P-3 Orion Research Group
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this page was last updated on 26 April 2023
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Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion Worldwide News Section

Since our previous updates in October 2022 two more countries have said goodbye to their P-3 Orions: New Zealand and Spain. And this summer Norway will be next. However, there are plans sell some of the Norwegian Orions. Germany is also exploring the options to sell some of its Orions… We will keep you informed!

United States
Although the end of P-3 operations is getting nearer, a small number of US Navy P-3’s was still active during March 2023, mainly flying over the continental USA. VQ-1 still has three P-3C BMUP for training duties, which fly out of NAS Whidbey Island, along with the EP-3E Aries II. The squadron also has a two-plane detachment at Kadena AB and single plane detachments at Souda Bay, Greece and Shaik Isa AB in Bahrain. VX-30 still operates three P-3C and a single NP-3C out of NAS Point Mugu. VP-30 and VXS-1, still fly the P-3C although the number of flights gets fewer every week.

As the end of the Era approaches, VP-30 has graduated it's last class of Pilots/NFO's and tube rats. VP-30's Final P-3C flights are scheduled for June 2023 and their last P-3's will go to the Boneyard in July 2023

In March 2023 the US Navy operated the following (23) P-3’s:
VP-30   161404, 161415, 161590
VQ-1     161405, 161414, 161588 and EP-3E’s 156511, 156517, 156528, 156529,
             157316, 157325, 159887, 159893, 160764, 161410
VX-30   150521, 160293, 162999, 163291
VXS-1   158570, 158912, 161337?

During the weekend of the Air Show at NAS Pt Mugu on 25/26 March six P-3 were reported at the airbase:
VX-30 active 150521/341, 160293/301, 162999/300 and 163291/304
VX-30 stored 158934/302, 163294/303.

During the first three months of 2023 three P-3s have arrived at AMARG for storage. No airframes were taken out of storage for scrapping. As many will know, AMARG also has a Celebrity Row which holds a selection of the many aircraft types which are in storage. For many years P-3C 157313 and NP-3D 150499 were on display. Both were moved to storage aeras 4 and 8 sometime in June 2022. As replacements two other Orions were transported to the Celebrity Row: EP-3E 156514 and P-3C SPA 159504.

The number of aviation museums in Hawaii was halved during the summer of 2021 with the closure of the Naval Air Museum Barbers Point.  Present in this museum were UP-3A 152169 and P-3C 160770. The latter was offered on sale for scrap by GSA auction in April 2023.

Former NASA spare parts P-3C 161008 was sold by auction in August, organized by GSA. The buyer had the fuselage and the wings transported in December with the intention to drive them to Kentucky where it would be used as a B&B. However, the roads to its final destination proved to be too narrow, so it was temporarily dumped next to a road. NASA still has one operational P-3B N426NA (ex 152735), and it was reported flying to Waco TSTC on 25 March.

According to the magazine Military Zone, the Argentine Navy is seriously interested in the acquisition of Norwegian P-3 Orions. The statements were made during a press conference by the head of the Institution, Admiral Julio Guardia, when asked about the plans to reinforce the capabilities of the Naval Aviation Command. The interest shown by the Argentine Navy is based on the upcoming decommissioning of the P-3C and P-3N of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, after being replaced by the P-8A Poseidon. Admiral Guardia informed that the arrival of a delegation from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense was expected during early March to formalize the offer for the aforementioned P-3 Orion aircraft. It is not clear why the procurement of four surplus US Navy P-3C Orions fell through despite the fact that the sale was approved by the US State department in December 2019.

Between early October and late November 2022, CP-140M 140103 was operating out of Kadena AB in Japan for North Korean sanctions enforcement, called Operation Neon. During these operations the Aurora was intercepted on numerous occasions by jets of the PLAAF. In January CP-140M 140103 of 407 (LRP) Sqn was operating in the Caribbean area.

