P-3 Orion Research Group
this page was last updated on 10 October 2020
© P-3 Orion Research Group / 1997 - 2020
Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion Worldwide News Section
Much to our surprise it was announced earlier this year, that not only VPU-2 has executed their homeport change to NAS Jacksonville on 1 April 2020, but the unit also transitioned to the P-8A during the summer of 2020. With some delay, probably due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the three remaining P-3SPA were flown to AMARG for storage early June. Two years ago, the Navy had planned to deactivate VPU-2 but suspended the decision to 2020.
Early August the aircrew and maintenance sailors assigned to the P-8A Poseidon and P-3C Orion squadrons worked through the night and into the morning to evacuate these aircraft to pre-determined safety locations ahead of Hurricane Isaias. Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic authorized the evacuation of 31 P-8A Poseidon aircraft and five P-3C Orion aircraft from NAS Jacksonville on 2 August with remaining aircraft assigned to Commander, Patrol & Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11 and Patrol Squadron 30 to remain safely in their squadron hangars. P-3C’s involved were 162318, 163290 and 163295 of VP-30 and 161121 and 161590 of VP-62. All returned on 4 August.
On 5 June, WP-3D Orion N43RF ("Miss Piggy") took off for the first operational mission of the 2020 Hurricane Season. Since then, the WP-3D’s have investigated tropical storm Cristobal, hurricane Hanna, hurricane Isaias, tropical depression Thirteen, category 4 hurricane Laura, hurricane Sally, category 4 hurricane Teddy and, most recently in October, hurricane Delta. On 18 September WP-3D N42RF ("Kermit") flew a 9-hour mission from St Croix during which the crew conducted nine passes through Category 4 Hurricane Teddy.
The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) has made it official that they have signed Air Tanker 23, P-3A N923AU, operated by Airstrike, to a 75-day exclusive use (EU) contract. The choice of the aircraft came as no surprise since it was already under a call when needed arrangement with the state. Colorado has not specified where it will spend the majority of its time, but it may move around as needed. There are five air tanker bases in Colorado that can support large air tankers: Durango, Grand Junction, Jeffco, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs which was just converted to a permanent base. The grand opening for the facility was on 15 June. Colorado Springs is the only permanent base in Colorado that can officially support very large air tankers. DC-10s worked out of Pueblo for at least 2013 through 2016, perhaps longer, but the 2019 Air Tanker Base Directory does not list Pueblo as a VLAT base.
On 22 July Airstrike announced it had two P-3 airtankers working wildfires. One was in Colorado and one was in California. They were vectoring to have a third online next year, then another, then another.
Since late August USCS/CBP has several P-3AEW and P-3 Slick detached to Hato airport on the island Curacao. Noted so far are N143CS, N144CS, N146CS, N147CS, N403SK and N480SK.
In September MHD Rockland reported they were waiting on the US Navy to finalize the contract so the training of the first customers could commence. So far two of their former RAAF AP-3C are flying, N662JD and N664SD. A third AP-3C, N665BD, was expected to start flying during that month. MHD Rockland has integrated radios, ADAHRS, FDR/CDR, SDRS, new Synthetic Apature Radar, Synthetic Vision with Satellite comma, all from COTS parts. Also, they removed nearly 8,000 pounds of unnecessary racks and wiring from the aircraft in the process.
Fleet Readiness Center Southeast located at NAS Jacksonville said goodbye to the P-3 Orion product line on 8 September 2020, after five decades of taking care of the US Navy P-3 Orions.
In October 2020 the US Navy still operated the following (47) P-3:
VP-30 160293, 161404, 162318, 162770, 163290, 163295.
VP-62 161121, 161132, 161408, 161415, 161586, 161590.
VP-69 161339, 161405, 161411, 161414, 161587, 161593
VQ-1 160610, 161588, 162777, 162998, 163001 +12 EP-3E
VX-30 150521, 158934, 162999, 163294
VXS-1 158570, 158912, 161337, 163291
BUPERS SDC 161589
unk 159326, 161129, 162772
Although it was announced on 20 December 2019 that the US Government has approved the potential sale of a support package for Argentina’s recently acquired P-3C Orions, no Orions are known to be taken out of storage yet. Latest news is that Argentina is starting a new agreement with the US Navy.
Mid July AP-3C(EW) A9-657 was flying daily (~10 hour) missions from Singapore over the South China Sea. These missions were probably connected with the encounter of Australian warships with the Chinese navy in the South China Sea during a voyage that saw them sail close to contested islands claimed by Beijing.
On 24 April 140114 the last-to-be-completed CP-140, was flown from IMP Aerospace at Halifax Stanfield International Airport back to 14 Wing Greenwood. All 14 Royal Canadian Air Force Aurora aircraft designated for the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP) have now been modified. The program, performed by IMP Aerospace at the Halifax International Airport, consisted of replacing significant structural components of the airframe, including the wings and the horizontal stabilizers. This project will add an additional 15,000 flying hours of service life per aircraft. Each airframe was extensively accepted under a rigorous flight test program executed by designated aircrew from 415 (Long Range Patrol Force Development) Squadron. Some of the old wings were sent to Greenwood and Comox for training, while some were sent to testing facilities. The remainder were sent to a disposal facility. Combined with the implementation of the Block 4 upgrade and the upcoming engine and propeller upgrade, the CP-140 will keep patrolling the skies well into the 2030s.
