Tag Archives: P-3

First P-3 loss

Hey all: (this will probably be as boring as hell for some of you, but may be of interest to others)
I don’t desire to drive a subject dear to me into the ground, but I have been asked several times about my good buddy & VP-4 shipmate Alvin G. Reeder (AT1 in VP-4, later retired as ATCS). Several of you know that Al & I were the very best buddies for forty years from 1958 to 1998. I met Al in September of 1958 at NAS North Island, CA. We were both on our way to VP-4 in Okinawa, but had to attend a few maintenance classes (and SERE School for me) for avionics equipment in the P2V-5F.
After we completed our training at North Island, we were sent to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay to await transportation to Okinawa. We were there for about two weeks before we were assigned a flight to the far-east. We spent Christmas of 58 at North Island. At the time that was the worst Christmas that I had ever spent. Al felt the same way. The next worst was exactly nine years later while on deployment in 1967 to Keflavik, Iceland. While we were at Treasure Island both Al and I had a few mid-watches in what they referred to as the “Queer Barracks”. That was a barracks in which they housed about 15-20 sailors who were awaiting discharges for homosexuality. We were told to NOT let any two of those sailors go to the head at the same time. Fortunately for me, I did not have to confront that event. A few days after Christmas we were on our way. We flew on a C-121 (Super Constellation) belonging to an outfit named “Slick Airlines”. We stopped off in Honolulu & Tokyo before terminating our air journey at Kadena AFB in Okinawa. — It was about 2-3 weeks later that we learned that the same C-121 had been lost in the Pacific Ocean while making one of those flights from the U.S. to Japan. All aboard were lost. We never heard just what location was the origin of the flight.
Both Al & I spent 2 1/2 years in VP-4, then got orders to the same place, Naval Air Maintenance Training Group headquartered at Northside at NAS Memphis. They placed both of us & about thirty others (VP-4 vet ATC Orlin S. Nelson among them) as plank-owners in the new maintenance training program for the P3V-1 (later re-designated as P3A) aircraft. We attended Instructor Training in Memphis, APS-80 radar school in Norfolk, and spent about four months attending several avionics courses at the Lockheed factory in Burbank. Then we ended up at Patuxent River, MD as members of Naval Air Maintenance Training Detachment 1011. We wrote the training courses for the P3 avionics systems, and then taught maintenance to people who would be maintaining those equipment throughout the navy. Since part of my training was on the navy’s first dive into the realm of SSBSC (Single SideBand Suppressed Carrier) communications, the Bureau of Naval Personnel sent some people down from D.C. to have me supply a few questions on that subject for the AT & AX rating exams. Later, I learned that several of my questions were incorporated into some of those exams.
After approximately seven months of preparation we started our instructor duties on or about January 1962. One year later the first P3A (as the P3V-1 had been re-designated) was lost in the Atlantic Ocean. All aboard were lost. No wreckage or bodies were ever found. That particular aircraft belonged to VP-8. Both Al and I had several or our ex-students aboard that a/c. One of those lost was the younger brother of one of my high school female classmates. I knew the girl fairly well, but did not know the brother until he showed up in my class one day. This first graphic depicts the loss or mishaps of P3 aircraft. Note the very first one. I do not know if this list is up-to-date. I can see that at least two of the P3s are missing from this list. Those aircraft were lost in combat off the coast of Viet Nam in February & April of 1968. They belonged to VP-26 (Al Reeder’s squadron at that time). More about that in a little while. Note that they are not included in the list below, and should be listed right after the VP-8 loss.

