Defense Media Network

P-3 Orion Marks 50th Anniversary

Pulling worldwide duty five decades on

As the P-3 Orion continues to serve in its 50th year it has seen its role but not its importance change. Originally designed to be an anti-submarine and maritime patrol aircraft for the U.S. Navy, its missions have expanded to include anti-piracy, shipping lane protection, homeland security, drug interdiction, fire fighting, hurricane hunting and more. One of our readers, Walt Heimart, referred to the P-3 airframe as a Swiss Army Knife, and that comparison is apt. The P-3 has conducted these missions not only for the U.S. Navy, but also for countries including Japan, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Greece, The Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Spain, Thailand and Iran. Even though its replacement, the P-8 Poseidon, is on the horizon, the Orion is likely to continue to serve whatever role it’s assigned with distinction for some years to come.


Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-50241">

    ONE VERY FINE A/C !! Many hrs on board and always felt safe !

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-51245">

    Great Airplane. II was in VPs 1, 4 and 22 flying P3s as Maintenance Chief and SEA in 1 and 22 and Workloads schedules, and AV/ARM Division chief in VP-4. John Driver AVCM US Navy Retired

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-51625">

    Many memorable hours setting between two pilots doing what a P3 does best!

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-51675">

    I forgot t mention, Those days where with VP31 And VP-6 in 1971 @ 1972 . I t did everything it was supposed to do EVEN when we had to DITCH PC-6 in Subic Bay in Dec of 1971…see link..

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-52404">

    VP-22 (Second Mech) and VQ-2 (Flt. Eng.) were great years for me in the P-3.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-52750">
    Curtis Thomas

    Still miss that airplane……flew as FE from 1968-1989 in VP 11, 22, 31, VP 31-VR Det, Pep Det Netherlands, NARF Jax and VP5. After I retired, I helped manufacture Horizontal Stabilizers and Nacelles at Mooney Aircraft in Kerrville, Texas. Flew with some great people, including most of the guys above. Would love to have just one more flight!

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-52792">
    Emmett Crocker

    Worken on and in the p3 from the age of 18 till 65. Remember every person above, Hello Curt, Ed, Mike, Rick, and John. Emmett Crocker ADC ret and Lockheed tech rep ret.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-steven-hoarn bypostauthor odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-53076">

    As the editor who put this photo gallery together, I just wanted to take a minute and thank everyone above for sharing their stories of their time with the venerable P-3 Orion. I hope to hear more. Keep them coming!

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-54278">

    I remember flying from Okinawa to Guam in a VP-48 P3. We left late afternoon and about halfway to Guam there stood before us a huge bank of cloud formations. It was a typhoon. It was too tall to fly over, so we flew around each major cloud formation. There was a lot of lightning and turbulence but by the time we got to Guam and landed, it was very calm with just a lot of rain. The P-3 was very fine aircraft.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-54534">
    James M. Roper

    Great Airplane and very dedicated crews made this something to be proud of.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-55366">

    I was in 3 different squadrons in the P3, I transitioned VP-50 in 67 From P5M’s to P3A’s, then I transitioned VP-23 from P2V’s to P3B’s in 70 . My last squadron was VP-49 which had P3C’s. All were great airplanes and served the navy and our nation well. Without a doubt, the P3 flight crews were the best in the world.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-60049">

    Pretty good old bird.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-125775">

    Those were really lovely days,having all training at Moffet Field with those great people,Chief Tom Lewis , Jim Butner and…
    And those days in Bandar Abbass with Lockheed people,’specially B.Rodgers’.Anyway GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU>