The P-3 Orion has made its reputation as a formidable submarine finder, though its maritime duties also include sea patrols and reconnaissance. Not only is the P-3 Orion used extensively by the United States Navy, it is flown by the German and Pakistan Navies. Many other countries have at least one P-3 as well, including Spain, Britain, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Lockheed Martin delivered the first P-3 in 1962 and the Orion served the United States military for more than 35 years. The aircraft was used in the 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis and continues to perform patrols around the world. One of the Orion’s advantages over other planes is its ability to stay aloft for extended missions in excess of 10 hours. It can also fly at high or low altitudes. What makes it particularly valuable is the P-3’s ability to perform accurate and reliable reconnaissance work at great distances from its subjects, and even monitor target activity using special cameras and infrared equipment. The Orion can pinpoint the exact location of individuals and record their activity even from a great distance and completed more than 1,200 combat surveillance sorties during the Desert Storm engagement alone.
Armament for the Orion P-3 can be customized to the mission. It can employ sonobuoys, missiles, and bombs. In addition to combat surveillance missions, the P-3 is also used for aerial surveillance and hurricane hunting. NASA has used the airplane extensively for suborbital research. The Orion has also taken part in various peace-keeping missions.
The Boeing P-9 Poseidon will likely replace the P-3 sometime between the years of 2010 and 2013. Until then, here are some general specifications about the P-3:
Maximum speed: 466 mph
Ferry Range: 5,600 miles
Ceiling: 28,300 ft
Length: 116 ft 10 in
Wingspan: 99 ft 8 in
Height: 33 ft 8.5 in
Maximum weight: 139,760 lb
Empty weight: 61,500 lb
Engine(s): four 4,600 shp Allison T56-A-14 turboprop engines
Rate of climb: 3,140 feet per minute
Crew: 11-12, including the pilot, co-pilot, third pilot, navigator, flight engineer, second flight engineer, tactical coordinator, two acoustic sensor operators, a radar operator, and an in-flight technician.
Armament: combination of bombs, missiles, torpedoes, mines, and depth charges
Contractor: Lockheed Martin
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