Naval Air: P-3C Replaces S-2T in Taiwan


February 19, 2008: After years of political debate and delays, Taiwan has purchased twelve P-3C maritime reconnaissance aircraft from the United States. These will be rebuilt aircraft, taken from the several hundred that the United States has retired since the end of the Cold War. The average age of the U.S. P-3Cs is 28 years. The deal with Taiwan calls for eight of the aircraft to be rebuilt in Taiwan, and for a P-3C service center to be built in Taiwan as well. In addition, the Taiwanese will get the latest American anti-submarine electronics for the P-3C.

The U.S. Navy is developing a replacement aircraft for the P-3, the P-8A, which is not expected to be operational for another decade. The P-3 entered service in 1962. The current version (the P-3C [PHOTO]) has a cruise speed of 610 kilometers per hour, endurance of up to 13 hours and a crew of eleven. The 116 foot long, propeller driven aircraft has a wingspan of nearly 100 feet. The P-3C can carry about ten tons of weapons (torpedoes, mines, or missiles like Harpoon and Maverick).

The 63 ton P-3 is based on the 1950s era Lockheed Electra airliner. The last P-3 was built in 1990. A more likely replacement for these elderly search planes, are UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), like Global Hawk or smaller aircraft like Predator. These UAVs typically stay in the air for 24 hours, or more, at a time. What maritime reconnaissance aircraft need, more than anything else, is endurance or, as the professionals like to put it, "persistence."

Currently, Taiwan uses a fleet of 26 surplus U.S. S-2 anti-submarine aircraft. These two engine aircraft originally operated off American carriers. Taiwan obtained them in 1976, and refurbished them fifteen years ago. The 1950s era, 11 ton, S-2 was replaced in American service by the jet powered S-3 in the late 70s. The Taiwanese S-2s carry similar equipment to that found in the P-3C, but the 40 year old S-2 aircraft are difficult to keep in the air, and only about half are available for service at any time.




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