New squadron could call NAS Jacksonville home

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Navy is gearing up for a public meeting about adding a squadron of new hi-tech planes to Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

They gave a close-up look at the anti-submarine warfare planes Wednesday.

The planes are called P-8A Poseidons, or P-8s, and basing another squadron at Naval Air Station Jacksonville is a real vote of confidence for the River City.

The P-3 anti-submarine warfare planes are slowly being replaced by the new P-8s, and the Navy is looking into basing another squadron here. That's seven more aircraft.

"The P-8 is essentially a military version of the Boeing 737 aircraft," said Ted Brown, of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. "It's very modern, it's very updated, it's going to be very, very reliable aircraft."

Jacksonville's economy relies heavily on the military.

Among those the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce's Annual Military Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday was the former commanding officer of Naval Station Mayport, who says those P-8s are quite a sign.

"I think it's an enormous sign for Jacksonville because the Navy has options all over the U.S. and outside the U.S. to move new airplanes, move new people, too, and they've chosen to do it in northeast Florida," said retired Navy Capt. Aaron Bowman.

Every time someone gets a job connected with that base, it has a direct impact on on local businesses.

Deena Trent, who owns J.L. Trent's Seafood close to the base, said in times of military cuts, any news about more people working there is good news.

"We worry a lot. I mean, 75-80 percent of our customers are military or support for the military," Trent said.

The pilot in charge of the squadrons says the new P-8s are the support they need to do their job.

"Just the plane newness and mechanical reliability of this aircraft is huge," said Capt. Chris Janke.

A public hearing will be held from 5-8 p.m. Thursday regarding the environmental impact of the additional P-8A Poseidon squadron, which may be coming to NAS Jacksonville. The hearing will be held at the Orange Park Holiday Inn.

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