MIDN 4/C Ian Jacks
CDR Maureen Studniarz
N S 1132
30 September 2018
At the end World War II, the United States Navy called for a long range anti-submarine warfare aircraft which could combat threats in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian ocean as well as the Mediterranean and Arctic sea. Early aircraft included the PV-1 Ventura, PV-2 Harpoon and P-2V Neptune, all three accomplished the Navy’s call for an anti-submarine warfare aircraft. Soon, however, with the Cold War beginning, the Navy needed a new aircraft that could counter the advancing Soviet submarine technology. Thus, in 1962 the P-3V came into the Navy’s arsenal and versions of this aircraft have been on duty now for over forty years.
When was the first deliver to the Navy in 1969 the P-3V begin its mission as anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft. It was a four engine turboprop aircraft with advanced submarine detection capabilities such as directional frequency, sonobuoys (DIFAR), as well as magnetic anomaly detection equipment which was located in the iconic tail of the aircraft. The avionics system on board was integrated to a general purpose computer which monitored and automatically launched ordinance as well as provided flight data directly to the pilots on board. The system could also coordinate navigational information and data and have them put it directly into tactical display and storage units on board. In the late 1990s and early 2000s it’s mission involved to serve as the long range surveillance plane. It became a surveillance plane because of its long range capabilities and ability to stay in the sky for long periods of time while providing surveillance and reconnaissance information to troops on the ground. The most notable of it’s new surveillance designation was over troops in Mogadishu, Somalia during the events which have been written about in the book Black Hawk Down. The P-3V and also went through three model changes the P-3A, P-3B and P-3C with the P-3C being the only one in active service. The change to the aircraft were implemented in stages called updates. Update I which was introduced in 1975 incorporated data processing avionics and software updates to the aircraft. Update II which was introduced in 1977 featured infrared detection system, sonobuoy reference system, the harpoon anti-ship missile and a 28 channel magnetic tape recorder and reproducer. The P-3C update III aircraft came into effect in 1981,the update III program was handled by the channel expansion program(CHEX). This program doubled the number of sonobuoy channels on board and has been installed on all P-3C update III aircraft. The sonobuoys are ejected from the plane and float on the ocean while they listen to underwater acoustics given off by submarines below the surface. P-3C aircraft are manned by an eleven man crew which is composed of five officers and six enlisted members. Enlisted personnel are chosen from different ranges of aviation callings such as aviation machinist mate, aviation electrician’s mate, master chief aircraft maintenanceman, senior chief aviation structural mechanic, aviation structural mechanic, aviation electronics technician, and aviation warfare systems operator. As well as having a diverse crew from all walks of aviation, the plane also boasts a much diverse payload and ordinance bearing. It’s bomb bay can hold eight MK 46/50 torpedoes, eight MK 54 depth bombs, three MK 36/50 2000 pound mines , three MK 57 depth bombs , two MK101 depth bombs and one MK 25/39/55/56 2000 pound mine. The plane can also hold weaponry on it’s two center section pylons. These can hold two harpoons, two maverick missiles, two MK 46/50 torpedoes and two 2000 pound mines. The three under wing pylons on each side can also hold from the inboard to the outboard wing, two MK 46/50 torpedoes, another set of two MK 46/50 torpedoes and another set of two of MK 46/50 torpedoes for a total of six MK 46/50 torpedoes on the wings. As well as all these ordinance and bombs/torpedoes/bombs you can also hold 87 sonobuoys, pyrotechnics, and signals.
Sadly, the great P-3 Orion’s active service is coming to an end as the plane is being replaced by the P-8 Poseidon. The US Navy has been phasing out the aircraft and selling them to countries such as Japan, Australia, and Brazil. The US Navy also sold two of their P-3’s to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association(NOAA) which have been retrofitted with scientific instruments, radar and other gear to fly into hurricanes and report atmospheric conditions within the eye wall and the eye of hurricanes back to weather stations. These aircraft, nicknamed “Kermit” and “Miss Piggy” have reported on hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico. The P-3 has had a great run spanning over forty years and spanning different missions such as anti-submarine warfare, surveillance, reconnaissance, and now weather reporting. The plane has served it’s nation well and deserves a place in the history books as the greatest anti-submarine warfare plane to have ever served.
“Aircraft Operations.” NOAA Hurricane Hunters | Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, 24 Jan. 2018, www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/aircraft-operations/aircraft/lockheed-wp-3d-orion.
“P-3 Orion.” Preparing for the 21st Century, fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/p-3.htm.
Petty, Dan. “Navy.mil Home Page.” Navy Installations Underway with Transitioning to Defense Biometric Identification System to Enhance Base Security, www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=1100&tid=1400&ct=1.
Reade, David. The Age of Orion: Lockheed P-3, an Illustrated History. Shifffer, 1998.