P-3 notable events accidents and incidents

We spent five years in our instructor duty, then we both got orders. Al went to VP-26 in Brunswick, Maine. I went to Advanced Avionics “B” School in Memphis. After 30 weeks of the 32 week training I got a phone call from Al in Brunswick. Al was the Avionics CPO in VP-26. He told me that VP-26 had recently transitioned from the P2V-7 (SP-2H) to the P3, and that the VP-11 skipper paid him a visit. VP-11 was to transition in a few months, and that skipper wanted to know if Al knew any ATCs who had P3 experience. Al told him about me, and that I was just about to graduate from “AVB” School, and that I had five years experience in course preparations & maintenance instructions on about 70% of the avionics systems in the P3. It was a few days later that I received orders to VP-11. They were the hangar-mates of VP-26 there in Brunswick. So after a 32+ week separation, Al and I were together again in the same hangar.
I think it was in February or March of 1967 when VP-26 (entire squadron) & VP-11 (three aircraft) were sent to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico for some kind of fleet preparedness operation. Al was sent in his normal job as Avionics CPO, and I was sent as the 3-aircraft Maintenance CPO for VP-11. We sent only three aircraft because we were in the middle of our transition, and we actually had only about 5-6 of our new P3s. We remained in Puerto Rico a couple weeks, then returned to Brunswick.
I get lost in the time element now, but sometime later VP-11 made two deployments to Iceland. We had four hours notice to deploy to Iceland on that first trip. VP-26 had been scheduled to make that deployment, but they suddenly got a short notice to deploy to Sangley Point, P.I. We had been scheduled to make the Sangley deployment. VP-26 even had to pull out some of their people from the Cold Weather Survival & SERE School in the mountains near Brunswick. I think that the “brass” made the decision that VP-11 had not enough experience in their new P3s to be effective in that dangerous Far-East deployment, so they switched us. None of our people got to attend that Cold Weather Survival School. Iceland was much warmer than Brunswick but I believe the Cold Weather School was for the benefit of the flight crews who might somehow (accidentally) fly up around Northern Russia. Al attended that school. He told me that he had never been as cold as it was up in those snow-covered mountains. VP-10 was the only other Brunswick Patrol Squadron which had the P3s at that time, and they were already deployed to Argentia, Newfoundland. VP-21 & 23 still had the SP-2H aircraft.
VP-11 had been in Iceland not too long when we heard over the Armed Forces Radio that a U.S. Navy Patrol Plane home-stationed in Brunswick, Maine had been shot down by Cambodia or Laos. The radio did not mention the squadron number, but of course that could be only ONE squadron, VP-26. The other four Brunswick Patrol Squadrons were elsewhere (VP-10, VP-11, VP-21 & VP-23). I was worried about Al for a couple of weeks before I learned that he was not aboard that missing P3. He was not flight crew, but he did occasionally fly with them. It was a couple months later that 26 had another P3 shot down. Both crews lost their lives on those missions. Below is another graphic that tells a little about those VP-26 losses. As you can see VP-26 lost their two P3s on or about February & April of 1968. They are not shown in that first graphic above.

Vp-26 graphic

VP-10, VP-11, & VP-26 all returned to Brunswick within a couple weeks of each other. When we were all back in Brunswick the entire station and the five patrol squadrons had several funeral services for the two lost VP-26 crews. There was much sadness then. Many of us in all the squadrons knew several of the missing sailors. Some of us in VP-11 had those typical mixed feelings of guilt & relief that those VP-26 crews had taken our place.
Just before my tour was completed in VP-11, Al got orders to NAS Pensacola. He had been gone a couple of weeks when I got TWO sets of orders the same day. One of them was for Instructor Duty at AVB School in Memphis while the other was to attend the ADCOP (Associate Degree Completion Program) at Pensacola Junior College. Neither I nor our Personnel Office knew exactly what to do so they called BUPERS to ask them. BuPers gave me the choice. I opted for ADCOP, so I ended up here in Pensacola.

Al and I were together again, and we stayed so until his death in 1998 except for almost a year when I was in VAQ-135 which was homeported in Alameda but made a Mediterranean Cruise on the Forrestal. My family remained in Pensacola, so I ended up right back here. We had both retired from the navy prior to 1974. We both worked together as electronics technicians and computer technicians for several years at Pensacola’s first Radio Shack. Al’s first wife, Georgia, died of heart problems in 1975, and Al was never the same. He remarried, but that did not seem to ease his pain. Sad to say, but he drank himself to death. One of the saddest days of my life was when I acted as one of his pallbearers. He is interred at the Barrancas National Cemetery at NAS Pensacola. Both his daughter and I cried at his funeral. Shame on me? Al was the smartest & nicest person that I ever personally knew well enough to know about such things. I hope that his bucolic, Missouri, southern drawl did not fool many of you, but unless someone knew him well, I’ll bet that he did fool quite a few people. Actually I KNOW for certain that he did.


