P-3 Orion Research Group
this page was last updated on 10 March 2013
Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion Worldwide News Section
Patrol Squadron Five “Mad Foxes” is no longer a P-3 operating unit. After completion of their deployment to Kadena, Okinawa in December 2012, PATRON Five continued to operate Orions until it started its transition to the Boeing P-8A Poseidon in February. The squadron has flown several version of the P-3 since it changed its SP-2E Neptunes for P-3A Orions in July 1966 and was the second operational squadron to receive the P-8A.
VP-45 is still on deployment to Kadena. It took eight Orions with hem to the Japanese base: 158564, 158573, 160283, 160610, 161012, 162773, 163002 and 163003. Additionally the squadron is augmented by two Orions and crews from VP-10 which are 161126 and 161415. It’s the Pelicans last P-3 deployment; when they returned to NAS Jacksonville they will be the third unit to change Orions for Poseidons.
The Red Lancers of VP-10 are deployed to Misawa and El Salvador since last December. Orions noted so far on these deployment sites are 156515, 158915, 158917, 159320, 161408 and 162771.
Sigonella and Djibouti are the deployment sites for VP-4. The Skinny Dragons took at least the following birds with them: 158224, 158563, 158567, 159329, 160287, 161767 and 162314.
Beginning on February 22, Proud Manta, NATO's largest anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercise will kick off in the Ionian Sea to the Southeast of Sicily, Italy. Several NATO member countries including Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States will provide submarines, ships, and aircraft to take part in the joint exercise. The purpose of Proud Manta is to maintain proficiency and improve interoperability through the use of complex and escalating coordinated maritime warfare scenarios. These scenarios encourage the ships, submarines, and aircraft to use their experience and mission systems to hunt and neutralize each other, allowing the allied nations to work towards seamless cooperation in future real-world situations. From the U.S. patrol aircraft standpoint, the Patrol Squadron FOUR (VP-4) Skinny Dragons will be operating the venerable P-3C Orion, providing multiple events culminating in approximately 70 hours of on station time.
The very last US Navy P-3 deployment is planned for 2019. After that all Patrol Squadrons should be transitioned to the P-8A Poseidon. Most likely a relatively small number of Orions will remain in the USN inventory for a number of more years. These will be the EP-3E’s of VQ-1, the P-3 SPA’s of VPU-2 and some research and development Orions.
Although transitioning to the P-8A has begun, the USN is still investing in upgrades for the existing P-3C Orion fleet. In total 38 Orions received the ARTR mod or are still in the works and 12 aircraft have C4 for ASW systems installed. During September 2012 six aircraft were grounded for wing related repairs and a total number of 131 aircraft have been periodically grounded because of fatigue problems since 2005. With the introduction of the P-8A, the number of aircraft available for P-3 operating VP’s is increasing.
A pair of retired P-3B Orions will be reactivated for a second career with the US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP). BuNo 154603 will become N403SK, while 154580 will become N480SK. These Bravoes are planned to be flown from AMARG to Lockheed Martin in Greenville, SC mid-Summer. Both aircraft will be modified to the latest USCBP P-3 “Slick” standard and will receive a new pair of wings. The aircraft are to replace two of the four P-3A’s which have been in storage since 2010 and 2011.
Seven of the eight former Aero Union Orions have been registered to VRB Corp. In the FAA register as of February 28, 2013. VRB Corp. Is a financial company who was responsible for the auction of these aircraft. It’s unclear what the reason is for changing ownership from Aero Union to VRB Corp. According to rumours these aircraft will be transferred to (a subsidiary of) Israel Chemicals Ltd. and put back into fire fighting business soon.
The RAAF remains operating its fleet of AP-3C Orions until at least 2019. Australia is looking at a mix of eight P-8A’s and eight UAV’s to replace the Orions. According to the official website of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Poseidon is planned to be phased in during 2017-18.
Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora’s have been busy operating from Dutch soil recently. Several 14 Wing Aurora’s from CFB Greenwood have been deployed to Hato AB on Curacao, Dutch Antilles. Noted during November 2012 were 140113 (nov15), 140116 (nov12) and 140118 (nov20). Noted in December 2012 were 140102 (dec20), 140116 (dec09) and 140118 (dec02). Seen on January 15, 2013 was 140103. The Canadians are operating from Hato for counternarcotic sorties.
The Chilean Navy is, like several others, considering to upgrade its P-3ACH Orions. Given the age of their aircraft they will most likely also look at the possibility of replacing the wings with newly manufactured wings.
The operational availability of MFG3’s Orions is limited to half of their fleet of eight. Three Orions are operating from their home base Nordholz, one aircraft is deployed. The German Navy has bought a new Infra Red Detection System (MX-20HD) for her P-3C CUP aircraft. In November 2012 the German MoD decided that the Orions will continue to operate until at least 2035. A wing replacement program is under consideration.
Recently it became clear that Greece has stopped flying the P-3B Orions three years ago. The very last Hellenic Air Force P-3 mission was flown in support of NATO exercise “Active Endeavour” on September 22, 2009. The next month 353 squadron was silently disbanded. The lack of funds for a necessary life extension program and upgrade for the P-3B’s forced the Greek MoD to ground the aircraft. According to sources in Greece, The Hellenic Navy now has four fully operational C-130 configured for maritime operations, operating from Elefsis. This seems to be an interim solution to fill the gap left behind by the Orions. We understand that the USA is prepared to supply four Lockheed P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft for free or a symbolic fee as long as the Hellenic Navy is prepared to agree a refurbishment deal with Lockheed Martin that would cost approximately 250 million dollars (190 million euros), payable over five years. Given the economic situation in Greece, which is the reason for not being able to upgrade their existing P-3B fleet, it seems to be not very likely that Greece accepts this offer.
Recently Operation Atalanta celebrated its fourth anniversary. Several P-3 operators were and are contributing to this anti-piracy operation. Currently the German navy and Spanish air force both have a P-3 stationed in Djibouti.
Proud Manta, the world’s largest ASW exercise, was held from from 23 February to 8 March 2013. Amongst the participants were two Canadian CP-140’s, one German P-3C, one Norwegian P-3C and two USN P-3C’s of VP-4. All were operating out of NAS Sigonella.
Despite the plans to replace the JMSDF P-3C Orions with the Kawasaki P-1, the Japanese Maritime Self defence Force has launched a P-3 life extension program. On the other hand Japan has retired a total number of ten Orion now with more aircraft to follow ( 2-5 aircraft per year). Retired P-3s will be cut up for spares.
RNZAF 5 squadron is currently operating one P-3K (NZ4202) and three P-3K2 Orions (NZ4201, NZ4204 and NZ4205). The remaining two Orions are being upgraded to P-3K2 standard. The planned withdrawal date of the Kiwi Orions is in 2025. The aircraft will be 59 years old by then.
In December 2011 Lockheed Martin was contracted for the modification of two Orions which initially were delivered to Pakistan unmodified: aircraft 85 (159505) and 86 (159511). This contract was for modification to P-3C PUP+ standard. Obviously this incorporated additional or improved systems when compared to the P-3C PUP. Pakistan Navy’s aircraft 86 passed arrived at Lajes on January 24, on its way to Pakistan. This would have been the re-delivery flight after the modification.
The Republic of China Navy is expecting delivery of its first P-3C Orion in August this year. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training received an additional contract for the RoCN P-3C’s to incorporate the Complimentary Navigation Message ECP, which updates RINU-G and Control Display Unit software for a message set required by the Harpoon Block 2 Missile for precision targeting. In addition, this modification provides for incorporation of the ALR-97/Electronic Support Measures ECP, which updates the ALR-95 system. This modification also provides for the upgrade of the Mode "4" software to the Mode-T software and updates to the technical publications.
Previous editions of this news section are stored on our server in PDF format:
18 March 2012 edition
24 June 2012 edition
26 September 2012 edition
15 December 2012 edition
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