|EP-3A/B Orion |
EP-3E ARIES / ARIES II
|U.S. Navy EP-3E|
|Role||Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)|
|National origin||United States|
|Primary users||United States Navy|
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
|Developed from||P-3 Orion|
A total of 12 P-3C aircraft were converted to replace older versions of the aircraft, which had been converted in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The aircraft is known by the acronym ARIES, or "Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System".
The squadrons that flew the EP-3E also flew the Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star from 1962 to 1974 and the Douglas EA-3B Skywarrior from 1960 to 1991. There are 11 EP-3Es in the Navy's inventory, the last of which was delivered in 1997.
Hainan Island incident
In April 2001 an aerial collision between a United States Navy EP-3E ARIES II, a signals reconnaissance version and a People's Liberation Army Navy J-8IIM fighter resulted in an international incident between the United States and China. The J-8IIM crashed and its pilot was killed. The EP-3 came close to becoming uncontrollable, at one point sustaining a nearly inverted roll, but was able to make an emergency landing on Hainan. The crew and plane were subsequently detained by Chinese authorities, accused of "killing the Chinese pilot".
After several days, the crew was repatriated separately to the United States while the aircraft remained in China, reported taken apart for research on American technology. Although the crew attempted to destroy as much classified material, hardware, and software on the aircraft prior to the emergency landing, there is little doubt that the EP-3 was exploited by Chinese intelligence services. An American team was later permitted to enter Hainan in order to dismantle the aircraft, which was subsequently airlifted on board a Russia's Polet Airlines Antonov An-124 Ruslan back to the United States for reassembly and repair.
In a separate incident, on the 5th of November 2018, a US EP-3 was again claimed to have been closely passed in international airspace by a Russian Su-27. 
On July 19, 2019, a U.S. EP-3 was "performing a multi-nationally recognized and approved mission in international airspace" over the Caribbean Sea, when a Venezuelan Su-30 aggressively shadowed it at an unsafe distance. 
Boeing has started working on an unscheduled replacement aircraft, the EP-X, based on their 737.
On 16 August 2009, The Navy issued an "EP-X Analysis of Alternatives" that called for "information useful for the execution of the Electronic Patrol-X (EP-X) program which will recapitalize the EP-3E aircraft to provide tactical, theater, and national level Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting (ISR&T) support to Carrier Strike Groups and to Theater, Combatant, and National Commanders."
On 23 September 2009, leaked Navy budget documents for FY2011 revealed that the EP-X program would be delayed rather than started in that year.
On 1 February 2010, the President unveiled his proposed budget for 2010. This budget called for, among other things, canceling the EP-X program.
After the cancellation of the EP-X Program, the US Navy has planned to replace the EP-3E Aries II with the MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aircraft and the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. All P-3 Orion aircraft assigned to special projects squadrons (VPU) and all EP-3E Aries II aircraft are expected to fully retire by 2025.
- EP-3A: Seven modified for electronic reconnaissance testing.
- EP-3B: Least known of all in the P-3 family. Three P-3As (BuNo 149669, BuNo 149673, and BuNo 149678) were obtained by the CIA from the US Navy under Project STSPIN in May 1963, as the replacement aircraft for CIA's own covert operation fleet of RB-69A/P2V-7Us. Converted by Aerosystems Division of LTV at Greenville, Texas, the three P-3As were simply known as "black" P-3As under Project Axial. Officially transferred from US Navy to CIA in June/July 1964. LTV Aerosystems converted the three aircraft to be both ELINT and COMINT platforms. The first of the three "black" P-3As arrived in Taiwan and were officially transferred to ROCAF's top secret "Black Bat" Squadron on June 22, 1966. Armed with 4 Sidewinder short range AAM missiles for self-defense, the three "black" P-3As flew peripheral missions along the China coast to collect SIGINT and air samples. When the project was terminated in January 1967, all three "black" P-3As were flown to NAS Alameda, California, for long term storage. Two of the three aircraft (BuNo 149669 and BuNo 149678) were converted into the only two EP-3Bs in existence by Lockheed at Burbank in September 1967, while the third aircraft (149673) was converted by Lockheed in 1969–1970 to serve as a development aircraft for various electronic programs. The two EP-3Bs, known as "Bat Rack", owing to their period of service with Taiwan's "Black Bat" Squadron, were issued to the US Navy's VQ-1 Squadron in 1969 and deployed to Da Nang, Vietnam. In the 1980s these two planes were based at the Naval Air Facility, Atsugi, Japan with the Atsugi VQ-1 detachment. Later, the two EP-3Bs were converted to EP-3E ARIES, along with 10 EP-3As. The 12 EP-3Es retired in 1990s, when replaced by 12 EP-3E ARIES II.
- EP-3: ELINT aircraft for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
- EP-3E ARIES: 10 P-3As and two EP-3Bs were converted into ELINT aircraft.
- EP-3E ARIES II: 12 P-3Cs were converted into ELINT aircraft. Last delivered in 1997.
- EP-3J: Two, modified from P-3As, for FEWSG were uses as simulated adversary EW platforms in exercises; later transferred to the former Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 33 (VAQ-33), then transferred to the former Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 11 (VQ-11).
- Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force – 5 EP-3
- United States Navy
- Crew: 22+
- Length: 105 ft 11 in (32.28 m)
- Wingspan: 99 ft 6 in (30.36 m)
- Height: 33 ft 7 in (10.27 m)
- Wing area: 1300 ft2 (120.8 m2)
- Airfoil: NACA 0014-1.10 (Root) – NACA 0012-1.10 (Tip)
- Empty weight: 77,200 lb (35,000 kg)
- Useful load: 57,800 lb (26,400 kg)
- Loaded weight: 135,000 lb (61,400 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 142,000 lb (64,400 kg)
- Powerplant: 4 × Allison T56-A-14 turboprop, 4,600 shp (3,450 kW) each
- Propellers: Four-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller, 1 per engine
- Propeller diameter: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
- Maximum speed: 780 km/h (420 knots, 485 mph)
- Cruise speed: 650 km/h (350 knots, 405 mph)
- Range: 3,000 nm (3452 mi / 5,556 km)
- Service ceiling: 30,000 feet (9,150 m)
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- List of active United States military aircraft
- List of Lockheed aircraft
- Chinese espionage in the United States
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