Although Canada has carried out extensive modernization programs to extend the life of the current Aurora fleet to at least 2030, late March CBC News reported that Canada is in the market for buying 16 P-8A Poseidons.  The selection phase of an Aurora replacement program was planned to start in 2024, but when Boeing announced the closure of the P-8 production line it has been brought forward. It is not certain that Boeing will win the race.

Canada sent three CP-140M Auroras to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland for participation in ASW exercise Dynamic Mongoose 2023 which started on 24 April. Auroras 140110, 140115 and 140116 were present.

P-3C 60+08 was present at NAS Sigonella from 21 February to 5 March to fly missions for EUNAVFOR MED Operation Irini. This same Orion was at Beja airbase in Portugal late March on an exchange visit to its Portuguese P-3 colleagues. In March P-3C 60+03 visited Amari airbase in Estonia in support of the German EF2000 Typhoon deployment.

In March 2023 it became known that there are plans to sell some German Orions to Portugal. That month the situation of the German P-3C Orions was the following:
60+01 wfu Nordholz; will go to the museum at Nordholz
60+02 wfu Manching stored with WTD.61;
60+03 operating out of Nordholz;
60+04 operating out of Nordholz;
60+05 wfu stored at Nordholz;
60+06 operating out of Nordholz;
60+07 wfu stored at Nordholz;
60+08 operating out of Nordholz;
60+22 will be gate guard at Nordholz

Six P-3Bs were delivered to the Hellenic Navy between May 1996 and December 1997. In 2009, the P-3B Orion fleet was withdrawn from service and a replacement program was initiated. Eventually, in 2014, the Hellenic Navy and the Greek MoD decided to re-activate the existing five P-3Bs and submit them to a full-scale modernization program.
The P-3HN MLU (Mid Life Upgrade) program started on March 2015, with the signing of the contract between the Greek MoD and US Navy. It was initiated in July 2016 with the arrival of the first two aircraft at the facilities of HAI in Tanagra, Greece. The MLU includes the re-activation of one P-3B to airworthy condition (BuNo 152744), maintaining the existing mission equipment and the complete upgrade of four P-3Bs, while the sixth P-3B will be used for spare parts. The program includes an option for the upgrade of the first “interim solution” aircraft. The upgrade consists of three phases. The first phase includes Phased Depot Maintenance (PDM) with complete repair and restoration of all structural and mechanical parts, and a structural MLU that will provide 15,000 more flight hours and 20-25 years of operation. The MLU consists of a life extension kit replacing the aircraft outer wings, center wing lower section, horizontal stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer leading edges, bleed air ducts and inboard nacelle longerons with new production components. This replaces all fatigue-life limiting structures on the aircraft with enhanced-design components and new improved corrosion resistant materials that will greatly reduce the cost of ownership over the aircraft’s remaining service life.

NATO exercise Dynamic Manta 23 was held in the Mediterranean Sea from 27 February to 10 March. According to their website it involved submarine warfare and Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) warfighting capabilities for submarines, ASW surface units and maritime aircraft in order to conduct sea control and sea denial related naval tasks in preparation for future collective defense and crisis response operations. Amongst the flying participants were RCAF CP-140M 140115 and 140116, which both departed on 11 March. All four Aurora squadrons took part in the exercise: 404 (Long Range Patrol Training), 405 (Long Range Patrol), 407 (Long Range Patrol) and 415 (Long Range Patrol Force Development).

Early March CP-140M 140118 had arrived at Andoya AB in Norway to participate in the NATO Exercise Joint Warrior 23-1, which was held off the coast of northern Norway, starting 7 March. Other participants were a German Navy P-3C and of course the Norwegian P-3C UIP.

Just like in 2022 the crew of CP-140M 140103 from 407 LRP Squadron defended their Dragon Belt in this year’s Sea Dragon 23 ASW competition which was held between 15 and 30 March 2023 at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Other participants came from the USA, India (both with P-8’s) Japan (P-1) and South Korea (P-3C 950909, 090912). This year the Japanese P-1 was the winner of the competition.