P.S. Please forgive me if this is boring. I just had to get it out of my system. I still miss the best friend I ever had.


Navy’s newest plane to deploy for first time in hands of Jacksonville NAS-based squadron

Stepping aboard the classy new aircraft, you notice the first-class leather seats and expect to see a flight attendant waiting to show you to your seat.



But though it uses the same airframe, this is not your average Boeing 737. It is the P-8A, the Navy’s newest eyes, ears and muscle in the air — and its first operational squadron is right here in Jacksonville.

Squadron VP-16 out of Jacksonville Naval Air Station, also known as the War Eagles, will deploy with the new birds for the first time when they head to the Western Pacific in December.

The P-8A Poseidon is replacing the Navy’s aging fleet of P-3 Orions, introduced in the early ’60s.

“It’s like going from flying a tractor to a Cadillac,” according to Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Hager, who has flown both.

Gone are the glass gauges and rigid confines of the P-3s. For the first time, pilots and crew will have seats that recline and bathrooms.

Check out more photos of the plane here

The cockpit resembles a computer lab complete with a heads-up display. All of this, pilots say, free them up to concentrate on other problems and threats that may appear.

“It really increases a pilot’s situational awareness,” Lt. j.g. Christi Morissey, a P-8A pilot, said.

The plane actually makes her a better pilot, she said.

The benefits of the new plane are obvious. Chief among them are speed and altitude. The jet-powered P-8A can fly farther, faster and higher than its aging, propeller-driven predecessor.

This gives the plane more time over the target area because it takes less time to get there.

“We can get somewhere so much quicker,” Hager said. “If you’re heading to a target that’s 1,200 miles away, it will take a P-3 four hours to get there. The P-8 can be there in less than three.”

Though it can do the job better, the job description remains the same. The Poseidon’s job will be anti-submarine, anti-surface, reconnaissance and intelligence duties.

Equipped with the newest technology, and resembling a flying computer lab, it can send video, photos and information to commanders in real time.

But it also packs a punch.

Among its armaments is the AGM84D Harpoon missile that can take out nearly anything that floats, according to Lt. Kenny Vanhook, assistant aircraft maintenance officer. “It’ll do some serious damage.”

In case of attack, the aircraft is also outfitted with a new laser deterrent system which diverts surface-to-air missiles by creating a distant heat source to attract their sensors.

The most critical advantage to the U.S. Navy, however, may be the cost savings in the age of sequestration, recent spending cuts affecting the military.

The Navy was considering the idea of reproducing the P-3, but Lockheed Martin, the builder of the P-3, no longer had the manufacturing facility. The P-8 on the other hand, is being produced in its civilian form — the 737.

In addition, the P-8 requires only nine crewmen, compared with the P-3’s 11.

But perhaps most important, the revered P-3s were showing their age. The planes were requiring more maintenance time for less flying time.

“You could take off with all four engines working and land with only two,” Vanhook said.


Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-09-19/story/navys-newest-plane-deploy-first-time-hands-jacksonville-nas-based#ixzz2fukDWGzc

Last Cold Warrior Deploying to WESTPAC


From VP-62 Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) — As Patrol Squadron Six Two (VP-62) begins the first ever mobilization of a Reserve P-3 squadron, one of the Reservists heading to Japan is also one of the last Cold War anti-submarine warfare operators still serving in the Navy.

Before getting on the plane, Master Chief Naval Aircrewman (NAC/AW) Spence Cunningham took a moment to look back on his 32 years of Naval Aviation experience.

I joined the Navy via the Delayed Entry Program in February 1981 and left for Boot Camp in Orlando in August of 1981. I completed the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operator pipeline (Non-Acoustic) in August 1982 and received orders to the Pelicans of VP-45. I completed three deployments between 1982 and 1986. I was screened and selected for instructor duty at VP-30, where I taught the Update 2, 2.5 and 3 versions of the Orion.

