September 15, 2004
While the U.S. Navy moves forward with rolling out a replacement for the P-3 Orion maritime patrol plane, countries around the world are lining up to bid on the P-3 aircraft as they become surplus property. About 450 planes are in service around the world, serving with the air forces and navies of 17 countries. The P-3 is also continues to serve in the U.S. Navy, the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency and NOAA. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin is bullish about supporting the international P-3 market with maintenance, modifications, and upgrades over the next twenty years. It is estimated that this business will amount to over a billion dollars, including rebuilds of over 100 aircraft. Other upgrades could include an "all-glass" digital cockpit and improved sensors and electronics for anti-surface warfare.
The Navy will trim its fleet from 227 to 148 planes by the middle of 2005, in part due to discoveries of structural fatigue in some aircraft. The 79 planes should become available for remanufacture and modification for overseas sales. Taiwan wants to buy 12 P-3s, South Korea 8, and Pakistan would like to buy a couple more planes. Not to be outdone, India would also like the P-3. Lockheed Martin has also hinted that they have the option to restart the P-3C production line if there are enough customers available.
The P-3A entered service in 1962. The current P-3C Orion flies at a cruise speed of 611 kilometers per hour and has an endurance of anywhere from 10 to 13 hours, depending on crew and weapons load. The plane has four turboprop engines and is capable of carrying up to 20,000 pounds of weapons, including torpedoes, mines, the Harpoon missile and the Maverick missile. It is 116 feet long and has a wingspan of nearly 100 feet. Doug Mohney