KALAELOA (HawaiiNewsNow) –
After more than 50 years in Hawaii, a fleet of planes that were once considered workhorses for naval surveillance operations will soon be flown for the final time over the islands.
Starting in 1964, dozens of P-3 Orion aircraft were stationed across Oahu, first at Barbers Point and then at the Kaneohe Marine base.
“It did a number of missions,” said retired Navy flight engineer Doug Gillette. “From anti-submarine warfare, shipping surveillance, sea and air rescue, VIP runs.”
In addition to its surveillance duties, the aircraft also carried weapons. Gillette, for example, spent 24 years flying on the [turboprop] planes, including combat missions over Vietnam and in the first Gulf War.
During the Cold War, P-3’s scoured the oceans for Soviet subs.
“Besides the submarines out of Pearl Harbor and destroyers looking for them, P-3 Orion guys were out there looking for them as well,” said Brad Sekigawa, a historian at the Naval Air Museum Barbers Point.
Despite their storied history, the Navy says it is phasing out Orions for a more modern jet aircraft.
“Parts will be sold to foreign nations that still operate the P-3, and the rest will probably be mothballed and then probably later scrapped,” Sekigawa said.
At their peak, there were about 50 P-3’s stationed in Hawaii. A year ago, 1,000 personnel were attached to Hawaii’s remaining three P-3 squadrons.
The last squadron leaves Thursday[2 Mar 2017], taking 300 sailors and the final four Orion aircraft with it.
“It is sad because when you talk about availability and what it can do, it’s a great airplane,” Gillette said.
“It did its job very well,” Sekigawa added.
After the Navy’s P-3 Orions leave Hawaii for the last time you’ll still be able to see the planes. Two decommissioned P-3s are already on display at Barber’s Point Naval Air museum.
To view more photos of the P-3 Orion fleet on your mobile device, click here.
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