$76.1M Upgrades More P-3C Orions For Attack Roles
Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime Systems and Sensors in Eagan, MN received a $76.1 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-04-D-0082). It exercises an option for the A-kits, B-kits, installations, and other support equipment required to convert P-3C Orion update II.5 aircraft into the P-3 Anti-Surface Warfare Improvement Program (ASUW-AIP) configuration. Personally, we think ASWIP would be a better program acronym for so many reasons. Work will be performed in Greenville, SC (85%), and Clearwater, FL (15%), and is expected to be complete in February 2007. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
DID has covered this program before, which makes a wide array of modifications to modernize the USA’s aged P-3C Orion fleet in ways that increase its detection and attack punch over sea and land. As DID’s earlier coverage notes, P-3C AIP aircraft have even found themselves in demand over Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as in their traditional maritime patrol role.
See also StrategyPage’s Oct 27/08 item, “Maritime Patrol Aircraft Come Ashore“, which discusses events that happened at an especially tight time – even the US Army had been stripped of its UAVs by the USAF:
“During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, some of the P-3 AIP (Anti Surface Warfare Improvement Program) reconnaissance aircraft proved useful to marine ground units, but only if the marines put a senior marine officer (usually a colonel) on the P-3s. This insured that the P-3 crew was constantly reminded of what the marines on the ground needed, and the P-3 was not “hijacked” by some other headquarters for a recon mission that was of no use to the marines.
The AIP version of the P-3 has synthetic-aperture radar and electro-optical cameras that provide real time video, day and night, of surface areas. While this capability is useful at sea, the marines have discovered that the P-3 AIP is an excellent recon aircraft to support their ground operations. The P-3s carry enough countermeasures to protect them from portable anti-aircraft missiles, and can stay in the air over a marine unit for ten hours or more at a time. The P-3 has a satellite link and GPS onboard. The land recon versions of the P-3 can carry and use Maverick guided missiles and Harpoon missiles (configured for hitting ground targets). The aircraft also has equipment to detect and identify enemy radars operating in the area. Naturally, such a capable recon aircraft was in great demand, which is why the marines learned that if they could get a colonel on board the P-3, they would basically “own” the P-3 for that flight [because the Colonel was more senior than the controllers, or their superiors, and was outside the chain of command that USAF Generals could reach].”