Fair winds and following seas to the Navy’s P-3C

fair-winds-and-following-seas-to-the-navy’s-p-3c

The U.S. Navy’s P-3C Orion patrol aircraft fleet retired from active duty last month after nearly 60 years in service.

With the replacement P-8 Poseidon now taking on the mission for the Navy’s patrol squadrons, the Orion fleet are free to collect their shadow boxes and muse among themselves about how today’s land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft have it easier than they did back in the day.

This long-planned transition away from the P-3C was completed in mid-May, when Patrol Squadron 40 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, turned in its last Orion, according to a Navy release.

The last of the active-duty P-3Cs, aircraft 162776, was delivered to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, as well.

While technically a sub hunter, the old workhorse flew missions during the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as countless other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations over the decades.

In March 2019, the “Fighting Marlins” of Patrol Squadron 40 flew their P-3s from Whidbey and to Bahrain for the aircraft’s last active-duty deployment.

Squadrons began transitioning to the Poseidon in 2013.

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Despite VP-40 closing the door on the Orion’s active-duty service, two Navy Reserve squadrons — NAS Jacksonville’s Patrol Squadron 62 and Whidbey Island’s Patrol Squadron 69 — will continue flying the plane.

The last P-3C Orion is expected to be phased out in 2023.

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 30 out of Point Mugu, California, will also continue to fly the old airframe.

Clarification: this article has been updated. Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 30 will continue to fly the P-3C.

About

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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