Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion

Aircraft Profile

Key Facts

Main Role:
Anti-submarine warfare patrol and anti-surface warfare aircraft
Low-winged turboprop
United States
Current Status:
In Service, Out of Production

Rate this Article:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

US Navy P-3B 153433 of VP-4
(photo, US Navy)


The basic airframe is adapted from the L-188 Electra commercial airliner and since its introduction in 1969, the P-3 Orion has undergone a series of configuration changes to implement improvements in a variety of mission and aircraft updates. These changes have been called “Updates”. Update I was in 1975 and incorporated new data processing avionics software. Update II in 1977 included an infrared detection system, a sonobuoy reference system, the Harpoon anti-ship missile and 28-channel magnetic tape recorder/reproducer.

The TECHEVAL (Technical Evaluation) for Update III began in March 1981. Update III was enhanced by a Channel Expansion (CHEX) program; CHEX doubled the number of sonobuoy channels that can be processed. Testing and evaluation was completed in June 1988.

The ASW variants have a comprehensive suite of communications, navigation, acoustic and non-acoustic sensors, and data-processing equipment. The Orion’s capability has been greatly increased during its operational life, IFF interrogator, LTN-72 INS, Doppler navigation radar, 360° search radar, MAD, AN/AQA-7 Direction Low-Frequency Analyzer and Ranging (DIFAR) system and chin mounted FLIR.

The Orion also has an internal weapons bay and ten external weapons stations for carrying a mix of ASW torpedoes, depth charges and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. There are three hard points outboard of the engines on each wing and four on the wing centre section. Each wing pylon can carry up to 500lb (227kg) while the middle pylons can carry 1,000lb (454kg) of stores. The internal weapons bay can accommodate a variety of depth charges and mines or up to eight lightweight ASW torpedoes. Sonobuoys can be launched from external pods or from a set of tubes located internally aft of the weapons bay. AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air and AGM-65F Maverick anti-ship missiles have been test launched from the P-3. The last Navy P-3C came off the production line at the Lockheed plant in April 1990.

Head-on view of a P-3C. (photo, US Navy) P-3C 158913 from VP-40 cleans up after
take-off. (photo, US Navy)


Requirement Specification: Type Spec No.146
Manufacturers Designation: L-???

Development History:
Electra test bed YP3V-1 (later YP-3A) aerodynamic prototype, first flown 25 November 1959.
PV3-1/P-3A Initial production version with 4,500 shp T56-A-10W engines. First flight 30 March 1961; P3V-1 redesignated P-3A in 1962. No longer in USN service.
P-3B Production version with 4,910 shp T56-A-14 Engines; 144 built, 21 for export. First flight on 24 September 1965. Most remain in US Naval Reserve service.
P-3C Definitive production version for USN. First flight 18 September 1968.
P-3C Update I Improved avionics version of the P-3C. First aircraft delivered in January 1975. 31 built.
P-3C Update II Further improvements over Update I including a Sonobuoy Reference System (SRS). First aircraft delivered in August 1977. 44 built.
P-3C Update II.5 24 aircraft fitted with new navigational and comms. equipment.
P-3C Update III 50 new build aircraft delivered from 1984 to 1990.
P-3C Update IV Boeing programme for existing P-3s and Long Range Air ASW Capable Aircraft (LRAACA); canceled in the early 1990s. Technology revived in 1995 – 1996 proposal for use in retrofitted Nimrod MR aircraft for British Replacement Patrol Aircraft (RPMA).
Orion 2000 Newly built P-3 design from Lockheed Martin for British RMPA competition in 1995 1996.
Valkyrie RMPA offering refurbished P-3s.
ASUTTA Acoustic System Upgrade to ASW Aircraft (ASUTTA).
IPADS ASUTTA programme to be applied to US Naval Reserve P-3B.
P-3D Proposed variant with Allison 501-M80C engines developed for Iran prior to the revolution, but not produced. Designation later assigned to P-3s being built for South Korea for delivery in 1995.
P-3F Similar to the P-3C, but equipped for service with the Iranian Navy. 6 were delivered before the 1979 revolution.
P-3G Proposed upgrade with Allison 501-M80C engines and update IV avionics. Superseded by Lockheed candidate for LRAACA.
P-7 LRAACA Update IV avionics suite fitted to enlarged P-3 aircraft.
P-3H Proposed upgrade of P-3C with weapons bay enlarged for AGM-84 Harpoon missiles.
EP-3 Aires/EP-3 Batrack US Navy ELINT conversion of P-3A/B aircraft for USN, specialising in tactical signal intelligence. 10 EP-3Es were converted from P-3A aircraft and are the oldest airframes in the fleet.
EP-3E Aires II Conversion in Lieu of Production (CILOP) of 10 EP-3E Aires 1 and 2 EP-3B Batracks. EP-3C ELINT variant of kawasaki-built P-3C for JMSDF. Last of 8 delivered by mid-1990s.
NP-3 Japanese P-3s configured for flight checking of navigational aids.
RP-3A P-3 configured for Project Magnet, which mapped the Earth’s magnetic field.
TP-3A P-3 aircrew training aircraft.
VP-3A US Navy VIP Transport variant.
UP-3A Similar to VP-3A, but used in utility role.
WP-3D US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather research aircraft.
Outlaw Hunter P-3C modified to support Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM). Aircraft can detect ships, establish their precise location, and maintain and predict track histories.
Australian P-3W 10 P-3B Update II aircraft delivered in 1978-1979 and 10 Update II.5 aircraft delivered in 1982-86.
1995 Australian P-3 Upgrade 18 aircraft upgraded under 1995 contract.
New Zealand P-3K/Rigel I/II/III 6 New Zealand P-3s updated under the 1981 Rigel I/II/II programmes.
Norway P-3N 2 P-3Bs upgraded to “P-3N” standard for coastal surveillance by the Norwegian Coast Guard.
Spanish P-3 modernisation 2 P-3As purchased in 1964 and 5 ex Norwegian AF aircraft bought in 1987 updated, with radar and sonar modification, addition of on-board signal processing and Infrared (IR) detection system.
Trap Shot Private study by Lockheed and General Dynamics to fit a P-3C with Advanced Air-to-Air Missiles (AAAM) in the early 1980s.
CP-140 Aurora Canadian maritime patrol aircraft using P-3 airframe and S-3A Viking avionics.
CP-140A Arcturus Stripped-down version of the CP-140 with ASW equipment deleted. Used for crew training and fishery patrols.
NP-3D 150522/340 from NWTSPM at Point
Mugu. (photo, US Navy)
WP-3D N42RF equipped for atmospheric
research. (photo, NOAA)