During October two RCAF CP-140M Auroras participated in the UK led exercise Joint Warrior II 20. Both 140113 of 405 (LRP) Sqd and an example of 407 (LRP) Sqd operated out of Prestwick airport, near Glasgow. Other participants were two French Atlantiques, while some US Navy Poseidons operated out of Keflavik.
During the first week of June German Navy P-3C’s were flying IRINI missions out of Nordholz. IRINI, (Greek for “peace”), had as its core task the implementation of the UN arms embargo through the use of aerial, satellite and maritime assets. In particular the mission was able to carry out inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2292 (2016).
In the final week of March 2020 P-3C CUP 60+01 was heavily damaged when one of the fuel tanks exploded after too much pressure had been put on it during testing. On 17 June the German MoD announced that it decided to stop the modernization program of the eight P-3C. The cost of the modernization has risen while DASA seems to have problems with the wing replacement. The two P-3C (60+04 and 60+03) which are both at Manching, will however be completed with new wings. The Orions will be retired within five years from now.
After a government report released in April 2011 noted that the aircraft suffered from operational limitations, Germany sought rectification through an upgrade program via the U.S. Department of Defense’s government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) mechanism. A request for sale to Germany of elements allowing for the procurement, integration, and installation of hardware and software required for upgrading the Orions’ mission computer and acoustic systems was approved by the U.S. State Department, with notification then given to Congress by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 11 April 2014. A contract was signed between the German government, Lockheed Martin and Airbus Defence and Space on 22July 2015. The contract called for production of eight midlife upgrade kits (outer wing, center fuselage and horizontal stabilizer) by Lockheed Martin, with Airbus responsible for installation of the kits on the German P-3Cs at its Manching facility. Additional planned upgrades formed part a broader modernization aimed at retaining the German P-3C Orions in service out to 2035. But the cost and technical issues cropping up during the upgrade process - along with heavy damage inflicted on the P-3C 60+01 in March 2020 - forced the Defense Ministry to acknowledge that delays in the ongoing modernization effort and consequent lack of fleet-wide operational readiness made termination of the mission equipment upgrades practical. However, according to the Defense Ministry, the re-winging measures being undertaken will continue in order to prevent an immediate capability gap from emerging.
Because of smoke in the cockpit, a P-3C CUP of Mfg.3 made an unscheduled precautionary landing at Rostock-Laage airport while on a patrol flight across the Baltic Sea on 25 August. There was no danger to the crew of 11 and the aircraft could return to Nordholz soon after the incident.
On 12 September Mfg.3 P-3C CUP 60+08 arrived at Djibouti (Africa) to support the ongoing European Union anti-piracy mission "Operation Atalanta". The Orion will fly its missions over the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, around the Horn of Africa and the Somali Basin (the eastern part of the Indian Ocean) up to mid-June 2020. The German naval aviators will contribute with call-sign "Jester" over the area of operations.
P-3C’s 5094 and 5097 of 2 Kokutai, were photographed while landing at Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam on 25 April. The Orions landed to refuel on their way to Djibouti. While no country would let them enter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam had agreed to receive the P-3C at Tan Son Nhat International Airport for refueling. Following their arrival in Djibouti the two P-3C from 5 Kokutai (5061 and 5071), could return home from Djibouti following their anti-piracy mission. On the way back to Naha both Orions also landed at Ho Chi Minh City on 29 April. But after getting refueling, engine trouble during take-off grounded P-3C 5071. It took about two months to have the P-3C repaired. The COVID-19 pandemic and Vietnam's decision to lock down the country to foreigners delayed repair plans significantly. Finally, on 29 June the 19 crew members of 2 Kokutai could return P-3C 5071 to their home base Naha.
In August Norwegian aircrew have started training on the flight simulator at Nordholz in Germany.
On 16 July Pakistan Navy P-3C II.5 82 was photographed in Portugal where it had received an overhaul and a repaint with OGMA at Alverca. On 16 August this Orion was flown back to Pakistan via Turkey.
Also on 16 July a P-3C CUP of Esq601 started flying missions under NATO operation ''Sea Guardian'. The 9-hour missions involved operating in the central-southern Mediterranean Sea in order to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Med.
On request of the Republican National Guard a PoAF P-3C CUP+ was flying missions overhead mainland Portugal for three days in July in order to detect and report wildfires in the districts of Aveiro, Braga, Braga, Bragança, Castelo Branco, Guarda, Porto, Santarém, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real en Viseu.
Early September P-3C CUP+ 14808 was operating out of Malaga Air Base (Spain) operating on behalf of FRONTEX (Indalo Operation). This aircraft still has the special marking as applied in April 2016 for the 30th anniversary of Esq601.
A unique event happened on 6 May, when all three Spanish P-3M were flying in formation. Considering that Spain only has three P-3M Orions this was a rather special event. P.3M-9 of ALA 22 had received a major overhaul (SDLM) with OGMA at Alverca and was escorted back to Moron by P.3M-08 and P.3M-12. The latter had returned to Spain on 30 April after four months of flying from Djibouti as the Spanish contribution to EU NAVFOR Somalia operation Atalanta. During September P.3M-9 was again deployed to Djibouti. It is worth noting that it has not received the same light gray colors which the other two do have.
Late September Spanish Defence initiatives were announced. Combining the needs of the Ejército del Aire (EdA, Spanish Air Force) for new aircraft and the intention of the government to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Spanish aircraft industry, the Spanish Ministry of Defence is working out several acquisition plans. Talks with Airbus involve the replacement of the three P-3M Orions with four C-295 maritime patrol aircraft, preferably with anti-submarine capabilities.