How 1 Very Old Plane Can Still Kill Russia and China’s Best Submarines

    Edward Chang

    Security, North America

    It is, without a doubt, one of most versatile aircraft in the U.S. military

    As of 2018, there are currently several aircraft in the United States military had have served for fifty years or more. The tried-and-true nature of these planes, along with technological upgrades, have allowed these old systems to continue serving effectively into the second decade of the 21st century.

    One of these aircraft is the Lockheed P-3 Orion, in service with the U.S. Navy. Initially designed as a maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft, it has since evolved into a multi-mission platform that has proven its worth in areas outside the core competency it was originally designed for. It is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile aircraft in the U.S. military.

    The Orion debuted in 1962 as the P3V-1 and was based on the airframe of the L-188 Electra commercial airliner. A month later, the military revised its designation system and it became the P-3A. Throughout the Cold War, the Orion served predominantly in the maritime patrol and ASW role, tracking Soviet Navy submarines and preparing to destroy them, if necessary. The plane’s versatility was recognized early; numerous P-3s were converted to suit a variety of specialized military and non-military roles, including scientific research, meteorology, customs and border security, and electronic intelligence (ELINT). This last role would produce the EP-3 Aries variant, which was involved in the infamous 2001 Hainan Island incident, in which a Chinese fighter collided with a Navy EP-3, killing the Chinese pilot. The American plane was able to make a safe landing, but its crew of twenty four were held captive for ten days before being released.

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