Key Dates:
1957    Lockheed proposes Electra to meet Navy requirement for land-based ASW aircraft.
May 1958    Research & Development contract awarded.
19 August 1958    First flight of YP3V-1, the third production Electra (188-1003)
25 November 1959    YP3V-1 (BuNo 148276) with 7 ft shorter fuselage and most of the planned avionics, makes first flight.
October 1960    First production contract awarded.
15 April 1961    First flight of the P3V-1.
15 April 1962    Trials began at NATC Patuxent River.
1962-63    P-3s participate in quarantine of Cuba.
1966    New Zealand becomes the first international customer.
November 1966    VP-9 and VP-26 take delivery of the first ‘B’ models.
18 September 1968    First flight of P-3C.
June 1969    First ‘C’ model delivered to VP-30
June 1969    First EP-3B in service with VQ-1
September 1969    First operational aircraft delivered to VP-56
1970    VP-49 Makes first overseas deployment of P-3C.
1975    Iran places order for 6 P-3F aircraft.
1975    VX-1 takes delivery of the first P-3C.
July 1976    Canada orders the CP-140.
September 1977    First ‘Update IIs’ delivered to VX-1
1978    Kawasaki Heavy Industries obtains license to build P-3 for Japan’s maritime patrol needs. (90 airframes)
1981    Update II
May 1984    Update III begins service.
14 June 1984    Prototype AEW first flight.
1988    First P-3 AEW aircraft delivered to U.S. Customs Service.
17 April 1990    Last USN P-3C Update III delivered.
1990    Lockheed Corporation moves the P-3 assembly line to its Marietta, Georgia facility.
15 December 1990    Korea orders 8 P-3Cs to be built in Marietta.
3 November 1992    The first Marietta built Orion rolls out of final assembly.
12 December 1994    First flight of Marietta built P-3C.
3 October 1995    The first P-3C delivered to ROK Navy.
Underside view of a P-3C. (photo, US Navy) An AP-3C from 10 Sqn RAAF. (photo, RAAF)


Military Operators

U.S. Navy (Approximately 30 Sqns/units)
Royal New Zealand Air Force (1 Sqn.)
Royal Australian Air Force (4 Sqns.)
Kongelige Norske Luftvorsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force) (1 Sqn.)
Ejercio del Aire (Spanish Air Force) (1 Sqn.)
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (1 Wing)
Canadian Armed Forces (5 Sqns.)
Nihon Kaijyo Jieitai (Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force) (12 Kokutai)
Marineluchtvaartdienst (Royal Netherlands Navy) (2 Sqns.)
Forca Aerea Portuguesa (1 Sqn.)
Comandancia de la Aviacion Naval de Chile (1 Sqn.)
Royal Thai Navy (1 Sqn.)
Republic of Korea Navy (1 Sqn.)
Polimiko Naytiko/Polimiko Aeroporia (Greek Navy/Air Force) (1 Sqn.)
Pakistan Navy (1 Sqn.)
Comando de Aviacion Naval Argentina (1 Sqn.)

