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P-3 Orion Lockheed
P-3 Orion
Maritime Patrol/
Anti-Submarine Plane

The P-3 was developed as a land-based anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft to replace the US Navy's aging P2V Neptune. Also known as the Orion, the P-3 was derived from the Lockheed L-188 Electra passenger airliner. Externally, the only significant differences between the Electra and the P-3 are inclusion of an unpressurized weapons bay forward of the wing, a shortened fuselage, and addition of a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom at the tail. The P-3 maintains excellent short-takeoff performance for such a large aircraft as well as good handling, even with three of its four engines inoperative.

The original P-3A and P-3B aircraft were built in large numbers during the 1960s, but few remain in service today. The P-3C, incorporating continually improved electronics, continues to serve after having gone through no less than five major updates. The current fleet is armed with a variety of sensors for detecting and locating enemy submarines and ships, torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

In recent years, older P-3 airframes have also been adapted to a variety of other tasks, inculding the P-3AEW&C airborne radar platform used by US Customs to combat drug trafficing and the EP-3E Aries intelligence aircraft used to monitor communications and electronic emissions.

The Orion has proven very popular with foreign nations and has been operated by at least 18 navies and air forces. The US Navy plans to phase out its remaining P-3 fleet in favor of the P-8 Poseidon, and foreign operators are rapidly upgrading their fleets with the retired American planes or replacing them with a variety of smaller turboprops or regional jets.

Data below for P-3C
Last modified 15 April 2011

First Flight (YP3V) 19 August 1958
(YP-3A) 25 November 1959
(P-3A) 15 April 1961
(P-3C) 18 September 1968
(P-3C Update III) August 1983
Service Entry

(P-3A) August 1962
(P-3C) 1969

CREW: three to five flight crew: pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer plus an optional relief pilot and flight engineer
six tactical crew: tactical control officer, navigation/communication officer, three sensor station operators, ordnanceman
maximum accomodation: 21


$36 million

Wing Root NACA 0014-1.10
Wing Tip

NACA 0012-1.10

Length 116.83 ft (35.61 m)
Wingspan 99.67 ft (30.37 m)
Height 33.71 ft (10.27 m)
Wing Area 1,300 ft² (120.77 m²)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty 61,490 lb (27,890 kg)
Normal Takeoff 135,000 lb (61,235 kg)
Max Takeoff 142,000 lb (64,410 kg)
Fuel Capacity internal: unknown
external: unknown
Max Payload

20,000 lb (9,072 kg)

Powerplant four Allison T56-14 turboprops
Thrust 19,640 eshp (14,644 kW)

Max Level Speed at altitude: 475 mph (760 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4,570 m)
at sea level: unknown
patrol speed: 235 mph (380 km/h)
Initial Climb Rate 1,950 ft (595 m) / min
Service Ceiling 28,300 ft (8,625 m)
Range typical: 2,700 nm (4,990 km) [3 hr loiter]
ferry: 4,165 nm (7,705 km)
g-Limits unknown

Gun none
Stations 1 internal weapons bay and 10 external hardpoints
Air-to-Air Missile none
Air-to-Surface Missile AGM-84 Harpoon
Bomb various free-fall
Other up to one 2,000 lb (910 kg) sea mine or up to three 1,000 lb (455 kg) sea mines, up to eight nuclear or conventional depth charges, up to eight ASW torpedoes, rockets, cameras, nd up to 87 sonobuoys

