Electronic Weapons: EP-3 Gets Cranked

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August 3, 2006: The U.S. Navy has begun mass production of the EP-3E electronic intelligence aircraft. The EP-3 is a modified P-3 maritime search aircraft. Actually, the new version is called the EP-3E ARIES II, and it replaces the EP-3E ARIES I, and other earlier models. Many of the mods are classified, but the more visible ones include more antennas and at least one new radar. The EP-3 is designed to observe and analyze foreign military operations, and especially what kind of electronic emissions the foreign equipment puts out. EP-3s have been in service since 1969. Twelve older EP-3s will be upgraded to the EP-3E ARIES II standard. The aircraft costs about $2,500 per flight hour to operate (plus the cost of fuel, which more than doubles that cost). The upgrades will cost about three million dollars per aircraft.
The EP-3E is a four engine prop jet. It is 110 feet long and weighs 64 tons on takeoff. Max speed is about 600 kilometers an hour, although it usually cruises at about two thirds of that. The flight crew usually consists of three pilots, one navigator and one flight engineer. The mission crew is usually 15-20 equipment operators, technicians, mechanics and people with job descriptions like electronic warfare mission commander, electronic warfare aircraft commander, electronic warfare tactical evaluator, and electronic warfare operator. Missions typically last twelve hours or more. It was an EP-3E ARIES I that collided with a Chinese fighter in April, 2001.

 


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