On 30 January two P-3C of 2 Kokutai (5036 + ….) departed Hachinohe AB for the 51st change of the squadron deployed to Djibouti. The Orions are engaged in anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

Late February EP-3 9174 of 81 Kokutai visited NAS Whidbey Island for an exchange with VQ-1, which involved a week of cross training and standardization.

From March 6 to 8, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) conducted its first ISR (Information Collection, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) joint exercise with the Air Self-Defense Force, the Australian Air Force, and the United States Air Force. The aircraft that participated in the training were the Maritime Self-Defense Force's EP-3 electronic warfare data collector and OP-3C image data collector, the Air Self-Defense Force's RC-2 radio information collector, the U.S. Air Force's RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, and the Australian Air Force P-8A patrol aircraft. In this training, in addition to exchanging information collected by aircraft from Japan, the United States, and Australia, unit-to-unit exchanges such as exchanging opinions were also conducted at the Maritime Self-Defense Force Iwakuni Air Station.

New Zealand
The New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) announced on 13 December that it would retire its five remaining Lockheed P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) five months earlier than planned due to staff shortages and maintenance constraints. The decision to withdraw its ageing P-3K2 fleet in January will leave the Royal New Zealand Air Force with a limited capacity to carry out search and rescue (SAR) and maritime surveillance operations until July 2023 at the earliest. The move will create a short-term capability gap in the RNZAF’s ability to carry out its maritime patrol and SAR mission set until the Boeing P-8A Poseidon formally takes over. On 21 January a farewell event took place in the squadron hangar at Whenuapai followed by the last formation flight on 24 January. RNZAF P-3K's NZ4201 and NZ4202 flew around their home base at Whenuapai (Base Auckland) on the 21st, while on 24 January they were joined by NZ4205 for a three-ship farewell flight around various locations in the North Island. They also did a South Island tour at the end of January before their retirement and final flights to RNZAF Base Woodbourne for decommissioning. The NZ Defense Force will retain one representative P-3K2 airframe for historical preservation and display at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch. The NZDF is currently in negotiations for the sale of the remaining five P-3K2 airframes to a commercial US entity, but any sale remains subject to final US and NZ Government approvals.

No 5 Squadron have operated a fleet of six P-3K2s and accumulated just under 150,000 flying hours providing multiple services to the nation. These services include fishing surveillance, customs patrols, search and rescue, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, one memorable mission was aiding the mission to search for missing commercial flight MH-370. In addition, the fleet of six have conducted operations in the Middle East, Japan and South East Asia working for the United Nations and combined Maritime Forces Commands.

The following P-3K have been used:
152886 NZ4201 02Aug66 - 31Jan23
152887 NZ4202 12Aug66 - 24Jan23
152888 NZ4203 13Oct66 - 24Sep21
152889 NZ4204 18Oct66 - 29Jul22
152890 NZ4205 02Dec66 - 31Jan23
155291 NZ4206 Jun86 - 20Jan22

The last date indicates the day on which the Orions were flown from Whenaupai to Woodbourne for storage.

In November 2022 the Norwegian Air Force managed to fly with its three remaining P-3C in formation. The end of Norwegian P-3 operations is expected on 30 June when an open house will be held at Andoya AB.

In April the situation of the Norwegian Orions is:
154576 4576 P-3N    08sep22 AMARG
156603 6603 P-3N      apr21 SOC - to be gate guard at Andoya
163296  3296   P-3C UIP  apr21  stored at Andoya.
163297 3297   P-3C UIP  333SKV
163298 3298   P-3C UIP 17mar23 AMARG
163299 3299   P-3C UIP  333SKV

Although Argentina has announced that it might be buying some Norwegian P-3 Orions, Norway has not confirmed that they are negotiating about this.

