The last of ten Block Modification Upgrade Program (BMUP) P-3C aircraft were delivered in July, concluding an effort begun in 1997. The P-3C BMUP program began as an effort to standardize the Navy's P-3C force into a common configuration with updated display and control technology. The P-3A having entered Navy service in 1962 with many systems lifted from the P-2, itself first flown in 1944. Thus P-3 tactical technology upgrades have spanned over 50 years. The P-3C BMUP brings Update II and Update II.5 P-3 aircraft in line with current Update III performance. Operational missions for the BMUO aircraft have already included maritime patrol and reconnaissance, counter-narcotics operations, and fleet exercises.
P-3C Update III (BMUP) was started in 1998, with the goal of procuring up to 25 modification kits for installation in P-3C Update II and Update II.5 aircraft. The B-kits include a significantly improved data processing system with color high-resolution displays at each operator station, the AN/USQ-78B acoustic system with an improved acoustic receiver and acoustic data recorder, MK-50 torpedo and Harpoon weapon system upgrades, a data processing subsystem based on the CP-2451/ASQ-227 digital computer, and the AN/ALR-66B(V)3 ESM system. AN/USQ-78A and AN/USQ-78B Display Control Units (DCUs) operate as integral components of the aircraft's Single Advanced Signal Processor (SASP). The system is responsible for command and control of the signal processors, drives the displays and controls for two sensor stations, provides acoustic contacts to the Tactical Sub-system, and communicates with other acoustics subsystems. The AN/ALR-66A/B(V)3 Electronic Support Measures [ESM] Set provides concurrent radar warning receiver data (threat data) along with ESM data (fine measurement of classical parametric data). The AN/ALR-66B(V)3 Set provides increased sensitivity and processing improvements over its predecessor, the AN/ALR-66A(V)3. Further refinements to the operational flight program and the library will provide an operator tailorable library. The AN/ALR-66B(V)3 provides inputs to the EP-2060 Pulse Analyzer to detect, direction find, quantify, process, and display electromagnetic signals emitted by land, ship, and airborne radar systems.
BMUP follows the P-3C Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program (AIP), which provided improved flight avionics, communications, survivability, displays and controls, new workstations, SATCOM capabilities, and optical and infrared (IR) sensors. Added were Maverick Missile capability; the AN/AAS-36A Infrared Detecting Set [IRDS; the AN/AVX-1 Electro-Optical Sensor System [EOSS]; AN/APS-137B(V)5 Synthetic Aperture Radar; the EP-2060 Pulse Analyzer; the Over-the-Horizon Airborne Sensor Information System [OASIS] III; and the AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing System [CMDS].
This last block of 10 aircraft resulted in a total 25 aircraft added to the Update III inventory of 165 P-3C aircraft. The BMUP effort total cost was just under $200M.
With the P-3s continual upgrades, and with the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft Program running into increasing friction, the P-3C is likely to be flying even past its current official projected retirement date of 2015. If so, further upgrades are almost certain. -- K.B. Sherman