Lockheed P-3 Orion Anti-Submarine Aircraft - Engine, Specifications, Capabilites (2024)

A thoroughbred, a workhorse, a mainstay, a cornerstone, a pillar – whatever phrase you prefer to describe something as hard-working and long-lasting can be applied to the P-3 Orion. The P-3 is an anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft used by the Navy for over five decades. The aircraft was introduced in the early 1960’s and after a long and illustrious life, it is being phased out of active duty. The P-8 Poseidon is taking over as the Navy’s go-to maritime surveillance aircraft.

Lockheed P-3 Orion Anti-Submarine Aircraft - Engine, Specifications, Capabilites (1)

The P-3 Orion takes off the runway at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s.


Submarine technology quickly heightened during the Cold War. Because of this, many countries around the world feared a nuclear attack could come from a submarine. This concern prompted the MIlitary to upgrade its maritime surveillance and anti-submarine efforts. The P-2 Neptune, the predecessor to the P-3, simply did not have the technological capabilities needed to keep up with submarine production.

Lockheed P-3 Orion Anti-Submarine Aircraft - Engine, Specifications, Capabilites (2)

A P-3 Orion patrol aircraft was prepared for final takeoff during command disestablishment at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

An aircraft with longer endurance, greater range, and better weaponry was introduced in 1962; the P-3A Orion. Lockheed Corporation began production in 1957, using the L-188 commercial jet as the base of the P-3. Lockheed’s entire arsenal of maritime aircraft information up to that point – range and capability, antisubmarine warfare, electronic surveillance – all came together in the design and production of the P-3. This aircraft was designed and built to perform at its peak for decades to come.

P-3 Orion Capabilities

There are three versions of the P-3 Orion; the P-3A, the P-3B, and the P-3C. The P-3C was introduced in 1969 and became the most used and most produced version of the Orion. The modification to its computer display system was one major difference that set up the P-3C to be relevant for the next half-century. The P-3A and P-3B utilized an analog system. The P-3C introduced the first digital computer display screen in a maritime aircraft.

A magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) is outfitted in the tail of the P-3. The MAD detects a magnetic anomaly in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by a submarine. However, a MAD has a limited range. This means the aircraft must be near the watercraft at a low altitude in order to detect it.

Additionally, the P-3 is equipped with advanced submarine detection sensors and directional frequency and ranging (DIFAR) sonobuoys. These sonobuoys are ejected from the aircraft and deploy upon impact with the water. They emit sound waves and can ping an underwater machine’s location and then relay that information back to the P-3.

Lockheed P-3 Orion Anti-Submarine Aircraft - Engine, Specifications, Capabilites (3)

Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Thomas Wells (left) and Airman Aviation Electronics Technician Nathan McDaniel inspect the multi spectral sensor turret on a P-3 Orion.


The P-3 provided phenomenal information during the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, the world changed, and monitoring the open seas wasn’t as high a priority. The P-3, once just a submarine locator, evolved into a much-needed assistance aircraft. It began to fight forest fires, operate surveillance missions in the Middle-East, monitor fishing and wildlife areas and hunt down drug runners. It became the go-to plane for customs and border patrol. NASA even utilized the aircraft for weather research.

The last P-3 rolled off the production line in 1995. It coincided with Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta merging to form Lockheed Martin. However, that was far from the end of the P-3 Orion. The “Mid-Life Upgrade Program” from Lockheed Martin was enacted in the mid-2000s. The program’s goal is to provide necessary technological and framework maintenance upgrades. These upgrades positioned the P-3 to be relevant for the next two decades.

The last P-3 active duty deployment on the East Coast began in July 2015, from Jacksonville, Fla. The P-8 Poseidon will soon take over as the Navy’s premier maritime aircraft.

See P-3 Specifications

Length: 116.7 feet
Height: 33.7feet
Wingspan: 99.6 feet
Max Speed: 411 knots
Ceiling: 28,300 feet
Maximum Takeoff Weight:139,760lb
Combat Range: 2,380nautical miles (3,218km)
Engine:2 Pratt & Whitney J58 engines, 32,000 lbs. of thrust each
Crew:Three pilots, two naval officers, two flight engineers, three sensor operators, one in-flight technician
Unit Cost:$36 million
Armament:AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84K SLAM-ER, AGM-65F Maverick missiles, Mk46/50/54 torpedoes, rockets, mines and depth bombs
Propulsion:Four Allison T-56-A-14 turboprop engines (4,600 hp each)




Lockheed Martin

Lockheed P-3 Orion Anti-Submarine Aircraft - Engine, Specifications, Capabilites (2024)


What are the capabilities of the P-3 Orion? ›

Though capable of reaching a top speed of 405 mph and a range of 5,570 miles, the Orion was designed to fly at low altitudes and slow speeds for long periods of time, making it an invaluable maritime patrol plane for the Navy, and used as a critical tool in the successful blockade of Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile ...

