Early F-15s To Fly Again, but Many P-3s Are Grounded

 - January 16, 2008, 5:21 AM

The Pentagon’s aging aircraft concerns won’t go away. About 60 percent of the U.S. Air Force’s 440 F-15A/B/C/D interceptors have been cleared to resume flying after inspections for structural fatigue of the forward fuselage longerons. But cracks have been found in some airplanes, and the remaining 40 percent of the fleet could need repairs. The USAF was planning to keep one third of these aircraft in service due to cutbacks in production of its successor, the F-22 Raptor. Meanwhile, nearly 25 percent of the U.S. Navy’s fleet of 161 P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft are now grounded because of fatigue concerns in the lower wing, the service revealed last month. Lockheed Martin opened a new production line for P-3 wings last October, but the affected aircraft could be grounded for 18 to 24 months each. Despite the P-3’s aging problems, Lockheed Martin believes the Orion is viable for many more years of service for the U.S. and international customers. Boeing is developing the P-8A Poseidon aircraft based on the 737-800 as a P-3 replacement for the US Navy, but the first flight is not expected until next year, and a production decision is five years away. AIN will report on both the P-8 and on P-3 upgrades at the Singapore show next month.