The USA’s aging aircraft problem spans a number of fleets, from aerial tankers, to fighters, to tactical transports. One may argue, however, that its most severe problem lies with its fleet of Lockheed Martin P-3 maritime patrol aircraft. Not only was the global P-3 fleet produced between 1962-1990, the aircraft have often been flown at low altitudes in a salt-spray environment. This is not a recipe for aircraft health.
Rear Adm. Holmes’ 2005 interview confirms the seriousness of the situation. The US Navy keeps retiring aircraft, and is trying to hang on until its P-8A Poseidon/ BAMS UAV successors are fielded. That is proving to be difficult, to the point that Boeing is reportedly being asked to speed up P-8 production and fielding. Meanwhile, the P-3 Recovery Plan is part of a range of efforts designed to keep the P-3s in the air. Contracts continue, including outer wing replacements and other deep structural maintenance efforts…
Contracts and Key Events
In addition to the 39 aircraft already slated for re-winging, the Navy plans to ground six to 10 Orions a year, with all aircraft re-evaluated every 6 months. The re-winging effort and associated “Zone 5 modifications” is expected to take up to a year for each aircraft, and the US Navy expects to reach a steady state of 24 Zone 5 modifications (including re-wings) per year.
Nov 21/08: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Global Sustainment in Greenville, SC received a $22.9 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity multiple award contract (N00019-05-D-0013), exercising an option for the Zone 5 critical airframe structures replacement for 4 P-3C aircraft.
Work will be performed in Greenville, SC and is expected to be complete in January 2009. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Aug 26/08: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA received a $129.3 million contract for 13 P-3 Outer Wing Assembly kits in support of the P-3 recovery plan. That figure is an upper limit, but the exact total will be settled later (“undefinitized”).
Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete in December 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-08-C-0066).
Aug 19/08: L-3 Communications Integrated Systems L.P. in Waco, TX received a $60.6 million contract for 4 P-3 Outer Wing Assembly kits in support of the P-3 recovery plan. That figure is an upper limit, but the exact total will be settled later (“undefinitized”). Work will be performed in South Korea (51%) and Waco, TX (49%), and is expected to be completed in June 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-08-C-0065).
L-3’s release adds that:
“The company developed modern tooling that will result in the production of the most advanced wing configuration available, using the U.S. Navy’s latest P-3 parts and materials for improved resistance to fatigue and corrosion.”
June 12/08: Lockheed Martin Services, Inc., DBA Lockheed Martin Aircraft and Logistics in Greenville, SC received a $9.4 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity multiple award contract (N00019-05-D-0013) for additional Special Structural Inspection-Kits (SSI-K) for the P-3 aircraft. Work will be performed in Greenville, SC and is expected to be complete in June 2010. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Feb 1/08: BAE Systems Applied Technologies, Inc. in Rockville, MD received a $12.6 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00421-06-D-0038) for the production of Emergency Rate Initial Production P-3 fatigue critical area Zone 5 components, including engineering, analytical and manufacturing efforts in support of the P-3C and derivative series aircraft.
Work will be performed in Brea, CA (45%); St. Louis, MO (25%); Wellington, KS (20%); and other locations in california and Maryland (10%), and is expected to be complete in September 2009. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Dec 17/07: US NAVAIR issues an Air Frame Bulletin announcing the grounding of 39 P-3C Orion aircraft, which have been discovered to be “beyond known structural limits on the lower section of the P-3 wing.” Analysis and corrective measures are expected to take between 18 – 24 months per aircraft to complete.
The Navy has a total of 161 P-3C aircraft in its inventory at this time, and 10 of the 39 grounded aircraft are currently deployed on operations. The grounded aircraft will either return to safe operation after replacement of critical structural components – or will be removed from service.
Sept 25/07: BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services in Rockville, MD recveives a $10.5 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract (N00421-06-D-0038) for the manufacture of 13 P-3 Special Structural Inspection airframe kits. This effort entails production of Emergency Rate Initial Production quantities of end item component parts, including engineering, analytical and manufacturing efforts in support of the Aging Aircraft Program; the original $14 million contract was announced on Sept 26/06. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (56%); Rockville, MD (24%); and Brea, CA (20%) and is expected to be complete in September 2009. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Samuel Trapanese, assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 47, slides a sonobuoy into a pressurized launch tube aboard a P-3C Orion aircraft. Although the P-3 Orion aircraft has been in service for over 45 years, the planes continue to play a vital role in anti-submarine warfare. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Meagan E. Klein
Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Charles Lindsay, assigned to the “Tridents” of Patrol Squadron Two Six (VP-26), load sonar buoys into a P-3 Orion. The Trident combat aircrew flying the P-3 launched sonar buoys during anti-submarine warfare operations in support of Operation Noble Manta. Operation Noble Manta is the largest anti-submarine warfare exercise (ASW) in the world. The eleven-day North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise is designed to improve joint ASW operations between NATO forces. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class John Collins.