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Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion Worldwide News Section

United States
On Tuesday 1 October, the beginning of FY 2020, P-3C 161596 departed Kadena AB and was flown to Whidbey Island where it arrived around 8.35 local time, marking the start of the end of the deployment. On 25 March it had been the first P-3 to leave Whidbey for Kadena. Also on 1 October, P-3C 162318 departed from Sheik Isa AB and after stops at Souda Bay, Lajes and Portsmouth IAP it arrived at Whidbey on 5 October. The final US Navy P-3 deployment by VP-40 to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet marked the end of an era of operations in support of naval operations which started to ensure maritime stability and security. The last P-3C arrived at Whidbey Island on 10 October. VP-40 was the last active-duty squadron to fly the P-3C Orion. The logo of the Fighting Marlins for the final deployment was “Fighting to the Finish”. The following P-3C AIP+ were deployed at Sheik Isa AB in Bahrain: 158222, 160287, 162318, 162773 and 162776 while at Kadena AB in Japan VP-40 operated four P-3C BMUP+: 161132, 161408, 161587 and 161596. VP-40 also had at least one P-3C forward deployed to Camp Lemonnier at Djibouti international airport. It is noteworthy that VP-40 did not deploy any P-3C BMUP‘s to Sheik Isa AB. The Orions of VP-40 have been replaced by the Poseidons of VP-45.

With the final US Navy active-duty squadron having returned from the final P-3 deployment, there are still eight US squadrons operating the P-3 Orion:
VP-30    The Pro’s Nest based at NAS Jacksonville
VP-62    Broadarrows based at NAS Jacksonville
VP-69    Totems based at NAS Whidbey Island
VPU-2    Wizards based at MCAS Kaneohe Bay
VQ-1     World Watchers based at NAS Whidbey Island
VX-30    Bloodhounds based at NAS Point Mugu
VXS-1   Researchers based at NAS Patuxent River
BUPERS SDC Dallas   based at Dallas Love Field.

In September, at the end of FY19, the US Navy still operated the following (48) P-3:
VP-30   160293, 161589, 162770, 163290, 163295
VP-40   158222, 160287, 161132, 161408, 161596, 162773, 162776
VP-62   158564, 161121, 161404, 161415, 161586, 161590
VP-69   161339, 161405, 161411, 161414, 161587?, 161588, 161593
VPU-2  159504, 160285, 160290, 160292, 161122, 162772, 163001
VQ-1    159326, 160610, 162317, 162777, 162998 + 12 EP-3E
VX-30  150521, 158934, 162778, 162999, 163294
VXS-1  158570, 158912, 161337, 163291
BUPERS SDC   158574
L3 Waco          161129

Since there aren’t yet enough P-8A which can carry the AAS pod, VP-62 and VP-69 are to augment the P-8 squadrons with detachments  of two or three P-3C BMUP+ for various lengths of time. The first VP-69 crew departed Whidbey Island for Kadena AB early October. Noted at Kadena AB on 10-12 October were P-3C BMUP+ 161587 and 161588, both without unit markings and both with an SLRS pod. P-3C BMUP+ BuNo 161411 was seen operating out of Whidbey Island with an SLRS pod on 5 October. Latest news is that the Reserves will continue to fly the P-3 until 2025.

On 1 October a P-3SPA of VPU-2 coded 404, headed back to MCAS Kaneohe Bay. Since 2 July this SPA had been deployed to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and on its way back it routed Souda Bay, Lajes, Jacksonville and Whidbey Island before arriving home on 5 October. As the FY2019 had ended we assumed this could very well have been the last deployment by a P-3SPA by VPU-2. However according to Sea Power magazine VPU-2 will operate the P-3s for some years to come. This has been confirmed and adding to that comes the news that this squadron will move to Jacksonville in April 2020.

The oldest P-3SPA of VPU-2, BuNo 159504, was flown to NAS Jacksonville on 6 September and after the removal of some special equipment it made its final flight to Davis Monthan for storage on 24 September.

On 1 October 2019 VQ-1 had EP-3E’s deployed at Souda Bay, in the Middle East, in the Caribbean and at Kadena AB in Japan. These deployments will continue for some years to come as there isn't a replacement for the EP-3E yet.

The U.S. military released a series of four videos filmed by the crew of EP-3E Aries II 161410 which was intercepted by a Venezuelan Air Force Su-30MKII Flanker in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea on 19 July. According to U.S. Southern Command, the Flanker “aggressively shadowed” the EP-3E, flying at an unsafe distance from the intelligence gathering aircraft “jeopardizing the crew and aircraft.” The EP-3E, flying a mission in approved international airspace, was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30 that took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas. The U.S. routinely conducts multi-nationally recognized and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region.