I completed the shore tour at VP-30 and an opportunity to work on the P-7 program was a good one, so I separated in August of 1990 and received orders to the Broadarrows of VP-62. I left active duty as an AW1. When I joined the squadron, the annual training periods consisted of the squadron setting up shop in Bermuda and we covered that ASW sector until all the Reservists completed their two-week requirements. The squadron was the last Reserve VP squadron to operate fully out of NAS Bermuda in 1991. After that, operations moved to a detachment form of annual training, where crew and maintenance formed small units and went forward to various sites like Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; Sigonella, Sicily; Manta, Ecuador; Keflavik, Iceland and Comolapa, El Salvador, to name a few.

While I have been attached to VP-62, I have held many positions from NATOPS ‘Bluecard’ instructor to detachment CPO (chief petty officer) and up to Command Master Chief. All the while, maintaining combat aircrew qualifications to answer the call if needed.

I reached the 30-year high year tenure mark for Master Chief in February 2011, and I decided to transfer to the Volunteer Training Unit versus retirement. I decided to continue to serve, because I love what I do in the P-3 and I want to give the benefit of my experience to those junior operators that are the future of maritime patrol.

I have been very fortunate that the civilian positions I have held had a direct relationship to my Navy Reserve job. I have held positions with several local Jacksonville defense contractors that have supported the training efforts of the P-3 force that have included curriculum development, specifically the Block Mod Update and ASUW Improvement Programs for the P-3. I was also an initial member of, and later managed the Revision and Maintenance effort for the P-3 Fleet Replacement Squadron, VP-30.

Presently, I am the lead instructor for the Acoustic Track Contract Instructor cadre at VP-30. I lead ten civilian instructors in executing the initial P-3C Acoustic Operator curriculum for acoustic AWO trainees. We are responsible for completing all ground phase requirements that include classroom instruction, aircraft demonstrations, part-task trainer periods and Tactical Operational Readiness Trainers (TORT) which are full tactical crew scenarios.

I have been a sensor operator from the beginning. Actually, I completed my pipeline training as a SS-3 operator, but the needs of my first squadron dictated (by my Shop Chief) my On-The-Job (OJT) conversion to operating the acoustic sensor. I got a two-week course on acoustic analysis and departed on my first deployment to Sigonella, Sicily. I am the last AW to earn a 7821 NEC by OJT before the instruction changed that required completion of a formal curriculum to earn NECs.

All of my efforts overseas have had their moments. My first deployment had an erupting Mt. Etna that covered NAS Sig in a 1-inch layer of ash. That affected the Engine Driven Compressors (air conditioning) on the aircraft which meant many a flight was conducted in a minimalist fashion when it came to being comfortable.

That same deployment, Mummar Qadaffi set his line of death and we were flying armed patrols in support of Sixth Fleet carriers crossing the line. The Marines were car-bombed in Lebanon during that deployment, and once again we were flying armed patrols. VP-45 flew on multiple Soviet submarines from Victors and Charlies, to Tangos and Foxtrots. The squadron set a record for the most submerged contact time to date during that 1983 deployment.

My second deployment was my first as a newly minted Sensor One. I cut my chops on the challenging Soviet Echo II that entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar. That was a first class ASW challenge considering the sensors we were using back then. I was successful by turning over hot contact to the following crew, but to say I was nervous was an understatement.

My appreciation for the job was not fully realized until my third deployment to the island of Bermuda. The Soviets consistently deployed the “Yankee” class submarines between Bermuda and the east coast of the United States. Our job was to stay “on-top” around the clock while they were present. One submarine decided to test the theory by straying further west. We were on-top and were given authorization to let them know we were there. We did this by going active and after a few hours of relentless pinging, the Yankee moved back. During debrief, the crew was told that an entire B-52 wing had moved inland during that excursion. I was stunned at the information. Here it was that a lowly Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class’s efforts in running his sensor was standing between a Yankee and its missiles and the East Coast. Doing this job was just “fun” up until then. It still is, but I never considered the broader implications of what I do on the aircraft and I have never forgotten that since.