On 17 October Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) announced that General Dynamics Mission Systems - Canada (GDMS-C) has won a $24 million contract to help the Portuguese Air Force modernize its fleet of P-3C aircraft to support Maritime patrol and reconnaissance activities. General Dynamics will provide equipment and technology to upgrade the communications and mission electronics. The upgrades to Portugal’s P-3C fleet are modeled on modernizations that General Dynamics provides to the Royal Canadian Air Force. IMP Aerospace & Defence has signed a significant sub-contract GDMS-C in February, to design and implement a Block I Avionics Update for the Portuguese Air Force (PRTAF). This team effort with GDMS-C will modify the Portuguese Air Force’s five-aircraft P-3C CUP+ fleet with significant new capabilities including upgraded Identification Friend or Foe Transponder (IFFT), Link-16 communications, and Data Management System (DMS). The IMP Engineering design effort commenced immediately, with the prototype aircraft currently scheduled for induction in October 2023. The aircraft modifications will all be done at IMP’s facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada).

We recently learned that the German ministry of defence hopes to sell four to six P-3C CUP Orions, as well as their P-3 OFT and OTT simulators, to Portugal. We highly doubt that Portugal will purchase these aircraft. Their current fleet of five P-3C CUP+ aircraft is planned to go through an avionics update (see above) and will continue to operate for a considerable number of years. It wouldn’t make sense to add German Orions, with a slightly different avionics and mission systems suite to Esq601’s fleet. On top of that the squadron does not have enough crews to man their current five, let alone to man more. It would make much more sense for Portugal to buy five surplus P-3C MLU kits from the German navy, who terminated their MLU program in June 2020. These kits contain factory fresh sets of wings, which could add 20-25 years of life to Portugal’s own P-3 fleet. Mid March the Portuguese Air Force Chief of Staff confirmed to be in contact with Germany about the possible purchase of Orions, but that no decision had been taken yet.

Republic of China
Taiwan has signed a US$ 48.41 million contract with the United States to secure the maintenance of its 12 P-3C Orions, the Ministry of National Defense said 5 January.
The agreement covered the stationing of U.S. technical staff in Taiwan to assist the Air Force in upgrading and maintaining the planes, the Liberty Times reported. The Ministry of National Defense’s mission in the U.S. concluded the accord with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) for a period valid until 31 August 2027. The aircraft have been in service with Taiwan’s Air Force since December 2017 and are often seen carrying Harpoon anti-ship missiles. In addition to attacking enemy vessels, the Orions could also immediately notify other military units to launch attacks. The contract was one of several covering maintenance, parts, and repair deals signed between the two countries over the past year, as Taiwan seeks to update its defense capabilities amid aggressive Chinese actions, including the sending of military aircraft and ships across the median line of the Taiwan Strait and in the airspace close to the country.

On 30 November 2022 P.3M-12/22-35 of ALA 22 departed BA188 “Coronel Massart” airbase in Djibouti for the very last time. For 14 years the P-3Ms have been participating in Operation Atalanta.

After nearly fifty years of service the Spanish Air and Space Force retired its very last P-3M. During a ceremony at Moron de la Frontera P.3M-12 was decommissioned on 16 December 2022. The next day it made its last flight to Seville for storage.

For the record the following 12 Orions have been in use:
152153    P.3-1    22-20    P-3A 01Aug73 - 08Nov17 Cuatro Vientos Museo
152149    P.3-2    221-21  P-3A 01Aug73 - 08Jul77 crashed at Jerez
152145    P.3A-3  22-22    P-3A 01Aug73 - 09aug12 gate guard at Moron
150507    P.3-4    22-23    P-3A  06Jul79 - Sep91
150510    P.3-5    22-24    P-3A 12Dec79 - Sep91
150513    P.3-6    22-25    P-3A 21Sep19 - Sep91
150516    P.3-7    22-26    P-3A 06Jun80 - 15Feb90; Cuatro Vientos Museo
154583    P.3M-08 22-31  P-3M  07Jun89 - 25Apr22
156599    P.3M-09 22-32  P-3M 19Apr89 -  20Jan21
156600    P.3B-10  22-33  P-3B  04Nov88 - Oct12 stored Seville
156601    P.3B-11  22-34  P-3B  02Dec88 - May10 stored Moron
156602    P.3M-12 22-35  P-3M 06Sep80 - 17Dec22 stored at Seville