The rumor that two surplus US Navy P-3C’s would be scrapped at NAS Whidbey Island sadly proved to be true, when BuNos 161406 and 161407 were scrapped during early August.

P-3A Aerostar N923AU of Airstrike was first noted for operational use at Sacramento McLellan Airport, CA, in May 2019. It was being prepared for test flights and re-certification and on 20 May the first test flight took place. Next will be Tanker 22 and Tanker 17 which were also expected to be completed for the 2019 fire season in Colorado. On 7 September the first firefighting mission was flown by Tanker 23, since June 2011 no drop on an actual fire by a P-3 had been made. Airstrike Firefighters has an agreement to purchase the remaining three Aerostars (00, 25 and 27) from UAC/Blue Aerospace if that appears to be a good business decision after the first batch of P-3s is restored.

NOAA WP-3D N42RF "Kermit" arrived at St. Croix, US Virgin Islands on 27 August to fly missions into Tropical Storm Dorian. Data gathered by these missions feed NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center forecasts. Both WP-3D’s N42RF and N43RF were also involved in tracking the hurricane Lorenzo when it hit the Azores on 3 October.

Because of the approaching tropical storm Dorian, the following four Orions of VP-30 were flown to Dallas on 31 August: 161589, 162770, 163290/LL and 163295. VP-62 sent most of their P-3C from Jacksonville to Selfridge ANGB near Detroit: 158564, 161121, 161415, 161586, 161590. They returned en-mass on 6 September.

The rehabilitation of the Brunswick Landing P-3A on static display, BuNo 152156, commenced on 11 September 2019. Alumni of VP-8 stepped up to donate more than $ 6.600,00 to the cause, and accordingly, the aircraft will be painted in the livery of the P-3B that was lost in a mishap over Poland Springs, Maine on 22 September 1978 with 8 “Fighting Tiger” crew members on board: 152757 LC-85.

For many years a unit called Bureau of Personnel Sea Duty Component Dallas (BUPERS SDC Dallas), has been operating secretive P-3 Orions out of Dallas Love Field (TX). See our website for more details. At the end of September 2019 it is believed that only one P-3C is still assigned, BuNo 158574. Between 1997 and 2018 the unit had three P-3C on strength: 158574, 160293 and 161337. These P-3’s could not be identified because they did not carry any external numbers. There was a brake through in September 2019 which meant that all three can now be identified.

The Argentine Armada confirmed in July that it is negotiating with the Unites States government to acquire four P-3C Orions to replace the existing fleet of P-3B’s. Interest in the P-3C started in 2016 and a first visit to the USA was made in 2017. Jane’s reported on 1 October, that the defense minister announced on 27 September that his country has procured four former US Navy P-3C Orions to replace the six P-3B’s, of which none are operational. As the P-3B’s required major structural refurbishment, it was decided that the best course of action was to replace them with newer aircraft recently retired by the US Navy. The four aircraft are selected from the inventory of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Group (AMARG). It is expected that first deliveries will take place in 2020.

In alignment with its new role as an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance specialist Squadron, command of Number 10 Squadron has officially transferred from Number 92 Wing to Number 42 Wing on 1 May 2019. A handover ceremony was held at RAAF Base Edinburgh on 2 May. Number 10 squadron is set to continue operating the two AP-3C Electronic Warfare (EW) Orions until 2023.

The Canadian Ministry of Defense is thoroughly modernizing its fleet of fourteen CP-140M Aurora of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP) involves some 20 individual projects in four Blocks. Strategy's to acquire, integrate and install new mission systems and sensors onto the CP-140 so its mission is transformed from a standard MPA into a state-of-the-art secretive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. Parallel to the Block modifications, an Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP) involves replacing wings and horizontal stabilizers on the aircraft. The ASLEP work must be completed by November 2019. It will extend the operational life of the CP-140 Aurora fleet to 2030. The start was made with a Block I modification back in 1999 with the first aircraft operational in 2003. Within Block I the Aurora's High Frequency radio and a number of obsolete systems in order to provide a baseline for the major upgrades that followed were replaced. Within Block II, the outdated navigation and communication management systems, and associated radios were replaced with first aircraft being operational in early 2008 and fully ops by 2012. The Block III involved the replacement of the mission computer and adding sensors (radar, electro-optics/infrared sensor package, ESM and acoustic detection systems).   The first CP-140 Block III became operational in early 2014 and full ops was reached by April 2019. These aircraft show different wingtips too. CP-140 Block IV involves the upgrade of three key features of the fourteen Block III configured aircraft: beyond-line-of-sight satellite communication, link 16 datalink (a military tactical data exchange network used by NATO countries), and the installation of a self-defense system. Initial Operational Capability was reached in December 2018, full ops is expected by September 2022. The first Block IV aircraft is 140108 which was first seen with IMP at Halifax in April 2019.

