The C-2534/AIC-15 Intercommunication System Controller provided radio interception secure communications between all crew and the flight deck of the early P3B Orions which took over Australia’s maritime patrol and surveillance from the original P2V Neptunes.
The RAAF’s decision in 1964 to initiate a replacement program for the ageing Neptunes of No 11 Squadron saw 10 Orion P3B variants delivered in 1969 followed by another 8 P3C’s delivered in 1978 to replace the Neptunes of No 10 Squadron in Townsville.
While the initial P3B’s high-performance Allison T56-A-14 engines gave Australia’s maritime patrol fleet a significantly increased cruising speed and longer range than the Neptune’s - enabling it to take on a much larger role in anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue and coastal surveillance, the P3-C’s delivered a quantum leap forward in airborne electronics and surveillance capability.
While the basic airframe and appearance of the P3-C differed little from the previous variant, the new suite of electronics saw the reduction of crew from 12 to 10 and the introduction of the new Australian Barra Passive Sonobuoy System together with an infra-red detection system to boost its search & rescue capabilities. The PC’s offensive capabilities were also significantly upgraded with the addition of the AGM-84 Harpoon long-range anti-ship missile and upgraded acoustic processing equipment and more sensitive acoustic sensors. There is a really informative youtube video of a SSQ-801E BARRA Sonobouy deployment from an Orion P3 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eidMDdMK38s
By 1981, all of the remaining P3B’s were replaced with 10 new P3C’s and sold to the Portuguese Air Force and over the successive years, the P3C’s have undergone continual upgrades as Australia’s maritime activities have increased.
In the early 90’s this upgrade program gathered further momentum when 18 P3C’s underwent significant modifications to their avionics and missile systems as part of the AP-3C Orion project. Unfortunately the integration of the new systems took far longer to implement than was first anticipated as there was no ‘off-the-shelf’ components and it by February 2001, only 9 of the RAAF’s 17 Orions were operational dramatically degrading Australia’s maritime patrol capabilities.
Now with the program complete, the upgraded AP-3C’s boast significantly improved radar, intelligence-gathering and computing systems with the fitting of a new Elta EL/M-2022(V)3 radar, a nose-mounted Star Safire III electro-optical and infrared system, "highly capable" signals and electronic intelligence (SIGINT/ELINT) equipment, the UYS 503 acoustic system, a new automatic information system processor, a new navigation system based on two Honeywell H764G Embedded GPS/INUs, a new communications system and other improvements. The Orion’s weight was also reduced by more than 3,000 kilograms as part of the upgrade.
The aircraft were also equipped with Mark 46 or MU90 Impact torpedoes, mines, and a range of sonar buoys.
Australia's fleet of AP-3C Orions have seen extensive worldwide service with missions conducted in the Middle East during the Iraq war and current peace keeping activities as well as Afghanistan, Somalia, the Philippines and the South China Sea.
By the end of 2019 it is anticipated that Australia’s maritime patrol and detection capabilities will take another leap forward with the total replacement of all Ap-3C’s with the new Boeing P-8 Poseidons and six to eight MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles.
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Really complete the picture by including a detailed hand-crafted 1/72 scale model of the P3 Orion with your original aircraft instrument display.