On July 16, one of the Navy’s new ship and sub hunter aircraft suffered a major engine problem that forced it to land at Kadena Air Base, a US Air Force installation on Japan’s Okinawa island in the East China Sea.
According to a brief report by the Naval Safety Center, the Poseidon suffered an “engine compressor stall,” forcing it to make an emergency landing. No injuries were reported, but the incident was classified as a Class A mishap, meaning it caused more than $1 million in damage.
“The incident is under investigation,” Cmdr. Reann Mommsen, a spokesperson for the US 7th Fleet, told the Navy Times.
The outlet noted that an engine compressor stall “involves abnormal airflow in a jet engine caused from aerofoil blades failing to pass air smoothly.” Such an incident could be caused by icing or, more likely either a bird strike or improper engine care or use.
The P-8A is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, powered by two huge turbofan engines underneath the wings. It has both anti-ship and anti-submarine roles and can collect a wide variety of electronics intelligence.
While the flight path of this Poseidon is not known, Washington has been using Poseidons to patrol the East and South China Seas, just off the Chinese coast, for months. One P-8A was reported over the South China Sea, entering by way of the Bashi Channel to perform sea patrols there on July 16, the day the newly reported incident occurred, and Poseidons are known to operate from Kadena.
Experts have speculated the US Navy may be using its Poseidons and other maritime patrol aircraft to track Chinese submarines in the region, or to otherwise collect electronics intelligence. The US has recently shored up its rejection of Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, promising to stem the expansion of Chinese sovereignty over much of the waterway and the islands in it.