Government Agencies

US Customs Service P-3A, P-3AEW
US Forestry Service (leased) P-3A

Civilian Operators

Hawkins and Power P-3A fire bomber
Black Hills Aviation P-3A fire bomber
Aero Union P-3A fire bomber
P-3C 163289 from VP-62 seen at Boscombe
Down in 1992. (photo, Anthony Noble)
P-3C 161011 from VP-26 seen at Greenham Common in 1981. (photo, Anthony Noble)


Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion
Crew: Ten or eleven
Dimensions: Length 116 ft 10 in (35.61 m); Height 33 ft 8½ in (10.29 m); Wing Span 99 ft 8 in (30.37 m); Wing Area 1,300 sq ft (120.77 sq m)
Engines: Four Allison T56-A-14 turboprops rated at 4,910 ehp (3661 ekW) each
Weights: Empty Equipped 61,491 lb (27,890 kg); Normal Take-off 135,000 lb (61,235 kg); Maximum Take-off 142,000 lb (64,410 kg)
Armament: Ten underwing hardpoints and an internal weapons bay forward of the wing for a Maximum Weapon Load 19,252 lb (8,733 kg) – comprising Mk 46 or Mk 50 torpedoes, depth bombs, B57 nuclear depth charges, AGM-84 Harpoon missiles or underwing rocket pods.
Performance: Maximum level speed 411 kts (473 mph, 761 kph) at 105,000 lb (47,625 kg) at 15,000 ft (4575 m), 380 kts (438 mph, 704 kph) at Max T/O weight at same height; Economical cruising speed 328 kts (378 mph, 608 kph); Patrol speed at 1,500 ft (457 m) 206 kt (237 mph, 381 kph); Maximum rate of climb at sea level 1,950 ft/min (594 m/min); Service ceiling 28,300 ft (8,625 m); Operational radius 1346 nm (1550 miles, 2494 km) with 3 hours on station; Ferry range 4,830 nm (5,562 mls, 8,950 km)
P-3C 159327 from VP-8 at NAS Brunswick.
(photo, US Navy)
P-3B N920AU fire-bomber conversion.
(photo, Sandia Corp.)


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: Not known
Design Office: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, CA (originally)


Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Company (LMASC)
(LMASC, 86 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA 30063, USA. Formerly Lockheed Aircraft)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
YP3V-1 1 conv. Palmdale, CA May 1958-Nov 1959
P-3A 157 Palmdale, CA Oct 1960-mid 1965
P-3B 144 Palmdale, CA mid 1965-1969
P-3C 118 Palmdale, CA 1969-1975
P-3C Update I 31 Palmdale, CA 1975-1977
P-3C Update II 37 Palmdale, CA 1977-19??
P-3C Update II.5 24 Palmdale, CA 19??-1984
P-3C Update III 101 Palmdale, CA 1984-1990
P-3F 6 Palmdale, CA 1975-19??
CP-140 18 Palmdale, CA 1978-July 1981
CP-140A 3 Palmdale, CA 1989-Sept 1991
P-3C 8 Marietta, GA 1991-199?
Total: 647    
Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd
(1-18 Nakamachi-Dori, 2-chome, Chuo-Ku Kobe, Japan)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
P-3C 101* Kobe 1981-1997
EP-3C 3 Kobe 1997-2000
UP-3C 1 Kobe ?-1996
UP-3D 2 Kobe ?-1999
NP-3C 1 Kobe cancelled
Total: 107    

* First 4 a/c assembled from Palmdale components.

Total Produced: 754 a/c

Production List

‘P-3 Orion Volume 2’ Scramble Special Edition
by Marco P.J. Borst & Jaap Dubbeldam – P-3 Orion Research Group
Published by Dutch Aviation Society, 2000 ISBN: 90 806230 2 4
* Spotters history of the P-3. Includes all variants, units and complete production list.