Does the Navy still use P-3 orions? ›

United States Navy – Seventeen P-3Cs and eleven EP-3Es are in service as of 2023. Two Navy Reserve squadrons and one active squadron continue to fly the P-3C, with final phaseout of the aircraft expected in 2025. The P-3s will be replaced by the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

Can a P-3 Orion fly on one engine? ›

To conserve fuel during its long-range patrols over land and sea, the P-3 can operate with one of its four engines shut down. This allows for extended missions lasting over ten hours. The number one engine, or furthest from the fuselage on the port side, is the engine that is shut down.

How long can a P-3 Orion fly? ›

The P-3 is a four-engine (T56-A-14) turboprop aircraft designed for endurance and range. The aircraft is capable of long duration flights of 8-14 hours, large payloads up to 14,700 pounds, true airspeeds up to 400 knots, and altitudes up to 28,000 feet.

What is the fuel capacity of the P-3 Orion? ›

Each engine drives a four-blade constant-speed propeller, type 54H60-77 supplied by Hamilton Standard. There are five fuel tanks, one in the fuselage and four integral wing tanks with a total fuel capacity of 34,800l.

What was the P-3 Orion max speed? ›

Maritime Patrol Aircraft
Speed761 km/h411 kts 473 mph
Service Ceiling8.626 m28.300 ft
Range2.495 km1.347 NM 1.550 mi.

Is the P 8 better than the P-3? ›


system provides increased range, payload, and speed compared to the legacy P-3C aircraft. The P-8A Increment 1 system is operationally suitable. The P-8A offers significant improvements in system hardware reliability, maintainability, and availability compared to the legacy P-3C aircraft.

What aircraft replaced the P-3 Orion? ›

The P-8 is to replace the P-3.

Can p38 fly with one engine? ›

Single-engined takeoffs were possible, though not with a full fuel and ammunition load. The engines were unusually quiet because the exhausts were muffled by the General Electric turbosuperchargers on the twin Allison V12s.

How much does a P-3 Orion cost? ›

Lockheed P-3 Orion
P-3 Orion
Primary usersUnited States Navy Royal New Zealand Air Force Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Royal Australian Air Force Republic of Korea Navy
Number builtLockheed – 650, Kawasaki – 107, Total – 757
Unit costUS$36 million (FY1987)
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Can a twin turboprop fly on one engine? ›

A twin-engine plane can fly perfectly well on only one engine. In fact, it can even continue the take-off and then safely land with just one engine. An engine failing in flight is not usually a serious problem and the pilots are given extensive training to deal with such a situation.

How many crew members does a P-3 Orion have? ›

Service: USN Armament: 20,000 pounds of ordnance, including AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84E SLAM, AGM-84H/K and AGM-65F Maverick missiles, Mk46/50/54 Propulsion: Four Allison T-56-A-14 turboprop engines Max Airspeed: 411 knots Range: 2,380 nm Crew: three pilots, two naval flight officers, two flight engineers, three sensor ...

Can a P-3 land on an aircraft carrier? ›

No. The P3 is a land-based aircraft and is not equipped with the arresting hardware that is necessary for a carrier landing.

How much thrust does Orion have? ›

Function: This is the main engine on the European Service Module that will provide the primary propulsion for Orion's major in-space maneuvers as it travels around the Moon. The engine provides 6,000 pounds of thrust and is equipped to steer the spacecraft.

What does Orion do for work? ›

Orion Talent - What We Do

We connect you with ready-now candidates and design-led recruiting solutions that work for you. We're enriching lives and elevating the recruiting experience. Talent acquisition is our mission, and our mission isn't done until we've nailed it.

How much did the P-3 Orion unit cost? ›

Lockheed P-3 Orion
P-3 Orion
Number builtLockheed – 650, Kawasaki – 107, Total – 757
Unit costUS$36 million (FY1987)
Developed fromLockheed L-188 Electra
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