarine warfare flights you have to remain flexible, and the submarine never does what you think it will. That being said, we had planned for all eventualities and the sortie went well."
Fleet Challenge 2014, also known as the "ASW rodeo," saw seven aircrews from the three maritime patrol and reconnaissance wings, a fleet replacement squadron and the allied aircrew attached to VP-30 compete against each other in the seven-day event. This year's competition marked the first time the P-8A Poseidon flew along with the P-3C Orion.
"Any time we have our foreign partners able to compete with us, we learn something. They do things maybe a little bit differently," said Cmdr. Mike Granger, the officer in charge of the Navy's Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School. "From maybe just the way that they coordinate a crew, to the way they mission plan or actual procedures for tracking the submarine - that is the biggest thing we learn with having them with us, and we throw in the camaraderie and the ability to talk across the water, if you will, with our partners. It builds those bonds that we can go and continue to learn from."
"Our allied crews often bring years of continuous ASW experience to the training equation, in the classroom and in the air," said Capt. Curt Phillips, the commanding officer of VP-30. "This is precisely why we have them embedded in our Fleet Replacement Squadron, training our newest operators in the art of ASW, which is a perishable skill without continuous honing in both simulators and on actual live targets."
Fleet Challenge 2014 tested aircrews on mission planning, optimized tactics, crew training as well as implementation of past lessons learned in determining the most effective maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircrew.
"We've had the individual wings compete, so they hold their own local ASW 'rodeo' against all their home squadrons and they take their best crew and they send them here," said Granger. "The wings in Hawaii, Whidbey Island and Jacksonville picked their best crew and they brought them here."
The competition tested crews in a simulator scenario and actual flight operations against USS Springfield (SSN 761), which acted as an opposing force.
"What we try to incorporate are things that we've seen, things that have challenged our actual crews deployed around the world and we incorporate those into the scenarios," said Granger. "We have the simulator scenarios built around recent world events. We have the submarine challenge them in ways that we've seen actual submarines on deployment behave, and we're able to put those together for these crews to experience, bring back to their home squadrons, their wings and spread that training out.
"Obviously, finding out we had won was just fantastic, but credit should be given to all the crews on all of the squadrons," said Utting. "I hope we get to take part in the challenge next year."
The Navy's ASW Fleet Challenge exercise has been held every year since 2007, with the exception of 2013, when it was cancelled due to budgetary restraints.