U.S. Navy Improves P-3C as Bridge to Poseidon

 - November 4, 2011, 4:40 AM
The C4 for ASW mod and other improvements will keep the P-3C Orion ASW aircraft tactically relevant until the P-8A Poseidon can replace it. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The first five P-3C Orion antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and maritime surveillance aircraft modified with enhanced networking capability have been delivered to the U.S. Navy. The C4 (command, control, communications and computers) for ASW program and other upgrades of the four-engine Lockheed Martin turboprop are designed to bridge the capability gap with the P-3’s replacement, the Boeing P-8A Poseidon, which is scheduled to enter service in 2013.

Fifty more P-3s will receive the C4 for ASW modification, according to the Naval Air Systems Command (Navair), which lists an inventory of 157 P-3Cs. The modification includes Link 16 datalink, Inmarsat encrypted broadband satellite communications and Windows-based integrated tactical picture display. Link 16 provides for connectivity and data sharing with other Navy and NATO units; the satcom mod provides transmission of Internet protocol data and eventually will enable streaming full motion video, Navair said.

Navair’s PMA-290 Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft program office “took over the lead integration role for a failing program” and delivered the C4 capability on schedule, it said. Cmdr. Nagel Sullivan, P-3 mission system integrated product team lead, said the modification helps mitigate risk in the P-8A introduction “because a lot of the things the P-3 figures out in the Link 16/Inmarsat concept of operations will help refine the P-8A concept of operations.”

Earlier this year, Navair started delivering the first of 74 P-3Cs with an upgraded acoustic system. The acoustic receiver technology refresh enhances the aircraft’s ability to receive and analyze sonobuoy data. Both the P-3C and P-8A will receive a second-phase acoustic processor technology refresh by 2014.

Meanwhile, Boeing has delivered four flight-test Poseidons to the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Md. The Navy announced the first launch of a Raytheon MK 54 torpedo from the aircraft on October 13 during a test event in the Atlantic Test Range. The first low-rate initial production Poseidon made its first flight July 7 at Renton Field in Washington, and will be delivered to the Navy at Jacksonville, Fla., in 2012, Boeing said.