AP-3C Orion finds new home at RAAF Base Edinburgh

Air Force AP-3C Orion (tail no. A9-658) during its relocation to the front of RAAF Base Edinburgh.
In recognition of the AP-3C Orion’s distinguished Service history in the Royal Australian Air Force, a decommissioned and refurbished AP-3C (tail no. A09-658) was installed as the RAAF Base Edinburgh Gate Guard.
 
Air Commodore John Meier, Director-General History and Heritage Branch – Air Force, a former AP-3C Orion Navigator and Tactical Co-ordinating Officer himself, said the Gate Guard highlights the importance of preserving Air Force history and heritage now, and for future generations.
 
“The location of the aircraft on the front gate at Edinburgh reinforces the dedication, sacrifice and exemplary service of the many Air Force and civilian personnel who have supported the P-3 Orion capability since 1968,” Air Commodore Meier said.
 
“The History and Heritage Branch has an ongoing commitment to retaining the history of service to the nation by the Orions, as represented by this magnificent aircraft, now on display.”
 
Senior Australian Defence Force Officer RAAF Base Edinburgh, Air Commodore Brendan Rodgers explained that the Base and its personnel have had a long association with the region – a bond which is reflected through the installation project.
 
“RAAF Base Edinburgh personnel and families are proud members of the community and our close relationship with the Adelaide region is something that has been fostered over many years,” Air Commodore Rogers said.
 
“The AP-3C Orion Gate Guard is a befitting tribute to the aircraft’s operational history and achievements and is a symbol of the enduring bond we have with our community.
 
“We could not achieve our mission without the ongoing support of the local community and we thank them for their support."
 
Flight Lieutenant Rob Nieuwenhoven has been intimately involved in the project as second in charge, he said the passion and skill of team members has been key.
 
“The success of the project has clearly been through the commitment and talent of members supporting the refurbishment of aspects which require repair and restoration, whilst ensuring the historical heritage of the aircraft is preserved and retained,” Flight Lieutenant Nieuwenhoven said.
 
“It’s a delicate balance, but one which we have achieved with great success.”
 
Reaching a significant milestone for the project, the aircraft was towed into position at the Base front gate over from 31 October to 1 November 2020.
 
Australian Army personnel from 1 Brigade joined with Air Force personnel in support of the relocation and tow activity which took a cross-country route and travelled along West Avenue (between Bellchambers Road and Sturton Road) – a journey ‘first’ for any AP-3C Orion.
 
On arrival to its new permanent home, final stage refurbishment and restoration works will now take place in preparation for the official unveiling, which is planned to be held during Air Force’s milestone Centenary in 2021.
 
With the project having commenced in April 2019, the planning and execution of the refurbishment, relocation and installation of the decommissioned P-3 has been a collaborative effort.
 
The project also included extensive works through the decommissioning and refurbishment process to ensure the aircraft is prepared appropriately and safely for public display.
 
Managed by the Surveillance and Response Systems Program Office, the project has included important contributions by Air Force’s Number 10 Squadron maintenance section personnel, Number 3 Security Forces Squadron personnel, the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade with personnel from 1st Combat Service Support Battalion and 1st Armoured Regiment, as well as consultation and support from Estate and Infrastructure Group, Air Force History and Heritage Branch and various external agencies and organisations including local councils and more.
 
About the AP-3C Orion
 
Since its introduction to service on 26 January 1968, the AP-3C Orion has performed with excellence, supporting and aiding in both civil maritime search, rescue and supply missions and deployable operations.
 
The AP-3C Orion’s distinguished operational history has included maintaining a strong presence through maritime patrol support to Operations Slipper, Resolute and Gateway, as well as undertaking routine training and maritime tasks from RAAF Base Edinburgh.
 
It is these successes that have affectionately earned its label as the veritable ‘workhorse’ amongst Air Force’s maritime fraternity. It is widely acknowledged as an extremely versatile aircraft, performing in a multitude of roles including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, maritime surveillance, Naval fleet support and search and survivor supply.
 
After more than 50 years of Air Force service, the Orion fleet is currently in the process of retirement and will be replaced by a complementary mix of the manned P-8A Poseidon, (which entered into service in late 2016) and into the future, the unmanned MQ-4C Triton. Together, they will provide Australia with one of the world’s most advanced maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response capabilities.
 
The Service history of the RAAF Base Edinburgh Gate Guard
 
AP-3C Orion aircraft, tail no. A09-658, was the first Orion to be built in Palmdale California USA. The aircraft was formally accepted into the Royal Australian Air Force fleet in July 1985 and arrived at its home at RAAF Base Edinburgh in August of that year.
 
A09-658 was wired for flight data gathering (which was part of modification 5276) with this information utilised to build the Advanced Flight Simulator aircraft flight parameters. A significant operation of note includes its support to the aerial search of civilian aircraft MH370 from March to April 2014.
 
A09-658’s final flight was conducted on 21 October 2016, at which time it was withdrawn from active service and utilised as a taxi-able ground trainer for Number 92 Wing. In October 2017 the aircraft was assigned as static training aid for Number 292 Squadron.
 
A09-658 commenced the decommissioning process in June 2018 and was later identified for what will be its final posting and enduring service contribution as the static aircraft installation as the RAAF Base Edinburgh Gate Guard.
 
Find the restoration and relocation imagery on the Defence Image Gallery.