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Navy’s P-3C Orion on final deployment ahead of retirement

Lockheed P-3C Orion (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tony D. Curtis/WikiCommons)
April 27, 2019

After more than a half a century since its first flight, the Navy is in the process of retiring the P-3C Orion.

During the next six months, the remaining P-3C Orions will complete their final overseas deployment on bases in Japan and Bahrain after shipping out in late March from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island with Patrol Squadron Four Zero (VP-40), The Drive reported.

The Orions will then retire and be replaced with the new P-8A Poseidon. The NAS Jacksonville’s Patrol Squadron 62 and Whidbey Island’s Patrol Squadron 69 will fly the Orions exclusively after that until its final phase out in 2023, a process that began in 2013.

The P3 was first introduced to the Navy by Lockheed Martin in 1962. The P-3C Orion model entered service in 1969 and afterward went through many major upgrade programs. The VP-40 squadron took their first flight on the Orion in 1967, replacing the SP-5B Marlin flying boat.

The Orion has served well during the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, the Navy Times reported.

Cmdr. Patrick O’Reilly, VP-40’s commanding officer said, “We intend to honor the platform’s final deployment by living the legacy of all those that have gone before us and continuing to fight to the finish.”

VP-40 will employ the advanced P-8A Poseidon planes to finish their deployment to the Navy’s 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operations.

According to O’Reilly, the Orion “had its challenges,” especially as military operations got more complex. He added that the sailors fought them “with exceptional results” and he remains proud of what VP-40 accomplished in the plane.

“Even when the aircraft fought against us, even when the tempo was high and the days were long, we continued to fight,” O’Reilly added.

The P-3C Orion was part of the search and rescue efforts of a Navy EC-121M Warning Star intelligence gathering aircraft that North Korean fighter jets shot down in 1969 and again in 1983 when Soviet fighter jets shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007.

The P-3Cs have also been engaged in various anti-submarine, search and rescue, counter-drug, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

O’Reilly said, “VP-40 has had many successes this IDRC, to include nearly perfect scores in the Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection, the Chief of Naval Air Forces Aviation Maintenance Inspection and the Fleet NATOPS Evaluation. They also dominated operationally by participating in exercises supporting the U.S.S. John C. Stennis COMPTUEX, U.S.S. Boxer ARG MEUEX, Air Wing Fallon, and manned the Homeland Defense detachment while simultaneously training and preparing for its upcoming deployment,” The Whidbey Times reported.