The AP-3C Orion is an extremely versatile aircraft, capable of:
- land and maritime surveillance
- anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare
- naval fleet support, and
- search and rescue operations.
Based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, the AP-3C Orion ceased 10 years of operational service in the Middle East in 2012, after completing 2400 missions with more than 3500 personnel deployed throughout the period.
The AP-3C Orion aircraft has deployed on operations Resolute, Gateway, and Solania; providing support to Border Protection and Fisheries patrols within the South East Asia and Pacific regions.
Due to the AP-3C's excellent surveillance abilities, it has been called on to assist in maritime search and rescue operations, including survivor search and supply (air drop) missions. Notably, the AP-3C Orion was the primary Australian aircraft used in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
The AP-3C Orion is in the process of a graduated draw down to retirement, with the final aircraft planned for withdrawal in 2023. The AP-3C will be replaced by the P-8A Poseidon and MQ-4C Triton, which will perform the vital functions of long range maritime patrol.
About the Aircraft
The Orion aircraft first entered military service in 1968 as the P-3B model.
The P-3C variant was introduced in 1978, and underwent several significant upgrades before it became the current AP-3C Orion, which was introduced into service in 2002.
Far from the original P-3B model, the P-3C is now fitted with a variety of sensors, including:
- digital multi-mode radar
- electronic support measures
- electro-optics detectors (infra-red and visual)
- magnetic anomaly detectors
- friend or foe identification systems, and
- acoustic detectors.
|Role||Maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare|
|Engine||Four Allison T56-A-14 (4600 shaft horsepower each)|
|Airframe||Length: 35.6m, height: 10.44m|
|Speed||750km/h (405 knots) maximum, 650km/h cruise (350 kts) at 26,000 feet, 370km/h (200 kts) loiter|