The P-3C Orion is a land-based, long range anti-submarine warfare (ASW) patrol aircraft. The P-3C provides effective undersea warfare, anti-surface warfare, and Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities to naval and joint commanders. It has advanced submarine detection sensors such as directional frequency and ranging (DIFAR) sonobuoys and magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) equipment. The avionics system is integrated by a general purpose digital computer that supports all of the tactical displays, monitors and automatically launches ordnance and provides flight information to the pilots. In addition, the system coordinates navigation information and accepts sensor data inputs for tactical display and storage. The P-3C can either operate alone or supporting many different customers including the carrier battlegroup and amphibious readiness group. The aircraft can carry a variety of weapons internally and on wing pylons, such as the Harpoon anti-surface missile, the MK-50 torpedo and the MK-60 mine.
The current force of 12 active and seven reserve squadrons supports the theater and fleet commanders' requirements for 40 P-3Cs continuously forward-deployed.
The Navy's P-3 modernization plan is focusing on providing a more tailored force optimized for regional and littoral conflict. The key elements of the plan are mission system upgrades, sustaining inventory, and reducing multiple configurations.
The P-3s were active in Afghanistan in late 2001, where the aircraft used Ku-band packet mux data links to provide video and other sensor data to surface forces. The imagery was very well received by ground forces there, and demand for this type of information is growing as users become aware of its value.
The following Submarine Services are provided by MPA assets, in roles that involve both blue and orange force.
- POMCERT: (Pre-Overseas Movement Certification) Assist submarines in pre deployment certification. Similar in scope to VP squadron ORE.
- PCOSS: (Perspective CO Ops)Provide training for prospective submarine Commanding Officers. VP usually participates as orange force during freeplay scenarios involving multiple weapons firings.
- TRE: (Tactical Readiness Evaluation)MPA participates to help subs maintain proficiency in conducting turnovers between MPA and submarines (VP-SSN turnover).
- TWP: (Tactical Weapons Proficiency)MPA serves as an OTH-T platform for submarine conducting simulated weapons firings.
- KILOEX: MPA typically serves in the role as orange force during SSN-SSN training. Active usually not authorized.
- BART: (Beartrap Acoustic Radiated Trial)Conduct Beartrap on submarine for evaluation of submarine acoustic source levels. Required prior to deployments and after significant shipyard periods.
- TACDEVX: (Tactical Development Exercise) Flights flown in support of technical evaluation of new submarine R&D and USW technologies.
MPA services provided as Blue or Orange force for surface unit training.
- CSSQT: (Combat Systems Ships Qualification Trials) Services provided to assist surface units (AEGIS equipped) in achieving required qualifications. Flights are requested through Aegis Program Manager and flight hours are reimbursed to CNAP.
- SUWEX: (SUW Exercises)Conduct various SUW support for Surface unit training including; LINKEX'S, OTHT, Surface search/surveillance, Coordinated TOT attacks, and BDA.
- CNO PROJECTS: MPA services provided for a variety of CNO special projects when requested.
- MEFEX: (Mid East Force Exercise)MPA acts as friendly and unfriendly units to prepare forces for Middle East Operations. Typical scenario requires simulating Iranian P-3 profile.
Real World Operations are real world requirements that are executed or planned annually
- JIATF WEST SUPPORT: Surface search/surveillance support for Counter Narcotics Operations in the Eastern Pacific.
- TG TRANSIT CONTINGENCY OPS: Support for transiting Task Groups in the event of a Russian Out of Area Deployed submarine attempt an intercept (includes short notice Detachments to Wake Island).
- UNDER ICE TRANSFER: (UIT) Detachment to Eielson AFB, AK for Russian submarine transfers from NORTH FLT to PAC FLT in late AUG or early SEPT.
- SAR: As needed search and rescue support for Coast Guard Districts.
The following MPA flights are flown to obtain qualifications and maintain proficiency above and beyond that obtained during previously listed events:
- CAST: (Coordinated USW Training) USW training conducted with submarine serving as an active participant. Sub may go evasive, active usually authorized. (Training provided for MPA)
- NIBEX: (Not-to-interfere exercise) MPA training event conducted on a Not To Interfere Basis with the participating submarines primary tasking. Active usually not authorized.
- EER: (Extended Echo Ranging) Flights flown on cooperative targets not participating in exercises to enable aircrew to obtain initial EER ASW-9 Qual
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