The Portuguese Air Force has successfully acquired the entire inventory of the P-3C fleet offered by the Federal Republic of Germany. This strategic acquisition includes six aircraft, Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) sets, spares, support equipment, test benches, flight simulators, and tactical procedures. The formal contract signing ceremony took place on September 25 at the Air Force General Staff facilities, with high-ranking officials in attendance, including Air Force Chief of Staff General João Cartaxo Alves and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Portugal, Julia Monar. This acquisition has been hailed as an excellent opportunity to ensure the operational readiness of the current P-3C CUP+ weapons system, currently in service with the 601 “Lobos” Squadron. The move is expected to mitigate constraints arising from the scarcity of necessary materials on the market, while also increasing the readiness rates of the existing aircraft.
The P-3C CUP+ boasts the capability to cover the expansive area of the two flight information and search and rescue regions under Portuguese jurisdiction, which are among the largest in the world. It plays a pivotal role in conducting very long-range search and rescue missions, ensuring the safety of human lives during maritime accidents and emergency situations. This aircraft stands out as the only one capable of combining speed and range with a comprehensive suite of mission and weapons systems. This unique blend of capabilities enables the execution of anti-surface and anti-submarine combat missions, significantly contributing to the security and defense of Portugal’s national territory. As of September 2023, the 601 Squadron has undertaken an impressive 288 missions, accumulating a total flight time of 1179 hours and 45 minutes. Among these missions, the squadron’s participation in NATO operations in Italy, supporting Mediterranean surveillance, and maritime patrolling in Lithuania.
The maritime patrol aircraft will provide the force with a much-needed capability to conduct maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare missions. The deal is also a sign of the strong relationship between Portugal and Germany.Here are some additional details about the deal:
- The aircraft will be purchased in a “whole package deal” concept, which means that Portugal will receive everything it needs to operate the fleet, including spare parts, support equipment, and training.
- The deal is expected to be completed in early 2024.
- The P-3C Orions will be based at the Portuguese Air Force Base in Beja.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engined, turboprop anti-submarine, search and rescue and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s. Lockheed based it on the L-188 Electra commercial airliner; it is easily distinguished from the Electra by its distinctive tail stinger or “MAD” boom, used for the magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) of submarines. The Portuguese Air Force currently operates four five P-3C CUP+ Orion (ex Royal Netherlands Navy) operated by 601 Squadron “Lobos”, based in Beja Air Base, which are reaching the end of their service life. The acquisition of the German fleet will allow the Portuguese Air Force to continue to operate this important aircraft type for many years to come. German Navy operates four P-3C CUP+ (ex-Royal Netherlands Navy, originally bought eight machines); based at NAS Nordholz, Marinefliegergeschwader 3 Graf Zeppelin.