The P-8 Poseidon was designed by Boeing for anti-submarine and surface warfare, but its current mission is to try to find any signs of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.
The aircraft was developed from the Boeing 737-800ERX, and each plane costs over $200 million.
The Poseidon has been searching for days now, primarily in an area of the Indian Ocean, which, according to statements from the Australian Prime Minister today, is the most likely area in which the plane could have crashed.
So far, despite the wealth of sophisticated detection equipment on board, nothing connected to the Malaysian plane has been found.
There have been numerous false sightings which have raised hopes, only to have them dashed when the ” debris” turned out to be a small freighter and two pods of dolphins.
The current shift of nine hours in the air followed the report that a satellite had detected what could have been wreckage from the missing plane.
The fact that an aircraft as sophisticated as the P-8 Poseidon has been called into service is an indication of just how difficult the search has proven to be.
As evidence of the sensitivity of the U.S. Military to any information being published about what the Poseidon actually carries on board, it would not permit cameras to be carried by reporters allowed on the flight.
While en route to the intended search area, the plane was diverted because of reports of possible debris in the water. The Poseidon was able to descend below the clouds to a height of some 300 feet above sea level, and use its radar and other systems to scan an area 16 miles wide on either side of the plane.
The Poseidon carries enough fuel to scan for three hours and cover 4,100 square miles before having to fly the three hours back to its base north of Perth, Australia.
Lt. Commander Adam Schantz, the officer in charge, has worked with very little sleep over the past week. He pointed out that winds and ocean currents caused any debris to drift far away from their original location.
He told ABC News, who had a reporter on board, “Now we use the drift analysis to figure out where it was.”
In spite of the daily disappointments, Schantz says his crew is not discouraged: “We’re all excited to find it… but we know we did some good today. We eliminated the area and we move on to the next area tomorrow and we keep trying. We keep our hopes up… More searching tomorrow.”
The P-8 Poseidon takes its name from the mythical Greek God of the Sea. Hopefully, it will prove to be a good omen.