This is my first mobilization as a Reservist. I have been in a hardware unit the entire time. Since I was tied to Combat Aircrew Readiness, performing an Individual Augmentee position was possible, but not encouraged given the limited number of Sensor One operators VP-62 has.

My expectations on this deployment are what any acoustic operator worth his or her salt should be, tracking submarines. Being primarily an Atlantic Fleet operator, I look forward to working in the western Pacific against some very challenging submarines found in that area of the world. I relish the challenge and look forward to sharing my experience with some young fleet operators out there, not to mention getting to experience liberty in the exotic countries of the Western Pacific.

I am the last of the Cold Warriors that are still actively flying in the P-3. I have acoustic sensor experience that runs the gamut from AN/AQA-7 paper grams to the current AN-USQ-78B Acoustic Processor Technical Refresh (APTR). I have hours upon hours of on-top time of a multitude of submarines in many of the world’s oceans. This is what I have spent the last 30 years of my life doing and I cannot think of any other job I’d rather perform. I have certainly had an exceptional run and I have to give a lion share of credit to the Reserves to enable me to enjoy the best of both my worlds. It is time for me to hang my flight suit up after this deployment and I will miss the flying. But most of all I will miss those Sailors in VP-62. I am grateful to serve among such a group of dedicated professionals. I am humbled and appreciative of the privilege.

For more news from Patrol Squadron 62, and the WESTPAC deployment visit www.navy.mil/local/vp62/.

Code One Magazine: Golden Orion

Code One Magazine: Golden Orion.

Exactly three months after delivery of the first P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, US Navy aircrews from Patrol Squadron 8 found themselves deployed to Bermuda—and stepping into the brightest of world spotlights.

On 23 October 1962, four aircrews from VP-8 and four aircrews from Patrol Squadron 44 (VP-44) began enforcing President John F. Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba to prevent Soviet missiles from reaching Cuba. The P-3 crews patrolled the Atlantic sea lanes to locate and track Soviet cargo ships carrying intermediate range ballistic missiles or missile launch support equipment.

By the time the Cuban Missile Crisis ended a few days later, a VP-44 crew achieved international recognition of sorts when their aircraft was photographed flying close surveillance over the Russian freighter Anasov on its return to the Soviet Union. Anasov was the only Russian vessel that refused to uncover the large oblong objects lashed to its deck. The Orion crew was able to verify that the objects were indeed crated missiles, and the ship was allowed to proceed.

The P-3 came about as a response to Navy Type Specification #146 issued in 1957 for a new land-based antisubmarine warfare, or ASW, aircraft to replace the Lockheed P2V Neptune land-based maritime patrol aircraft and the Martin P5M Marlin flying boat. Very specific requirements pertaining to delivery schedule and cost constraints dictated the need for adapting an off-the-shelf aircraft design for the maritime patrol mission.

The competitors were Martin, Consolidated, and Lockheed, three companies that had been building patrol aircraft for the Navy for more than three decades at that point. The French Atlantique, developed with the help of US Navy funds, did not meet the stated range requirement and was eliminated from the competition.

The Lockheed proposal highlighted the Electra airliner’s turboprop engines and its capability for high-speed transit at high altitudes, low speed, low-altitude handling qualities, and fuel economy. Because the Electra was designed to operate from commercial airports, the Navy did not have to alter any runways. The Lockheed Model 185 retained the wings, tail, and Allison T56-A-1 turboprop engines of the Electra. The new design called for the Electra’s fuselage to be shortened by seven feet, and a weapon bay for mines, conventional or nuclear depth charges, or torpedoes was added.

Lockheed was named as the winner of the competition on 24 April 1958, and the contract was awarded that May. A design problem with the Electra’s propeller and engine mount that resulted in several crashes—a phenomenon called whirl mode—had not surfaced at this point. Once the issue was identified, Lockheed briefed the Navy on proposed fixes, and the service was satisfied. Development continued.

