P-3 Orion Research Group
this page was last updated on 28 October 2023
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Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion Worldwide News Section
Since 1963 the US Navy has operated a total of 556 P-3 Orions. Sixty years later only 17 remain active. VQ-1 has three P-3C BMUP for training duties, which fly out of NAS Whidbey Island, WA, along with eight EP-3E Aries II. The squadron has a two-plane detachment at Kadena AB, Japan, while the detachment at Souda Bay, Greece was reduced to a single plane detachment on 30 September, like the one at Shaik Isa AB in Bahrain. VX-30 operates three P-3C and a single NP-3C out of NAS Point Mugu, CA. VXS-1 still has two NP-3C flying out of NAS Patuxent River, MD.
On 31 March VP-30 held the final graduation of P-3 pilots and Non Flying Officers. The last P-3C Orion operated by VP-30 arrived at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). The P-3C with BuNo 161415/LL-415, was flown from Jacksonville, FL to Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ on 23 June 2023.
In October 2023 the US Navy operated the following (17) P-3’s:
VQ-1 161405, 161414, 161588 and EP-3E’s 156511, 156517, 156528, 156529,
157316, 159887, 159893, 161410
VX-30 150521, 160293, 162999, 163291
VXS-1 158570, 158912
This year the following three EP-3E have been flown to Davis-Monthan AFB for storage at AMARG: 157318, 157325 and 160764.
VXS-1 mobilized a crew for NP-3C 158570 with less than 24 hours' notice to airdrop 18 SOFAR Spotter buoys in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Idalia on Monday, 28 August. The VXS-1 crew personally deployed the buoys from the aircraft on behalf of researchers working with the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) Hurricane Coastal Impacts (NHCI). The Spotters were airdropped hours before Hurricane Idalia made landfall near Keaton Beach, Florida. The squadron deployed the fleet of Spotters into the path of the hurricane from 1,000 feet aboard the P-3 traveling at 150 mph.
On 11 September the US Customs and Border Protection said goodbye to the first of its P-3AEW&C Orions, when N145CS was flown to Tucson. It will not be scrapped, but it will be put on display in the Pima Air & Space Museum. One of the reasons for the retirement of this and the other AEW Orions is the fact that the US Navy does not support the radar anymore. The Navy E-2 Greyhounds have a newer radar and the cost is too high to upgrade the P-3 to the newer radar.
Although the number of aviation museums in Hawaii was halved during the summer of 2021, still preserved outside at MCAS Kaneohe Bay is P-3C 160999.
The WP-3D of the NOAA have been very active again during the Hurricane season, which started in August. On 17 September both N42RF and N43RF were seen visiting Bermuda for hunting down Hurricane Nigel. While during late October both N42RF and N43RF were operating in the Caribbean, flying from Barbados hunting down Hurricane Tammy.
The Argentine government has finalized negotiations to buy four surplus P-3 Orions from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, meeting a requirement set in 2015 by the South American country’s Navy. The deal included spare parts, support equipment and test equipment. The agreement was reached on 31 August in Buenos Aires during a meeting between Defence Minister Jorge Taiana and representatives of the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency. The statement also noted the deal is worth $67 million.
Argentina originally intended to acquire surplus P-3Cs from the US Navy. However, the American aircraft would have required refurbishment that exceeded the Argentine government’s funding, according to local military sources. Argentinian and Norwegian officials began talks about purchasing the aircraft in late 2022.The first two planes are to arrive in Argentina by the beginning of October. The three P-3C and one P-3N are already in the USA in storage at AMARG. The P-3s are expected to bolster the capabilities of the Argentine Navy’s surveillance squadron based at the Almirante Zar Air Naval Base near Trelew along the Patagonian coast of southern Argentina. Since 1997, the unit has operated P-3Bs acquired from the US Navy, but their need for servicing has limited their use. The contract for the acquisition of the four P-3s was signed on 17 October.
Thanks to a discussion on the internet, we now know that of the 12 P-3BR Orions nine were modernized and three were used as source parts. Of the modernized ones, at least three have already been deactivated and sold as scrap: FAB7200, 7201 and 7208. For the six remaining Orions a wing revitalization program is still ongoing. At the published rate of more or less two sets of wings per year, and as the delivery of the first two sets was in 2021, this will be ongoing until 2024. The wing revitalization program is being carried out by Akaer. The Orions are dismantled at the Parque de Material Aeronáutico do Galeão (specialized in large FAB aircraft) and the wings are revitalized at the company's facilities in São José dos Campos, with the replacement of upper coverings, front and rear spars, upper panels and bottom of the central wing/fuselage boxes among other components. According to the company, this corresponds to more than 80% of the primary structure of the wing and the central box, which includes the replacement of the four "Main Ring Fittings" of the fuselage.
Early October CP-140M 140103 assigned to 407 (LRP) Squadron arrived at Kadena AB in Japan for yet another deployment. Operation NEON is the Canadian contribution to the multinational effort to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions imposed against North Korea. This CP-140M is still a Block IIIB version and we wonder if the RCAF will upgrade her to Block IV or just wait until a decision about the Aurora’s replacement has been taken. While on a mission on 16 October this Aurora was intercepted by Chinese Air Force jets.
In preparation of the Joint Warrior 23-2 exercise CP-140M 140111 from 14 Wing operated out of RAF Lossiemouth. The Aurora arrived on 10 October, while JW 23-2 started on 20 October.
