Lockheed Electra / P-3 Orion


Lockheed L188A Electra II

P-3 Orion


On December 6, 1957 the first prototype Electra was flown.  By that time already 144 orders had been placed by various airlines. But the turboprop, though more economical than the turbo jets, had already become second place to the new faster Jets that had come into their own. The L-188 was powered by the wing mounted Allison 501-D13 turboprop. The initial version, designated L-188A was first flown in commercial service by Eastern Airlines on January 12th, 1959, and by American Airlines on January 23rd of that same year. It was followed by the L-188C, with increased fuel capacity to offer greater range, and this type later entered service later in 1959. KLM was the only European customer to order the Electra. The majority of Electras were retired from first line service by 1975, but their economic operation and reliability meant most were retained on secondary duties of one sort or another. In 1958 the US Navy gave Lockheed the nod to replace the aging (ASW) antisubmarine warfare and maritime patrol aircraft. Lockheed's winning proposal was designated the . Named for the winter constellation of the mighty hunter, the Orion was actually derived from this famous Lockheed Electra civil airliner.

The Lockheed L188 Electra has the distinction of being the only large American turboprop airliner.  An excellent aircraft, the Electra was beset by unfortunate and severe structural problems, and then was surpassed by rapid improvements in pure jet aircraft.  The Electra was first developed in response to an American Airlines request for a medium-size short-haul airliner for US inter-city routes.  However, Eastern wanted a larger plane, and negotiations led to the development of the final Electra specs.  American and Eastern placed the first orders (for 35 and 40 planes, respectively), and American received the first Electra on December, 1958 (although it could not fly the first service due to a strike, and Eastern was left with this honor).  The orders came rapidly then, from many US and Asian operators, as well as KLM in Europe.

However; two Electras were found to have broken up in flight (they crashed in 1959 and 1960), and a structural fault was suspected.  After a speed limit was imposed, Lockheed began looking for the answer, which it found in the phrase "whirl mode".  If damaged, the engine mountings developed a harmonic with the wing when a whirl mode oscillation was generated, and this eventually tore the wing off the aircraft.  The fix was not cheap, but it was effective.  However, by then the Electra's reputation was tarnished, and many airlines shied away from the plane - only 26 more were sold.  The existing Electras continued to boast excellent reliability and economics, and were not replaced until modern short-range jets became available.  The Electras were then sold to other airlines or converted to freighters, and many are still flying today. 

Lockheed P-3 Orion

The Orion ASW aircraft is a development of the 1950's vintage L-188 Electra Airliner airframe. Five Electras were operated from New Zealand by TEAL between 1959 and 1972. Developed as a successor to the P-2V Neptune, the prototype Orion first flew on November 25, 1959. (An aerodynamic prototype built by modifying an Electra flew on August 19, 1958). The first P-3A Orion flew on April 15,1961. The aircraft has subsequently been built in a number of versions, (including license built by Kawasaki) and upgrades. The P-3C with a heavier wing structure appeared in 1968, with subsequent avionics/ weapons 'Upgrade'versions. The Canadian modified CP-140 Aurora utilizing the Orion airframe flew in 1979. Orions have been supplied to a number of airforces outside the US, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and Spain. Variants of the P-3 included weather reconnaissance aircraft and electronic reconnaissance aircraft that carried special radar, with radomes in long fairings above and below the fuselage and an additional ventral radome forward of the wing.  P-3A models were followed and replaced in quick succession by the P-3B and P-3C models each of which incorporated improved electronics.


The FLIR mounting  is located under the nose.



YP3V Prototype
P-3A Production ASW maritime patrol model; 157 built
P-3A (CS) Modified P-3A airframes with improved radar for use by US Customs; 4 modified
CP-3A Older P-3A airframes rebuilt as cargo transports; 30 modified
EP-3A Electronic reconnaissance model rebuilt from P-3A airframes
NP-3A Special test aircraft used by US Naval Research Laboratory
RP-3A Ocean reconnaissance model rebuilt from P-3A airframes, used by Oceanographic Development Squadron; 3 modified
TP-3A Trainer based on P-3A; 12 modified
UP-3A Utility transport
VP-3A VIP/staff transports rebuilt from P-3A or WP-3A airframes; 5 modified
WP-3A Weather reconnaissance model based on P-3A; 4 modified
P-3B ASW maritime patrol model with more powerful engines and able to carry AGM-12 Bullpup missiles; 125 built
EP-3B Electronic reconnaissance model rebuilt from older P-3B airframes
NP-3B Special test aircraft used by US Naval Research Laboratory
P-3C ASW maritime patrol model with upgraded electronics including a new central computer to process data, camera pods, and FLIR pods; 267 built
P-3C Update I P-3C with upgraded computer memory and improved navigation system; 31 built
P-3C Update II P-3C updated with IR detection equipment, sonobuoys, and ability to fire Harpoon ASM; 44 built
P-3C Update II.5 P-3C with better navigation and communication equipment; 24 built
P-3C Update III P-3C updated with acoustic processing system, new sonobuoy receiver, and other improved avionics; 50 built
P-3C Update IV All Update II and II.5 aircraft to be equipped with new radar and other submarine detection equipment
EP-3C Electronic intelligence model built by Kawasaki for Japanese Navy
NP-3C Special test aircraft used by US Naval Research Laboratory
RP-3C Science models used by Oceanographic Development Squadron
UP-3C Utility transport
RP-3D P-3C modified for collection of atmospheric data; 1 modified
WP-3D P-3C converted for use by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as weather reconnaissance platforms; 2 modified
EP-3E Aries Rebuilt P-3s equipped with radome and antennae for detecting and locating enemy ships; 12 modified
EP-3E Aries II Rebuilt P-3Cs equipped with radome and antennae for detecting and locating enemy ships or gathering signals intelligence; 12 modified
NP-3E US Navy test aircraft
P-3F Version of P-3C built for Iran in late 1970s; 6 built
P-3G Original designation for Lockheed P-7 intended to replace P-3 but cancelled in 1990
P-3H Proposed upgraded P-3C
P-3K Version for New Zealand based on P-3B; 5 built
P-3N Version for Norwegian Coast Guard based on P-3B; 2 built
P-3P Version used by Portugal based on P-3B; 6 transferred from Australia
P-3W Version based on P-3C-II for Australian Air Force; 20 built
P-3AEW&C P-3B aircraft equipped with rotating radome used by US Customs for anti-drug trafficing patrol
CP-140 Aurora Re-built P-3Cs used by Canada; 18 modified
CP-140A Arcturus

CP-140 aircraft modified for environmental and fishery patrol; 3 modified




Lockheed P-3 Orion
First flight: November, 25  1959
Wingspan: 30.38m
Length: 35.61m
Height: 10.29m
Ceiling: 30,500ft (9,296m)
Range: 7,670km (4,766miles)
Max. weight: 57,834kg (127,500lb)
Power plant: 4x4910 SHP Allison T56-A-14
Max. speed: 815km/h (508mph)
Crew: 11
Lockheed L-188 Electra
First flight: December 6, 1957
Wingspan: 99 ft. 0 in. / 30.18 m
Length: 104 ft. 6 in. / 31.81 m
Height: 32 ft. 10 in. / 10.01 m
Ceiling: 28,400 ft.
Range: 2,000 nm / 3,704 km
Weight: 61,500 lbs / 27,895 kg
Power plant: Four Allison 501D13
Speed: 325 knots / 602 km/h / Mach 0.49
Crew: 3
Accommodation: 104 in one class configuration -or- freighter: 13 tons

Pictures (click to enlarge)


Top of the page


Please note that all information is provided without any guarantees