The following goals were achieved in 2018:
21 February: ASLEP modification of CP-140 serial 140114 began. This is the last ASLEP aircraft. 9 April: CP-140 serial 140116 was delivered. This was the twelfth Block III aircraft, of which eleven have been life-extended. 10 October: Proof of fit aircraft modification for Block IV began. 13 December: CP-140 140113, the thirteenth Block III aircraft, was delivered. The integration testing of Block IV on the prototype aircraft began.

CP-140M 140104 of 14 Wing was operating out of Kadena AB during the month of June for North Korean sanctions enforcement. Another deployment with a CP-140M started operating out of Japan on 10 October with the arrival of CP-140M 140112. Together with a Royal Canadian Navy ship, a four-and-a-half-month deployment to the Asia-Pacific region is planned in support of Operations Projection and Neon. Both operations are part of a multinational effort which focusses on supporting the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea.

Canada held an impressive ceremony at Juno Beach, Normandy in France on 6 June to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Part of the ceremony was a fly-past by CP-140M 140113, which operated out of Evreux air base.

Following the exercise Joint Warrior 19-1 another exercise was held to the west of Scotland for two weeks during early May. Participating ASW assets were:  CP-140M 140103 from 407 Sqn and 140101 from 14 Wing, which were both operating out of Prestwick airfield. Early October CP-140M’s 140104 and 140116 of 14 Wing were present at Prestwick airport in Scotland to participate in the exercise Joint Warrior 19-2, which ended mid October. CP-140M 140118 was seen visiting.

An online magazine reported on 27 May, that the US is considering to donate a P-3 Orion to Ecuador to help in the war against drugs.

On 24 May the Plane Radar page on Twitter showed the presence of German P-3C CUP 60+07 near the maritime border of the region of Kaliningrad, a western Russian enclave. According to the page, the plane reached 32 kilometers off the coast of Kaliningrad before changing course. The reason for this flight is not clear and neither Germany nor Russia commented on the episode.

On 13 June the deployment of P-3C 60+08 to Djibouti ended. Another deployment commenced on 13 September, with the arrival of P-3C 60+07.

During an air day at Nordholz, on 14 June, the following P-3C CUPs were noted: 60+01, 60+05, 60+06, 60+07, 60+08 and GIA 60+22. The three remaining Orions were at Manching where they receive new wings.

P-3C 60+01 visited Elefsis AFB in Greece from 9 to 12 August. Elefsis is the homebased of the Greek P-3 squadron. From 20 to 26 August P-3C 60+05 visited PNS Mehran, the home base of 28 Squadron, which operates the Pakistan P-3C Orions. On 6 and 7 September P-3C 60+08 was present at the Zeltweg Airpower display in Austria. On 7 October P-3C 60+08 flew to Rota, Spain. It stayed there for two weeks and was flying missions almost daily using the call sign Hunter. Mfg.3 is either seeking sunny destinations or they are working on more cooperation between P-3 Orion operators, in view of the lack of the US Navy Orions.

Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) has delivered the first P-3B Orion interim aircraft to the Hellenic Navy. On Friday 17 May BuNo 152744 was officially handed over at an event at Tanagra. The delivery of the first Orion, which was delayed several times due to technical setbacks, is part of a United States-Greece defense agreement announced in 2015, which also includes the mid-life upgrade of another four P-3Bs. When the four P-3B LW have been upgraded to P-3HN, the Orions will be transferred from 353MNAS to the Naval Air Command to serve with the Mira Aeroporias Naftikou (MAN, Navy Aircraft Squadron). BuNo 152744 was put in storage during 2011 and the re-activation work started in July 2016.

Eight maritime patrol aircraft took part in NATO exercise Dynamic Mongoose 2019 which started on 1 July and ended on 12 July. Known participants were CP-140M 140117, P-3C 14809 of Esq.601 both operating out of Andoya and 161337 P-3C of VXS-1, which operated out of NS Keflavik.

Two Japanese P-3C Orions arrived in Brunei on 27 April in support of Japanese bilateral ties with the country and particularly in the area of defense. Both the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) conducts a Deployment Airforce for Counter Piracy Enforcement (DAPE) joint maritime exercise.