YP3V Prototype
P-3A Production anti-submarine warfare (ASW) maritime patrol model; 157 built
P-3A (CS) Modified P-3A airframes with improved radar for use by the US Customs Service; 4 modified
CP-3A Older P-3A airframes rebuilt as cargo transports; 30 modified
EP-3A Electronic reconnaissance model rebuilt from P-3A airframes
NP-3A Special test aircraft used by the US Naval Research Laboratory
RP-3A Ocean reconaissance model rebuilt from P-3A airframes, used by the Oceanographic Development Squadron; 3 modified
TP-3A Trainer based on the P-3A; 12 modified
UP-3A Utility transport
VP-3A VIP/staff transports rebuilt from P-3A or WP-3A airframes; 5 modified
WP-3A Weather reconnaissance model based on the P-3A; 4 modified
P-3B ASW maritime patrol model with more powerful engines and able to carry AGM-12 Bullpup missiles; 125 built
EP-3B Electronic reconnaissance model rebuilt from older P-3B airframes
NP-3B Special test aircraft used by the US Naval Research Laboratory
P-3C ASW maritime patrol model with upgraded electronics including a new central computer to process data, camera pods, and FLIR pods; 267 built
P-3C Update I P-3C with upgraded computer memory and an improved navigation system; 31 built
P-3C Update II P-3C updated with infrared detection equipment, sonobuoys, and the ability to launch Harpoon anti-ship missiles; 44 built
P-3C Update II.5 P-3C with better navigation and communication equipment; 24 built
P-3C Update III P-3C updated with an acoustic processing system, a new sonobuoy receiver, and other improved avionics; 50 built
P-3C Update IV All Update II and II.5 aircraft equipped with a new radar and other submarine detection equipment
EP-3C Electronic intelligence model built by Kawasaki for the Japanese Navy
NP-3C Special test aircraft used by the US Naval Research Laboratory
RP-3C Science models used by the Oceanographic Development Squadron
UP-3C Utility transport
RP-3D P-3C modified to collect atmospheric data; 1 modified
WP-3D P-3C airframes converted for use by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as weather reconnaissance platforms; 2 modified
EP-3E Aries Rebuilt P-3 aircraft equipped with a radome and antennae for detecting and locating enemy ships; 12 modified
EP-3E Aries II Rebuilt P-3C aircraft equipped with a radome and antennae for detecting and locating enemy ships or gathering signals intelligence; 12 modified
NP-3E US Navy test aircraft
P-3F Version of the P-3C built for Iran in the late 1970s; 6 built
P-3G Original designation for the Lockheed P-7 intended to replace the P-3 but cancelled in 1990
P-3H Proposed upgraded variant of the P-3C
P-3K Version for New Zealand based on the P-3B; 6 built
P-3K2 Program to upgrade New Zealand's P-3K fleet with new sensors
P-3N Version for the Norwegian Coast Guard based on the P-3B; 2 built
P-3P Version used by Portugal based on the P-3B; 6 transferred from Australia
P-3W Version based on the P-3C-II for the Australian Air Force; 20 built
P-3AEW&C P-3B aircraft equipped with a rotating radome used by the US Customs Service for anti-drug trafficing patrols
CP-140 Aurora Rebuilt P-3C airframes used by Canada; 18 modified
CP-140A Arcturus

CP-140 aircraft modified for environmental and fishery patrol; 3 modified

KNOWN COMBAT RECORD: Bosnia - Operation Deliberate Force (USN, 1995)
Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom (USN, 2001-2002)
Libya - Operation Unified Protector / Odyssey Dawn (Canada, USN [P-3C, EP-3E], 2011)

KNOWN OPERATORS: Argentina, Comando de Aviación Naval Argentina (Argentine Naval Aviation)
Australia (Royal Australian Air Force)
Brazil, Força Aérea Brasileira (Brazilian Air Force)
Canada (Canadian Armed Forces, Air Command)
Chile, Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy)
Germany, Deutsche Marineflieger (German Naval Air Arm)
Greece, Elliniki Polimiki Naftikon (Hellenic Navy)
Iran (Imperial Iranian Air Force)
Iran (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force)
Japan, Kaijo Jieitai (Japan Maritime Self Defence Force)
Netherlands, Koninklijke Luchmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force)
New Zealand (Royal New Zealand Air Force)
Norway, Kongelige Norske Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force)
Pakistan (Pakistani Navy Aviation Force)
Portugal, Força Aérea Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Force)
South Korea, Dae-han-min-guk Hae-gun (Republic of Korea Navy)
Spain, Ejército del Aire Española (Spanish Air Force)
Taiwan (Republic of China Navy)
United States (US Navy)


P-3 Orion

  • Bishop, Chris, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Weapons: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Weapon Systems from 1945 to the Present Day. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1999, p. 366.
  • Bonds, Ray, ed. The Modern US War Machine: An Encyclopedia of American Military Equipment and Strategy. NY: Military Press, 1987, p. 189-191.
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 582-583.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995, p. 161-164.
  • Munro, Bob and Chant, Christopher. Jane's Combat Aircraft. Glasgow: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995, p. 134-135.
  • Navy P-3 & EP-3 Fact Sheet
  • Paul Nann's Military Aviation Photo Gallery
  • Rendall, David. Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide, 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999, p. 160-161.

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