P-3K Orion

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence (MoD) is likely to spend $332.3m on the modernisation of the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) P-3K Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

Responding to an official information act request from Radio New Zealand, the MoD’s acquisition division deputy secretary Des Ashton said the original budget for the project was $377m, but was reduced by the fluctuating exchange rates.

The P-3K Orion upgrade project was undertaken by a mixture of foreign and local contractors in Texas, US, and Blenheim, New Zealand. It covers modernisation and retrofit of a total of six P-3K Orions of the RNZAF.

"The P-3K Orion upgrade project was undertaken by a mixture of foreign and local contractors in Texas, US, and Blenheim, New Zealand."

With completion of upgrade of the equipment such as computers, mission systems, radar systems, wiring, and antennas, the project is expected to finish halfway through this year, leaving only a software upgrade to be performed.

Ashton said: "If you go back to the configuration of the aeroplane it was quite modern compared to some P3s in the world, but the computing power that was put in the original upgrade back in the 80s/90s was about the power of a commodore 64."

The P-3 Orion is manufactured by Lockheed Martin. It is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft and is used search and rescue missions, fishery protection, anti-piracy operations, and surveillance by several navies worldwide.

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The P-3K Orions are currently used by 5 Squadron based in RNZAF Base Auckland, and are scheduled to be retired from service in 2025.

Image: A RNZAF P-3K Orion lands at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, US. Photo: courtesy of the US Navy.