The first aircraft was actually the third production Electra with a mockup of a magnetic anomaly detection, or MAD, boom installed at the rear of the aircraft. The MAD equipment, originally developed in World War II, gives aircraft crews the ability to detect large metal objects under water. The greatly improved MAD gear in the P-3 is a primary method the crew uses to locate submarines. The demonstrator was an aerodynamic prototype only and still had the airliner’s passenger windows. It was first flown on 19 August 1958, and Lockheed crews made eight flights. This aircraft was again modified into a full-up prototype of what was then designated P3V-1.

The first flight of YP3V-1 prototype came on 25 November 1959 at the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California, where most of the aircraft would be built. The nickname Orion was officially adopted in late 1960, keeping with the Lockheed tradition of naming aircraft after mythological figures or celestial bodies. The first preproduction P3V-1 was flown on 15 April 1961 from the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California.

The Orion represented a new approach to the ASW mission. It was a more spacious aircraft than previous patrol aircraft, with room for a crew of up to a dozen, along with a galley and rest bunks. It was pressurized and air conditioned. The P-3 had enough electrical power to incorporate advanced sensors and avionics. It was the world’s first dedicated maritime patrol aircraft to be powered by turboprop engines. The Orion also had a significantly better weapons system than its predecessors.

The Orion test fleet consisted of six aircraft. Navy Bureau of Inspection and Survey trials—what today is called operational test and evaluation—took place from April to June 1962 at what was then known as the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and the Naval Weapons Evaluation Facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The first P3V-1s were delivered to VP-8 on 23 July 1962 and to VP-44 on 13 August. Delivery consisted essentially of moving the aircraft on the Pax River ramp, as both squadrons were based there at the time. With the adoption of the new Department of Defense designation system on 18 September 1962, the P3V-1 was redesignated P-3A. The first Naval Reserve squadrons would receive P-3As in 1970.

A total of 158 P-3As were built for the US Navy. The Alphas, as they were called, were equipped with state-of-the-art analog avionic systems, including the first inertial navigation system in a Navy patrol aircraft. The aircraft featured fore and aft AN/APS-80 search radars, an AN/AQA-3 Jezebel passive acoustic signal processor, an AN/ASA-20 Julie echo location system, and the ASR-3, which was designed to sniff for diesel exhaust from snorkeling submarines.

The move-countermove strategy between the superpowers that defined the Cold War was particularly striking in ASW. The emergence of increasingly lethal and quiet Soviet submarines resulted in the need for increasingly more sophisticated navigation, detection, and tracking equipment on the P-3. Throughout its career, the most significant changes made to the Orion were in its sensors and avionics, not to its airframe.

The next major advance in the Orion was P-3B, or Bravo, introduced in 1966. This version featured a first-generation integrated ASW sensor suite and more powerful 4,500 shp T56-A-14 engines. The Heavyweight modification that came at the end of the P-3B production run featured strengthened structural elements, mainly in the wings, to accommodate heavier sensors and weapons.

A total of 125 Bravos were built for the US Navy. Additional aircraft were delivered new to the first international P-3 operators, the air forces—not the navies—of New Zealand in 1966, to Australia in 1968, and to Norway in 1969.

Development of a fully integrated avionics for the P-3C, or Charlie, began in 1966. Dubbed A-NEW, the heart of this system was the Univac 1830A thirty-bit parallel binary airborne digital computer that combined all the collected sensor data in real time. Computerization improved the speed and accuracy of sensor data generation and freed the crew from routine recordkeeping tasks. Development of this system was accelerated, and VP-49 made the first deployment with the P-3C in July 1970.

Much like the Super Bowl, the avionics, navigation, and sensor suite updates to the P-3C variant over the next three decades were seen as being important enough to warrant Roman numerals to differentiate them—Update I, II, II.5, and III. These updates brought a variety of advanced equipment, capabilities, and weapons to the Orion, which kept it ahead of the threat and took advantage of the computer revolution.

