Re: What could replace the P-3?

Date:         26 Apr 98 03:44:41 
From:         "S.L." <look@the.sig>
Organization: Applied Research Laboratories - The University of Texas at Austin
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Karl Swartz wrote:
>
> >First thanks to all those in rec.aviation.military who helped me make a
> >list of civil-military 'equivalents'.
>
> Sounds interesting!  How 'bout posting it to sci.aeronautics.airliners?

I'll second that motion!

> >Now, consider a hypothetical situation where the RAAF had the money to
> >replace its venerable P-3C Orion ASW planes with some new model. Say it
> >wanted to convert an exisiting but up-to-date airliner to fill the role.
> ...
> >I'm assuming such a plane would need four engines for safety during long
> >patrols at sea, not merely because the P-3 has four engines. Is this
> >right?
>
> Why make that assumption?  As long as you can get to a safe landing spot
> before the other engine fails, <snip>, if anything, more stringent than
> military, since the military has greater risk-tolerance

Except for the fact that the military assumes that sometimes conditions
are far more, shall we say 'adverse', than civil aviation assumes (ie.
someone is trying to remove the P-3 from the sky).  The P-3's mission is
pretty demanding- low level, all weather conditions, unfriendly
territory, low speed, while remaining in RF contact with sonobuoys or
methodically searching with the MAD.

> Look at AWACS, which has a similar loiter requirement, albeit not over
> wide swaths of water.  The original version was based on the four-engined
> 707, but the latest rendition, for Japan, is based on a twin, the 767.

True- the loiter requirements are similar- but at what altitudes? A P-3
loiters down low (not quite wave-top, but very very low). Could a 707 or
767 possibly match the P-3's endurance at such low altitudes? I kinda
doubt it. It may also be that a commercial jet is simply too fast.
Remember that a P-3 *drops things* into the water, and they have to hit
in such a way that they don't disintegrate on impact or submerge too
deep before bobbing back to the surface. Having a low-n-slow bird makes
it much easier on people designing the ASW gear, in many cases.

I think the fact that the US Navy hasn't opted for a commercial airliner
as a replacement ASW platform (yet) indicates that they see the value of
the small, tough, slow, 4-engine A/C. The RAF is still using the Nimrod,
are they not? There was a "P-7" concept at one point which, if memory
serves correctly, looked a lot like the new-generation C-130
engines/props grafted onto a low-wing fuselage that resembled a
stretched P-3. My understanding is that the navy IS getting worried
about how much life is left in the P-3 fleet, and is considering options
such as using C-130 derivatives. But I dont know anything definite. I've
also heard rumblings that the smaller carrier-based ASW birds (Viking)
might be considered as the sole replacement, but that seems a bit
foolhardy. No one is going to fly a Viking to the arctic, and although
the arctic is a low ASW priority right now, that could change in a
heartbeat.

My gut feeling is that a new airframe will be needed, or else there will
be no direct replacement- the mission will be modified.

--
Stephen Lacker
slacker@arlut.utexxas.edu (Remove the extra 'x' to mail me)