On 31 August the Portuguese government announced that Portugal will purchase the entire German Navy's P-3C Orion fleet inventory, consisting of six aircraft, Midlife Upgrade (MLU) Kits, spare parts, support equipment, test equipment and flight simulators for a maximum amount of € 45 million, budgeted in equal amounts of € 9 million over a period of five years (2023-2027).
In August 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 with special markings 175 Year Kriegsmarine;
60+22 will be gate guard at Nordholz
The first P-8A Poseidon is expected to arrive at Nordholz in October 2024, while the final operational flight of a German P-3C will take place during 2025.
On 23 October two participants for the exercise Joint Warrior 23-2 were present at RAF Lossiemouth: CP-140M 140118 of 14 Wing and P-3C CUP 60+04 of Mfg.3.
During the second week of May JMSDF EP-3 and OP-3C participated in an exercise together with US Navy EA-18G Growlers over the Pacific Ocean around Japan.
Late August 81 Kokutai and USN VQ-1 completed three days of interoperability exercises together on the ground and in the air. Participating EP-3E 159893 was present at MCAS Iwakuni, the home base of 81 Kokutai. JMSDF EP-3 9171 of 81 Kokutai paid a return visit to NAS Whidbey Island on 28 September.
According to the Defense White Paper version 2023, of the original 101 Orions delivered, only 35 P-3C Orions are owned/operated by the JMSDF as per 31 March 2023. Hachinohe seems to be the preferred place for demolition after they are withdrawn from use. Only four squadrons still fly the P-3C: 2 Kokutai, 5 Kokutai, 51 Kokutai (test) and 203 Kokutai (training). 203 Kokutai took part in the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Shimofusa AB on 20 October, during which the squadron still had four Orions on strength: 5077, 5080, 5083 and 5088
The New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) announced on 16 August that it will retain P-3K2 NZ4203 for historical preservation and display at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch. NZ4203 was the air force’s first Orion to land in Antarctica, in 2006. Built by Lockheed in Burbank California in 1966, it flew over 27,000 hours during 54 years of service with No. 5 Squadron at Base Whenuapai. New avionics were installed in the 1980s and new wings in the 1990s. The Orion was pulled apart at Marlborough’s Base Woodbourne and on Tuesday 5 September Airbus staff removed the fuselage and wings from NZ4203. A convoy of 12 vehicles including trucks with super-length trailers, normally used for house removal would spend three days traveling mainly at night through Lewis Pass including fording streams. The five remaining P-3K2 Orions are to be sold, subject to approval by the US State Department.
During an open house held at Andøya AB on 30 June the Norwegian Air Force marked the end of Norwegian P-3 operations. The final operational flight of a Norwegian P-3C was performed on that day by #3299.
In September the situation of the Norwegian Orions was:
154576 4576 P-3N 08sep22 AMARG sold to Argentina
156603 6603 P-3N apr21 SOC - to be gate guard at Andøya
163296 3296 P-3C UIP apr21 stored at Andøya.
163297 3297 P-3C UIP 20jun23 AMARG sold to Argentina
163298 3298 P-3C UIP 17mar23 AMARG sold to Argentina
163299 3299 P-3C UIP 28jul23 AMARG sold to Argentina
On 2 August it was announced that the US government was seeking Congressional approval for the sale of four Norwegian P-3 Orions to Argentina. The contract for the sale of four ex-Norwegian aircraft, three P-3Cs and one P-3N, was signed on 17 October.
According to a resolution published in the Diário da República de Portugal on 30 August, the purchase of six P-3C from Germany for the Portuguese Air Force was authorized. Portugal will purchase the entire German Navy's P-3C Orion fleet inventory, consisting of six aircraft, Midlife Upgrade (MLU) Kits, spare parts, support equipment, test equipment and flight simulators for a maximum amount of € 45 million, budgeted in equal amounts of € 9 million over a period of five years (2023-2027). The deal does not include aircraft 60+01 (damaged because of a refueling incident) and 60+02 (completely stripped of all mission systems). According to Germany the six Orions will be added to the flying inventory. However it has been confirmed by the PAF, that the Orions have been bought to keep their five Orions airworthy, so most likely they will be dismantled for spare parts.
Starting early May a P-3C CUP+ of 601 Sqn operated out of NAS Sigonella to conduct maritime situational awareness as part of NATO Operation Sea Guardian in the Mediterranean. On 26 May P-3C+ 14809 of 601 Sqn arrived at Siauliai in Lithuania for operations in connection with BALTOPS 2023.
Early October P-3C CUP+ 14808 has arrived with IMP at Halifax in Canada, where it will receive equipment and technology to upgrade the communications and mission electronics.
On 27 October the Wolves of 601 Squadron were distinguished by the Maritime Analysis and Operations Center - Narcotics, an international organization whose mission is to support Europe's fight against drug trafficking in the maritime domain of the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The squadron received a Medal of Excellence for their response in supporting the activities carried out within the scope of Combating Drug Trafficking by the Center, in coordination with national and foreign entities, in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Republic of China
Early May P-3C 3302 was flown to Greenville, SC, where Lockheed Martin will conduct maintenance and modifications.
After the final flight of a Spanish P-3M Orion on 16 December 2022, the surveillance task has been overtaken by nine C-235MPA. Spain has now ordered 16 new C-295W Persuaders for the Spanish Air Force to replace the P-3 Orions. Six C-295W-MPA and ten C-295W-MSA. The MPA version even has a MAD-boom!