As illustrative examples, the P-3C has a chin-mounted electro-optical infrared sensor allowing crews to see and target at night. By contrast, the P-3A had a seventy-million candlepower searchlight under its right wing to locate surface targets. In addition to the ability to fire short range AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles, the P-3C crew can now launch over-the-horizon AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship and AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missiles. The P-3 Alphas could launch unguided rockets. The Bravos were the first to be modified to launch guided AGM-12 Bullpup missiles, which gave crews a significantly enhanced ability to attack surface targets.

A total of 266 P-3Cs were built for the US Navy, and 107 Charlies and special mission aircraft were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries under license in Japan. US production of the P-3C shifted from Burbank to Palmdale, California, in the 1980s and then to Marietta, Georgia, in the early 1990s. The last US-built P-3Cs, eight aircraft for the Republic of Korea Navy, were delivered in 1995. The last Kawasaki-built aircraft was delivered in 2000, closing out thirty-nine years of Orion production.

Total P-3 production, including license-built aircraft, came to 757 aircraft. Today, the worldwide P-3 fleet numbers 435 aircraft flown by twenty-one operators in sixteen countries on five continents, with Taiwan scheduled to join the Orion community with refurbished and rewinged former US Navy aircraft in 2013.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1970s, twenty-four squadrons of US Navy P-3s blanketed the seven seas tracking submarines, primarily Soviet fast attack and ballistic missile boats. Literally millions of sonobuoys—active or passive sensors dropped by parachute into the water to extend the Orion crew’s search area—were launched during the Cold War. An oft-repeated story is of a Soviet admiral who once lamented that if he wanted to know where his submarines were, all he had to do was look for the P-3s flying over them.

For most of its career, the primary mission for US Navy P-3 crews was hunting submarines on missions lasting more than twelve hours. But the Orion carried out other missions as well. Crews from VP-9 at NAS Moffett Field, California, deployed to Vietnam for Operation Market Time in February 1969 for the P-3’s first Pacific deployment. Market Time was the Navy’s coordinated operation to stop the flow of weapons, ammunition, and supplies to Viet Cong forces infiltrating South Vietnam. The EP-3 signals intelligence variant also debuted during Vietnam.

The end of the Cold War brought a dramatic change in mission, as the P-3 was increasingly used in supporting overland missions in surveillance, targeting, and peacekeeping roles.

During Desert Storm, P-3 crews monitored shipping lanes while EP-3 crews monitored electrons. But by Operation Allied Force in Kosovo in 1999, Orion crews had further expanded their role to include targeting cruise missiles. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, P-3 crews using surveillance equipment and sensors could determine who or what was on the other side of a hill. Then a Marine riding on board would transmit that information directly to troops in contact on the ground.

But the versatility of the Orion has always been one of its strongest attributes. Today, Norwegian crews do much as they did during the Cold War, monitoring Russian ships and submarines coming out of the ice-free port of Murmansk and protecting Norwegian fishing grounds from poachers. Former Dutch P-3s now owned and operated by Germany are flown on antipiracy missions in Djibouti, while Australian P-3 crews have been conducting overland missions in Afghanistan since 2003.

In addition to military operators, two versions of the P-3 are flown by US Customs and Border Protection primarily for antidrug and homeland security missions. NASA acquired the YP3V prototype in 1966 and flew it until 1993. Today the agency has an NP-3B for scientific research missions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has two WP-3Ds, nicknamed Kermit and Miss Piggy, for weather research.

Although the P-8 is the US Navy’s designated replacement for the P-3, Orion crews will still be on station for several years to come. Upgraded EP-3E ARIES II electronic reconnaissance aircraft will be flown well into the 2020s.

But other operators intend to continue flying their P-3s for many more years. To get the Orion through at least its sixth decade of service, the P-3 Mid-Life Upgrade, or MLU, is a life extension kit that replaces the aircraft’s outer wings, center wing lower section, and horizontal stabilizer with new production components. The MLU removes all current P-3 airframe flight restrictions and provides 15,000 additional flight hours.

The US Navy has thirty-one MLU kits on order. Lockheed Martin builds the outer wings at its Marietta facility, and the kits are installed at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, the aviation depot at NAS Jacksonville, Florida. New wings are also being built for P-3s flown by Norway, Canada, Taiwan, and US Customs and Border Protection.

