The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s. Lockheed based it on the L-188 Electra commercial airliner. The aircraft is easily distinguished from the Electra by its distinctive tail stinger or "MAD Boom", used for the magnetic detection of submarines.
Over the years, the aircraft 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 Orion, primarily for maritime patrol, reconnaissance, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. A total of 757 P-3s have been built, and in 2012, it joined the handful of military aircraft including the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the Lockheed U-2 that have seen over 50 years of continuous use by the United States military. The Boeing P-8 Poseidon will eventually replace the U.S. Navy's remaining P-3C aircraft.
Over the years, numerous variants of the P-3 have been created. A few notable examples are:
- WP-3D: Two P-3C aircraft as modified on the production line for NOAA weather research, including hurricane hunting.
- EP-3E Aries: 10 P-3A and 2 EP-3B aircraft converted into ELINT aircraft.
- EP-3E Aries II: 12 P-3C aircraft converted into ELINT aircraft.
- AP-3C: Royal Australian Air Force P-3C/W aircraft which have been extensively upgraded by L-3 Communications with new mission systems, including an Elta SAR/ISAR radar and a GD-Canada acoustic processor system.
- CP-140 Aurora: Long-range maritime reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare aircraft for the Canadian Forces. Based on the P-3C Orion airframe, but mounts the more advanced electronics suite of the Lockheed S-3 Viking; 18 built
- CP-140A Arcturus: Three P-3s without ASW equipment for Canadian Aurora crew training and various coastal patrol missions.
- P-7 proposed new-build and improved variant as a P-3 Orion replacement later canceled.
- Orion 21 proposed new-build and improved variant as a P-3 Orion replacement; lost to the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.
- P-3K2: Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 aircraft which have been fully upgraded with totally new mission systems by L-3 Mission Integration Division, Greenville, Texas. The flight deck now has 'glass' instrumentation and navigation computer automation. The Tactical Rail (Tacrail) has been completely refitted with modern sensors, communication and data management systems.
- Crew: 11 (12 prior to elimination of aviation ordnanceman position in USN aircraft due to budget constraints)
- Length: 116 ft 10 in (35.6 m)
- Wingspan: 99 ft 8 in (30.4 m)
- Height: 38 ft 8 in (11.8 m)
- Wing area: 1300 ft2 (120.8 m2)
- Airfoil: NACA 0014-1.10 (Root) – NACA 0012-1.10 (Tip)
- Empty weight: 77,200 lb (35,000 kg)
- Useful load: 57,800 lb (26,400 kg)
- Loaded weight: 135,000 lb (61,400 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 142,000 lb (64,400 kg)
- Powerplant: 4 × Allison T56-A-14 turboprop, 4,600 shp (3,430 kW) each
- Propellers:Four-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller, 1 per engine
- Propeller diameter: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
- Maximum speed: 411 kn (750 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 328 kn (610 km/h)
- Range: 2,380 nmi radius (4,400 km)
- Combat radius: 1,346 nmi (2,490 km) three hours on-station at 1,500 feet
- Ferry range: 4,830 nmi (8,944 km)
- Endurance: 16 hours
- Service ceiling: 28,300 ft (8,625 m)
- Rate of climb: 3,140 ft/min (16 m/s)
- Wing loading: 107 lb/ft2 (530 kg/m2)
- Power/mass: 0.136 hp/lb at max gross (0.23 kW/kg)
Photos credits: Spot'Air
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