world of aviation logo

Budget reveals RAAF Orion retirement

written by WOFA | May 15, 2013
A file image of a RAAF AP-3C.

The Australian Defence budget for 2013-14 released on Tuesday night reveals that a single RAAF P-3C Orion has been retired, with the operational fleet now at 18 aircraft.

“One AP-3C has been retired”, a footnote to the ‘Air Force Deliverables (Flying Hours)’ table notes.

Australian Aviation is seeking further details on the aircraft’s retirement.


  • Chris


    Is that the ARDU bird?



    I wonder if this is paving the pay for the acquisition of the P-8A Poseidon platform?

  • John N


    Probably not suprising that the fleet will start to wind down ahead of their replacement by the P8A’s.

    Of the 20 P3C’s purchased, the initial batch was delivered between 1978-79 and the final 10 during 1985-86, that makes the oldest airframes 35 years old and the youngest 27 years, makes the Classic Hornet fleet look like spring chickens!

    And boy do they clock up airframe hours with the vast expanses of ocean’s and sea’s that surround Australia and beyond.

    Added to that is their almost 10 year deployment to the MEAO, some stats I saw showed that the AP3C’s flew 2,410 missions and 22,535 flying hours during that time in the MEAO.

    It’s probably going get to the point that major servicing and/or airframe upgrades won’t be cost effective if there is an acceleration of the P8A purchase.

    The new DCP is due to be released by mid year, should give an idea if a replacement decision is sooner rather than later.


    John N

  • Matt


    Could be a case of fatigue and high hours on the frame, plus the realisation by a politician somewhere that the RAAF had sufficient aircraft in the local fleet to meet demand performing normal duties, while having a couple of aircraft in the middle east.

    With the wind down of operations in the middle east it may have been realised that those aircraft may not actually be required.

    Taking only one out of service would certainly provide a budget boost when considering the costs associated in maintaining and operating that one aircraft. The second can relieve flying hours for the other 17.

    It may also be a realisation that apon withdrawal from the middle east, the 4 Herrons in the RAAF fleet can perform a percentage of operations surveilling the Australian coast; a task the P3C’s would have done previously at a much greater cost. From what I understand, this is a capability that has been used by the RAAF successfully overseas but hasn’t been fully developed ‘at home’ yet. With an endurance of 24hrs they could certainly assist in coastwatch operations up north.

  • John N


    Just saw this media release on the Defence website:


    A Letter of Request is being sent to the US on cost and availability for the MQ-4C Triton.

    Looks like we might start to see some action on both phases of AIR 7000, manned and unmanned.

    No doubt our friends here at AA will have something up soon about this.



  • Andrew McLaughlin


    The Herons aren’t configured with the appropriate sensors for maritime/littoral surveillance, plus we don’t actually ‘own’ them. Once we’re out of Aghanistan, it’s likely the lease with MDA will be wound up.

    The Orion that was retired may be the one that was never upgraded under the ‘Sea Sentinel’ program, and had been assigned to ‘other’ duties.

    The Triton LOR has been coming for several months now…just the politicians waiting for the right moment to announce it.

  • Andrew McLaughlin



  • Matt


    My mistake, Greater Middle East, or Central Asia. Take your pick.

    As for the Herrons not having appropriate sensors, it has similar to the Mariner Demonstrator UAV used in the North West Shelf trials a few years back and which was found to be suitable for border patrols in this region.

    The lease may indeed be wound up but it hasn’t yet and it has been extended before. There are already people and equipment trained and experienced to operate this UAV. It could be an opportunity to transition to the Triton – which is due to enter service when?

  • Darren


    We have worked the Orions harder than planned with the MEAO deployment, and they have served us well. I think they might be getting tired.

    The Heron and Triton bring different sensors to the ISR game. I thnk we need both. The ability to recce an area persistantly or ‘hover’ over troop patrols is almost essential now. I’d like to see a vertical (aka fire scout) for the Navy for employment from the LHD’s; AWD’s; and ANZAC’s for spotting of firesupport and gathering intel before troops land. That there is little space on the AWD’s for this was a design mistake.

Comments are closed.


Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year