In one respect, the Orion has actually come full circle. The MLU replacement wings today are built on the exact same tooling that was used to build the wings for Bureau Number 148883, the first P3V-1 delivered to VP-8 fifty years ago.

Jeff Rhodes is the associate editor of Code One.


P-3 Orion Research Group website

Dear all,

I am proud to announce that we have just uploaded the new P-3 Orion Research Group website!!

Besides a completely new layout we added an important new feature: our P-3 Aircraft Location History Report (ALHR) has now been published online! This report is giving the entire service life history for each individual P-3 Orion in the world. Our ALHR was last published eleven years ago in our “P-3 Orion Volume 2” booklet. Last year we decided that we will not publish a third booklet and instead we have now published the ALHR online. And there is more: it’s our intention to publish an updated ALHR four times a year.

Another change to the website is the news section. In the past this wasn’t refreshed as often as we wanted. Next to the news section we published our “Orion Nieuws” in Dutch language as a PDF document on the website. We have decided to quit publishing this Dutch news issues and instead we now publish this news in English as an integrated part of the website. Also for the news section it is our intention to publish new issues four times a year.

Please be advised that some sections of the new website are still under construction. And the text of other sections (like the history, variants and operators sections) still need to be updated. This will be done over the next few weeks. And of course we will be adding more photos to the existing pages over the next few weeks too.

We hope you will enjoy the new layout and especially the P-3 Aircraft Location History Report.

Marco P.J. Borst and Jaap Dubbeldam
P-3 Orion Research Group – The Netherlands


Visit the site at: http://www.p3orion.nl/index.html

Videos of VP-4 found on the web

Howdy folks,

While working on the web site I found a couple of videos I thought I’d share with you all

Video 1: Commander Fleet Activities Okinawa, Part 1

Video 2: Commander Fleet Activities Okinawa, Part 2

VP-16 qualifies first CWO patrol plane commander

By Lt. j.g. Robert Maul

VP-16 recently qualified CWO3 Dan Haller as a P-3C Orion patrol plane commander (PPC) – making him the first chief warrant officer PPC in P-3 fleet history. As a qualified PPC, Haller will be tasked to ensure the safe operation of the P-3C and ensure the crew and the aircraft return home safely.
The Flying Chief Warrant Officer Pilot Program was instituted in January of 2006. This extremely competitive program takes highly motivated enlisted Sailors and commissions them as warrant officers to complete training as naval pilots and naval flight officers (NFOs). The program allows chief warrant officers to serve as pilot or NFO in the P-3, EP-3, E-6 and the helicopter communities.
The goal behind qualifying warrant officers is to create naval pilots and NFOs who are not restricted to the career path that is taken by unrestricted line officers.
Haller enlisted in the Navy in August 1997 as an aviation machinist mate. He attended aircrew school and was soon qualified as a P-3C Orion flight engineer. He successfully completed tours with VP-9 and later as an instructor flight engineer at the P-3C Fleet Replacement Squadron, VP-30.
Haller was commissioned Dec. 1, 2006. After attending aviation preflight indoctrination and primary flight training in Pensacola, Haller completed advanced flight training in Corpus Christi, Texas and received his wings of gold in August 2008. He then returned to VP-30, this time as a student pilot, and was then assigned to VP-16 in May 2009.
Haller said, “It is an honor to pave the way for future warrant officer aviators. My only goal is to set the standard for all other flying warrants in the fleet.”
The historic achievement that Haller has accomplished serves as an example to all enlisted Sailors that other opportunities for advancement are available to them. The success that Haller has had during his career in naval aviation, as both an enlisted Sailor and as an officer, will bring the intrinsic benefits of the Flying Chief Warrant Officer Pilot Program to the attention of many within the aviation community and the Navy.

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jaxairnews.jacksonville.com/military/jax-air-news/2011-03-09/story/vp-16-qualifies-first-cwo-patrol-plane-commander?sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4da86b4a44653c5d%2C1#ixzz1JvzM5lQ7

Photo courtesy of VP-16

Photo courtesy of VP-16