L-3: Continuing P-3 Refurbishment Work

L-3 Communications is playing down the impact on its P-3 Orion upgrade business following the decision of the U.S. Navy to cancel a contract to supply new outer wings. The decision clears the field for Lockheed Martin to supply new wings to extend the P-3’s life.

Lockheed has orders in hand from Canada, Norway, Taiwan and the U.S. for 54 shipsets of new outer wings, which provide another 15,000 hr. of airframe life. U.S. customers include Customs and Border Patrol and the Navy for special-mission P-3s.

The Navy contract to establish a second source of new outer wings was “terminated for convenience, and not due to performance,” says Ken McAlpine, L-3 Integrated Systems vice president for program execution.

Manufacture of the outer wings, the first of which was five months from delivery, was “just a small part of what we are doing on the P-3,” McAlpine says. “We are actively involved in P-3 sustainment for the Navy and other operators.”

L-3 continues to refurbish wings for Navy P-3s, replacing panels and spares to provide 7-10 years of extra service life. With the Orion to be replaced by the P-8 Poseidon, McAlpine believes budget pressures have forced the Navy to cut back on upgrades.

He says that the company “is open to offering new outer wings to other customers, but we believe refurbishment is where the market is going. It’s less expensive.”

Lockheed believes that, of the more than 400 P-3s flying with 21 operators, around 250 aircraft will still be flying in 20 years and are candidates for an upgrade that includes new outer wings, center-wing lower surface, horizontal stabilizers and inboard nacelles. Not all the Navy’s P-3s will be retired as the P-8 enters service, says Ray Burick, Lockheed vice president for P-3/S-3 programs. “Special-mission aircraft including the EP-3E will stay in service longer.”

McAlpine said that keeping these aircraft in service also will mean continuing work for L-3 as the company’s Integrated Systems division “is the only company doing heavy special-mission mods on the P-3.”





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