The Argentine Minister of Defense, Jorge Taiana, and the head of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Julio Guardia, oversaw the signing of a historic agreement with the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency (NDMA). This agreement, facilitated through the National Defense Fund (FONDEF), paves the way for the acquisition of four P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft from Norway. These aircraft are destined to bolster Argentina’s capabilities in surveillance, monitoring, and Search and Rescue (SAR) missions in the South Atlantic. The acquired fleet consists of one P-3N variant, primarily designed for SAR and Mobile Logistics Support, and three P-3C reconnaissance versions, each boasting an impressive average flight potential of 17,000 flight hours, ensuring operational service for at least 15 years. It is noteworthy that the entirety of this acquisition, including the P-3 aircraft and associated systems, will be financed through the National Defense Fund (FONDEF).
One of the standout features of the P-3C Orion is its extensive operational reach, covering 1,500 nautical miles (approximately 2,780 kilometers) and sustaining flights of up to 12 hours. These attributes empower the P-3C to effectively patrol and protect the Argentine maritime coastline, continental shelf, and the nation’s Antarctic territory. Moreover, its adaptability to operate in diverse weather conditions enables swift deployment from various bases and airports, a crucial aspect for SAR missions. The Argentine Joint Maritime Command, responsible for maritime and river space surveillance and control within the national jurisdiction, will integrate the P-3C Orion aircraft into its operations. This alignment of assets aims to safeguard Argentina’s sovereign interests at sea and within its exclusive economic zone, leveraging the Offshore Patrol Vessels “Piedrabuena,” “Contralmirante Cordero,” “Storni,” and “Bouchard.”
Initially, Argentina explored the acquisition of surplus P-3Cs from the U.S. Navy. However, the refurbishment costs associated with these American aircraft exceeded the budgetary constraints of the Argentine government. Currently, the acquired P-3C Orion aircraft are located in the United States, with the U.S. government’s approval to facilitate the transfer to Argentina. To ensure the readiness of Argentine Naval Aviation pilots, training in flight simulators is underway in the United States. This training will equip them to accept and operate the first aircraft upon arrival in Argentina. The comprehensive acquisition package encompasses the maintenance system, accessories, spare parts, test benches, and components, which will be transported from Norway to the Alte Naval Air Base in Trelew, Chubut province. Argentina’s pursuit of P-3C Orion aircraft follows Norway’s decision to replace its P-3 fleet with P-8 Poseidon aircraft between 2009 and 2016. The Norwegian P-3s underwent extensive life extension and upgrade work, including the replacement of wings and stabilizers with advanced materials.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engined, turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the U.S. 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. Over the years, the P-3 has seen numerous design developments, most notably in its electronics packages. Numerous navies and air forces around the world continue to use the type primarily for maritime patrol, reconnaissance, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. A total of 757 P-3s have been built. It joined the handful of military aircraft including the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the Lockheed U-2 that the United States military has been using for more than 50 years.