The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s. Lockheed based it on the L-188 Electra commercial airliner. The aircraft is easily distinguished from the Electra by its distinctive tail stinger or "MAD Boom", used for the magnetic detection of submarines.
Over the years, the aircraft has seen numerous design developments, most notably in its electronics packages. Numerous navies and air forces around the world continue to use the P-3 Orion, primarily for maritime patrol, reconnaissance, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. A total of 757 P-3s have been built, and in 2012, it joined the handful of military aircraft including the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the Lockheed U-2 that have seen over 50 years of continuous use by the United States military. The P-8A Poseidon will eventually replace the U.S. Navy's remaining P-3C aircraft.
The P-3C version is the most capable Orion version, first delivered to the US Navy in 1969. The Navy implemented a number of major improvements to the P-3C (Updates I, II, II.5 and III) during its production run. P-3C aircraft communication, navigation, acoustic, non-acoustic and ordnance/weapon systems are still being modernized within several improvement programs to satisfy Navy and joint requirements through the early part of the 21st century.
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