P-3C N9lLC AEW&C prototype for US
Customs. (photo, Lockheed Martin)
P-3C 3296 of the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
(photo, Lockheed Martin)

More Information


‘The Age of Orion: The Lockheed P-3 Story’ [Order this book from USA]
by David Reade
Published by Schiffer Publishing, Apr 1998 ISBN: 076430478X
* Comprehensive detailed history.

‘Lockheed P-3 Variants – Datagraph Seven’
by Jay Miller
Published by Aerofax, 1998 ISBN: 0942548167
* Good development history.

‘P-3 Orion: The Hunter In The Sky’
by Lindsay Peacock
Published by RAF Benevolent Fund Enterprises, 22 July 19968 ISBN: 1899808353
* Well illustrated history with lots of colour photos.

‘P-3 Orion in Action – Aircraft Number 193’ Squadron.com
by Richard S. Dann and Rick Burgess
Published by Squadron/Signal Publications, Aug 2004 ISBN: 0 89747 478 3
* Very well illustrated pictorial history.

‘ADAK – The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586’
by Andrew C.A. Jampoler
Published by Naval Institute Press, April 2003 ISBN: 1 59114 412 4
* Exciting true story of the ditching of a P-3 in the Bering Sea and the rescue of its crew.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 3’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, Nov 1990 ISBN: 1 87402 3042
* Includes ‘Variant Briefing’ feature on the P-3 Orion.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 43’
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, Oct 2000 ISBN: 1 86184 055 1
* Includes very detailed 57-page feature on the P-3 Orion in US service.

‘International Air Power Review, Volume 1’
Published by AIRtime Publishing Ltd, 2001 ISBN: x
* Includes 14-page feature on the P-3 Orion in Foreign service.

‘International Air Power Review, Volume 2’
Published by AIRtime Publishing Ltd, 2001 ISBN: 1 880588 34 X
* Includes 4-page feature on the EP-3E Aries II.


To be added.


P-3 Orion Research Group
(Worldwide P-3 news & info, RNeth Navy P-3 details, links)

The Hangar – Propwash
(Lots of US Navy P-3 Orion info & links)

The Lockheed P3 Orion
(Feature article + variants, photos, AIP update, CAF use)

US Navy Factfile: P-3C Orion
(Description and specification)

Aerospaceweb.org: P-3 Orion
(Description, specs, variants, 3-view, sources)

(15 excellent ‘P3’ photos)

(16 pages of excellent P-3 photos)

The Lockheed P-3 Orion Operating in Iceland
(A page of high-quality P-3 Photos)

P-3 Orion
(Lockheed Martin official P-3 information)

P-3 Orion
(Detailed description, P-3C spec, photos, sources)

Lockheed P-3P Orion
(Portuguese AF P-3 use and photos)

(6 pages of P-3 photos)

US Customs Service P-3 Orion
(6 photos of USCS AEW P-3 aircraft)

Lockheed P-3K Orion
(RNZAF P-3K use and photos)

P-3 Orion Fan Page
(Photo gallery, artwork gallery, links, news – includes links to several EP-3E photos)

US Customs Service P-3 AEW
(1 page of photos of the USCS AEW P-3)

EP-3E Aries / P3-C Orion
(Summary of P-3C/EP-3E data with EP-3E photo)

P-3 Orion
(Summary of the technology included in the P-3)

P-3 Orion
(Good profile covering history, upgrades, specs, photos, variants etc)

Lockheed P-3 Orion
(Variants, production details – inc serials, conversions)

Lockheed P-3A ‘Orion’
(P-3 in Chilean Air Force service)

RADS II for the P-3 Orion / L-188
(Firebomber system for P-3 from Aero Union)

Lockheed P-3 Orion
(P-3 Flight Manual on CD-ROM)

Lockheed WP-3D Orion
(Details of NOAA operated P-3 variant)

VP Navy
(Website dedicated to US Navy ASW Patrol Squadrons and Aircraft – lots of P-3 information)

Lockheed Martin Orion 21
(Details of Lockheed Martin’s entrant to the MMA contest)

Lockheed CP-140 Aurora
(One page of info on Canadian use of CP-140)

(Webpage for P-3 Flight Engineers – news, mishaps, humour, photos etc)

P-3C Orion
(Vought Aircraft Industries contribution to P-3 production)

Lockheed Martin P-3B/C ‘Iron Clad’ Variants
(Detailed article on P-3 ELINT variants)


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
Aviation News Volume 05 Issue 01


To be added.

One thought on “Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion

  1. The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) also operates the P-3 Orion, but this is not on your list of military operators.

Leave a Comment