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P-3 Orion

The P-3 Orion is a land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft, in operation since the 1960s. The current model, P-3C Update III, and the signals intelligence variant, the EP-3E Aries, are still in service and performing missions all over the world.

It was intended to replace the piston-engined Lockheed P2V Neptune (later redesignated P-2) and Martin P5M Marlin (later redesignated P-5).

Lockheed based the P-3 on the L-188 Electra commercial airliner. The aircraft is easily distinguished from the Electra by its the tail stinger or "MAD Boom", used for the magnetic detection of submarines.

U.S. Navy P-3 Orion in flight
U.S. Navy P-3 Orion in flight (US Navy Photo)

Over the years, the Orion has seen numerous design developments, most notably in its electronics packages. Numerous navies and air forces around the world continue to use the P-3, primarily for maritime patrol, reconnaissance, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

A total of 757 P-3s have been built. Early models included the P-3A and P-3B, and later the P-3C. With more than 400 aircraft worldwide flown by 21 operators in 17 countries, the P-3 remains a relied-upon asset in 2020.

The Boeing P-8 Poseidon now in production and deployment to the Navy, will eventually replace the remaining P-3C aircraft in the Navy fleet.

General Characteristics

  • Primary Function: Anti-Submarine warfare and Anti-Surface Warfare
  • Contractor: Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Company
  • Propulsion: Four Allison T-56-A-14 turboprop engines (4,600 hp each)
  • Length: 116.7 feet (35.57 meters)
  • Height: 33.7 feet (10.27 meters)
  • Wingspan: 99.6 feet (30.38 meters)
  • Weight: Maximum takeoff, 139,760 pounds (63,394 kilograms)
  • Airspeed: 411 knots; Cruise, 328 knots
  • Ceiling: 28,300 feet (8,626 meters)
  • Range: 2,380 nautical mile radius; for three hours on station at 1,500 feet, 1,346 nautical miles
  • Crew: Three pilots, two naval flight officers, two flight engineers, three sensor operators and one in-flight technician
  • Armament: AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84K SLAM-ER, AGM-65F Maverick missiles, Mk46/50/54 torpedoes, rockets, mines and depth bombs

 

P-3 Orion Photographs (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

U.S. Navy P-3C Orion 294 in flight
U.S. Navy P-3C Orion 294 in flight
U.S. Navy P-3C Orion 291 parked on the taxiway
U.S. Navy P-3C Orion 291 parked on the taxiway
P-3 Topside View
P-3 Topside View
P-3 Underside View
P-3 Underside View

 

 

U.S. Navy P-3A in early color scheme
U.S. Navy P-3A in early color scheme
U.S. Navy P-3B Orion in flight
U.S. Navy P-3B Orion in flight
U.S. Navy P-3C Orion 320 preparing for takeoff
U.S. Navy P-3C Orion 320 preparing for takeoff
P-3 Orions of the U.S. Navy and allied nations
P-3 Orions of the U.S. Navy and allied nations

 

 

The Basis for the P-3 Orion: Lockheed Electra

Lockheed Electra - National Airlines
Lockheed Electra - National Airlines
Lockheed Electra - American Airlines
Lockheed Electra - American Airline

 

More Resources About the P-3 Orion

P-3 Orion at Lockheed-Martin

P-3 Orion at the U.S. Navy