Tag Archives: P-3

Getting tough during Real Thaw 2016

From 21 February to 4 March, Portugal was the stage of Real Thaw, the annual exercise that provides special training to NATO units most likely to participate in military operations within international cooperative frame works. And if Portugal was the stage, Beja airbase was the dressing room. Fighter aircraft, transporters and helos all played their part.

Other than delivering jet noise over large parts of Portugal, the main goal of Real Thaw 2016 was to provide tough tactical training with participation of air, land  and sea forces and focusing on the execution phase. Participating forces were confronted with an operating environment as realistic as possible and typical of current operations, according to the Portuguese Air Force, organizer of Real Thaw.

(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Many transport aircraft were involved in Real Thaw… (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
…. as were plenty of fighter jets. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
An F-16 cleans up the gear. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)


The Portuguese sent all their assets to join Real Thaw, including F-16s, Alfa Jets, C-130 Hercules plus P-3 and C295 maritime patrol aircraft. Forces from other countries were invited to participate in Real Thaw 2016 in order to create a joint-operational environment.

Participation also came from the US (F-15, MV-22 and C-130), Norway (F-16), the Netherlands (C-130), Belgium (C-130), Denmark (AS550 support helicopters), Spain (C-212 light transport aircraft) and the UK. Also, a NATO E-3A Awacs was involved.

(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Back on terra firma after a mission. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
The US Air Force brought a two seater F-15D to Beja. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Portuguese Alfa Jets are known to wear attractive paint jobs. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Taking part also were two MV-22 Ospreys. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Day and night

Missions took place at both day and night times environments and included the use of para jumpers, forward air controllers and other ground forces. The coordination of Real Thaw 2016 was run from Beja Air Base in central Portugal. In order to give support to air and ground missions that took place further north in the areas of Guarda and Pinhel,  a tactical air base was temporarily set up near the town of Seia.

Real Thaw 2016 was the eighth exercise in a series conducted by the Portuguese Air Force since 2009.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Jorge Ruivo – www.cannontwo.blogspot.pt
Featured image (top): An F-16 thunders away from Beja. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
The maritime element in Real Thaw 2016: a P-3 Orion. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Two Alfa Jets approach Beja in formation. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
(Image © Jorge Ruivo)
Eagle at dusk. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)

Modernized New Zealand Orions to be updated, again

The six Lockheed P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force are to be updated, again. About a year after the final aircraft of the No 5 Squadron returned to its home “pimped” and well, Auckland is now opting for newer sensors.

According to a New Zealand defence source the detection and reconnaissance systems for targets underneath the surface (read: submarines) is way too old. If everything goes according to plan, Boeing is going to change that, for tens of millions of dollars.

A decade ago the then Labour government decided to modernize the planes, but not some of its main systems. The current centre-right leadership now has to decide about the Orion’s capabilities.

The upgrade is expected in the new defence plans to be announced in April this year. Read more about the Orions here.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (Image © New Zealand Defence Force)

US Navy plans return to Iceland

The US Navy plans a return to Iceland if the most recent budget plans are anything to go by. The plans call for modifications to US facilities at Keflavik airbase in order to host the US Navy’s newest maritime patrol aircraft, the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

Kevlavik was closed as an active US airbase in 2006 after being home to P-3 Orion patrol aircraft for years and a squadron of F-15 Eagles until the early nineties. Currently, the airfield sees use as a NATO airfield, hosting fighter jets for Iceland Air Policing duties every now and then. The airfield also doubles as Iceland’s civil international airport.


The budget request involves funds for modifying hangars and other installations at Keflavik. The P-8 Poseidon gradually replaces the P-3 in the maritime mission, looking for and hunting submarines. The US Navy has ordered 78 Poseidons, with 33 aircraft already delivered.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A US Navy P-8 Poseidon, one of 78 ordered. (Image © Boeing)

P-3 Orion set new Spanish record

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)

Longest New Zealand Orion mission accomplished

The longest mission ever for the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Lockheed Orion No. 5 Squadron ended on 9 December 2015, when the P-3K2 came home to RNZAF Base Auckland.

For 16 months in a row the maritime patrol & surveillance aircraft and 53 members of the RNZ Armed Forces was deployed to Southwest Asia (Persian Gulf region), where it contributed to the fight against piracy and drugs & people trafficking as part of the 30 nation Combined Maritime Forces.

According to a RNZAF statement the aircraft and crews made 1,400 flight hours on the job during 174 operational flights. The Orion frequently cooperated with both Australian and New Zealand navy vessels.

Cyclone Pam

All six RNZAF Orions have recently been updated and modernised, with the last one back on duty in March 2015. The aircraft have a good record, including being the first aircraft to respond to Cyclone Pam earlier this year.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The RNZAF Orion returning home from Persian Gulf duty on 9 December 2015 (Image © RNZAF)