Lockheed P-3B Orion Airborne Laboratory


One enduring aircraft that I worked on is the Lockheed P-3B Orion, a four-engine turboprop surveillance aircraft developed for the US Navy in the 1960s. Operated by NASA at Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia this ex-US Navy aircraft is used for low altitude heavy lift airborne science missions. It was modified to support passive microwave instruments, such as NOAA’s Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer, NASA’s 2-DSTAR, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s polarimetric scatterometer instruments.

Modifications to the P-3B were performed for NAVAIR, the US Navy’s Air Systems Command. At that time its purpose was “weather collection.” Today, the P-3C Orion is a land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft. Its mission includes surveillance of the battlespace, at sea and over land. The P-3 Orion excels at this task due in part to its long range and long loiter time. The project was in collaboration with Avionics Engineering Services and Associated Air Center in Dallas, Texas.

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