Hellenic Navy’s ‘new’ Maritime Patrol / ASW aircraft
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, L3 Wescam, Collins Aerospace, BAE Systems are among the companies upgrading Hellenic P-36 Orion's
Upgrading the P-3B Orion
One of the most challenging aircraft modernization and upgrade programmes that the Greek defence industry has been awarded is now in development at the facilities of the Hellenic Airspace Industry (HAI), 80 km north of Athens.
The modernization and upgrade programme of the P-3B Orion Maritime Patrol / Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft operated by the Navy is currently in progress and involves Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, L3 Wescam, Collins Aerospace, BAE Systems, Systems & Electronics Inc., CP Technologies, ELTA/IAI, as well as the Greek companies HAI, ISI Hellas & Akmon/Elfon.
The programme includes both the structural and equipment upgrade of 4+1 (option) P-3B Orion aircraft for approximately $500m and, according to the plan, all four aircraft are expected to be delivered by December 2023. The Navy’s P-3B Orions were acquired from the US Navy in February 1994. The agreement included the delivery of four P-3As for ground training and spare parts and six P-3Bs for operational use.
The Maritime Mission Integration and Management System (M2IMS) provides tactical management for the aircraft. Image: ISI Hellas
The six P-3Bs were delivered to the Hellenic Navy between May 1996 and December 1997. In 2009, the P-3B Orion fleet was withdrawn from service and a replacement programme was initiated. Eventually, in 2014, the Hellenic Navy and the Greek MoD decided to re-activate the existing five P-3Bs and submit them to a full scale modernization programme.
Mid Life Upgrade programme
The P-3HN MLU (Mid Life Upgrade) programme started on March 2015, with the signing of the contract between the Greek MoD and US Navy. It was initiated in July 2016 with the arrival of the first two aircraft at the facilities of HAI in Tanagra, Greece. The MLU includes the re-activation of one P-3B to airworthy condition, maintaining the existing mission equipment and the complete upgrade of four P-3Bs, while the sixth P-3B will be used for spare parts.
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What does the programme include?
The programme includes an option for the upgrade of the first “interim solution” aircraft. The upgrade consists of three phases. The first phase includes Phased Depot Maintenance (PDM) with complete repair and restoration of all structural and mechanical parts, and a structural MLU that will provide 15,000 more flight hours and 20-25 years of operation.
The structural MLU consists of a life extension kit replacing the aircraft outer wings, centre wing lower section, horizontal stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer leading edges, bleed air ducts and inboard nacelle longerons with new production components. This replaces all fatigue-lifelimiting structures on the aircraft with enhanced-design components and new improved corrosionresistant materials that will greatly reduce the cost of ownership over the aircraft’s remaining service life.
The second phase
The second phase includes the installation and integration of new flight avionics and a cockpit digital suite made by Collins Aerospace (Flight 2 version, glass cockpit), while the third phase includes the installation and integration of new navigation, communication systems, new sensors and a new tactical mission system.
The Collins Aerospace Flight 2 integrated avionics upgrade system incorporates the AN/APX- 123 IFF transponder; Automatic Identification System (AIS); ASW- 33 automatic pilot; RINU-G EGI/ INS system; ELB-3000F emergency buoy detection system; six MFD-268 displays; three CDU-7000 display control units; a panel display unit; a traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS); MLR-2020 VOR/ILS and an AN/ASH-37 structural data recording set (SDRS).
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The communication upgrade package includes six new UHF/ VHF/HF radio terminals, an ICS Intercom Communication System and Tactical Data Links. The new mission equipment of the P-3HN MLU Orion includes the ELM-2022A 3D X-Band multimode maritime surveillance radar – made by IAI/ELTA and incorporates SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar), ISAR (Inverse SAR), Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) features – and the EL/L-8385 ESM/ELINT system. Both systems will be integrated with the AIS and the AN/ APX-123 IFF systems.
It also incorporates the MX-15HD Multi Sensor EO/IR Stabilized Thermal Imaging and Tracking Turret, made by L3 Wescam; the UYS-505 ASW suite; a selfprotection suite consists of an AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) and AN/ ALE-47 Airborne Countermeasures Dispenser Systems; and the Maritime Mission Integration and Management System (M2IMS) made by the Greek company ISI Hellas as the aircraft’s new tactical mission system.
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M2IMS tactical mission system integrates and manages the new sensor suite (SAR/ISAR Radar, EO/IR, ESM, EW/ELINT, ASW/ACINT), weapon interfaces, Data Links (with growth potential for Link 22), AIS and ADS-B transponders and navigation systems on the P-3HN MLU. The system operates in Windows or Linux environment and has five workstations. Due to its modular design, the M2IMS can be tailored according to the customer’s specific requirements.