The JMSDF is deployed to Djibouti since 2010 in an ongoing anti-piracy mission in the Somali basin, with two Orions on a three-month rotation. A likewise scenario is now done with two P-3Cs in Brunei, where the exercise is focussed on the detection of a ship in distress and communicating information to RBN for rescue operations will be carried out. It is not excluded that Japan will help Brunei in a regular temporary duty (TDY) assignment (TDY) of P-3Cs to Brunei.

P-3C 5090 of 5 Kokutai participated in a joint maritime exercise with the Indian Navy which was held over the sea of Goa late April. This P-3C came from Djibouti where it was deployed together with P-3C 5070.
On 29 July the two P-3C’s of 5 Kokutai were replaced by two others of 2 Kokutai, including 5048. This was the start of the 36th deployment of the JMSDF to Djibouti.

The second operational JMSDF unit to receive the Kawasaki P-1 is 1 Kokutai based at Kanoya. The unit, which uses callsign Jupiter, saw the first three aircraft arrive at the base on 26 July 2019. Before the end of this Fiscal Year (March 2020) two more P-1s will be delivered. However, it will take several more years to replace the unit’s full complement of P-3C Orions.

New Zealand
Late July P-3K2 NZ4201 of No 5 Sqn attended the Pacific SAR Symposium at USCG Barbers Point.

Boeing announced on 12 August that it had recently upgraded the RNZAF fleet of six P-3K2 Orion with state-of-the-art acoustics processing and training simulation technology. First awarded in late 2016, the project included upgrades and modifications to mission systems and aircraft components, as well as inflight and ground-based simulation for training, spares and maintenance support. With the first aircraft upgrades completed just under 18 months following contract award, the final aircraft was completed, providing the RNZAF fleet with dramatically improved ASW capability. This upgrade will help bridge the gap until replacement with the P-8A Poseidon to maintain a core capability.

P-3K2 NZ4206 from No. 5 Sqn was sent to Malaysia on 7 October to participate in the Exercise Bersama Lima. Call sign used was ‘Hunter’. The aircraft and crew were conducting patrols as part of the exercise together with counterparts from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom. The exercise involved training to promote regional defense and security cooperation.

On 21 October the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) deployed P-3K2 NZ4206 and crew to Kadena AB in Japan to support international efforts to monitor sanctions against North Korea. The Government announced in October its decision to provide airborne surveillance to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea. In October 2018 this same P-3K2 was also deployed to Kadena AB to support UNSC resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea.

The Philippine government is eyeing to acquire surplus US Navy P-3C Orions, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on 22 May 2019. The Philippines Department of the National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are expressing their interest in absorbing possibly two Orions so they can make progress in protecting Philippine territory as well as in fleet monitoring in the tumultuous South China Sea. The Defense Secretary announced in local press that his ministry will contact the US government soon about this request. The P-3s would complement five TC-90’s recently provided by Japan and help with both maritime domain awareness. They could also potentially be useful on land, as intelligence from P-3s was used during the Marawi siege in 2017.

P-3C 14809 was flown to Praia International Airport at Cape Verde on 6 March to fly US AFRICOM missions overhead the Gulf of Guinee, with the aim to suppress illegal activities like piracy and illegal fishery. From 26 April to 8 May the same Orion was again operating out of Praia for participation in the operation Junction Rain 2019.

Late July P-3C 14809 arrived at NAS Sigonella to participate in EU Task Force Sophia, operating in the central-southern Mediterranean Sea in order to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Med. The first mission was completed on 2 August and the detachment ended on 28 August.

Between 9 and 25 September P-3C 14809 again operated out of NAS Sigonella to participate in the NATO led maritime security operation "Sea Guardian" in the Mediterranean Sea.

South Korea
In July 2016 the first of the original P-3C’s was redelivered after being updated to P-3CK standard. Five had been upgraded by October 2017 and the final P-3CK was completed in 2018. All 16 P-3CK are operated by the 61 Patrol Air Group which now comprises three squadrons: 611 and 613 Flight Squadron both at Pohang AB and 615 Flight Squadron based at Jeju Island.

This country has also decided to replace the P-3C with the P-8A. Already in September 2018 the US DCA announced that the US Department of State had approved the sale of six P-8A to the RoKN. Boeing was awarded a contract on 28 February 2019.

P-3M P.3M-12 / 22-35 of ALA 22 was the Spanish contribution to EU NAVFOR Somalia operation Atalanta in July 2019. Mid-August the Spanish P-3M Orion detachment in Djibouti reached its 1500th mission milestone in the fight against piracy off the Somali coast. Present was P-3M P.3M-9 / 22-31.