A Lockheed P-3 Orion of the Spanish Air Force set a new Spanish record on 22 December 2015. Of being airborne 16 hours in a row, beating the old achievement of 1991 of 13 hours and 50 minutes non-stop in the air.
The aircraft and crew of 221 Squadron (221 Esc.) took of from Morón Airbase near Seville at 10:00 local time for its patrol duty over the Mediterranean in support of the ongoing NATO maritime operations there.
Operation Active Endeavour
Launched after the September 11, 2011, attacks in New York and Washington this Operation Active Endeavour is there to “monitor shipping to help deter, defend, disrupt and protect against terrorist activity”. Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey contribute directly to the operation, while other NATO and partner nations sometimes offer support and/or vessels/aircraft.
After this operational flight during daytime the Orion continued into a night training mission while still airborne, but kept sharing gathered data to the NATO mission as well. It landed again at Morón.
Maritime patrol aircraft
Although the long lasting mission is a novelty for the Spanish Air Force, the P-3 is actually designed to stay airborne for up to 16 hours, according to data provided by manufacturer Lockheed Martin. As a maritime patrol aircraft its combat radius is normally 1,346 nautical miles (2,490 km) and it can remain on station at low-level (1,500 feet) for three hours if on a submarine hunt. A total of 757 Orions were built between 1961 and 1990, of which 107 by Kawasaki in Japan. Many still serving the world’s air arms.
Royal Norwegian Air Force Orions
Spain has two P-3A and four P-3Bs which are being upgraded to the new P-3M standard. A fifth P-3B is used for its spare parts. All P-3Bs are ex-Royal Norwegian Air Force Orions, purchased in 1989. The Norwegians have kept four P-3Cs and two P-3N on strength, all at Andøya Air Station in the north.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A Spanish Air Force Lockheed P-3 Orion (Image © Ejército del Aire)