Maritime Patrol (CP) is one of the most important roles for a country like Canada to fill given its long-running coastline. In response, the nation fields the Lockheed CP-140 "Aurora" developed from the proven American Lockheed P-3 "Orion" used by the United States Navy (USN). Between the 18 x CP-140M and 3 x CP-140A marks, production has totaled 21 airframes in all since service introduction in 1980. The prototype went airborne for the first time on March 22nd, 1979.
The CP-140 is a multi-mission military aircraft, capable of handling a wide variety of over-water tasks including general patrolling, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Search & Rescue (SAR), Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), and waterway enforcement/protection - such is its versatility. Its capabilities are also not limited to maritime work as the aircraft can operate equally effectively over land and from land bases as needed.
The Aurora was taken into service by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to succeed an aging fleet of CP-107 "Argus" platforms in same role. The Canadair Argus, introduced in 1957, was produced in 33 examples and operated into 1982 before seeing retirement.
As in the Orion before it, the Aurora showcases a conventional design arrangement which sees straight, low-mounted mainplanes affixed to the underside of a streamlined, tubular fuselage. The tail unit incorporates a traditional single-finned configuration with low-set horizontal planes. The cockpit/flight deck is set over a short nosecone in the usual way and a retractable, wheeled undercarriage is used for ground-running.
Power is through 4 x Allison T-56-A-14-LFT turboprop engines developing 4,600 horsepower each driving four-bladed propeller units. This supplies the airframe with a maximum speed up to 462 miles-per-hour with a range out to 5,800 miles, up to a service ceiling of 35,000 feet.
For its roles, the aircraft can be outfitted with torpedoes, air-to-surface missiles, depth charges, general purpose drop bombs, and naval mines. Additionally, the aircraft is cleared to carry active and passive Sonobuoys for its submarine hunting charge. This makes the CP-140 an all-in-one solution for the RCAF in terms of deterrence and direct-attack of enemy sea-based elements.
At its core, the Aurora series is a localized offshoot of the Orion, however, and its wingtip pods are specialized to Canadian air service needs. Additionally, the internal equipment ("workspace") of the aircraft is different from its American counterpart, the CP-140 essentially a melding of the P-3 airframe with the mission equipment of the USN's Lockheed S-3 "Viking" (S-3A variant).
Onboard systems include the Texas Instruments ()TI) APS-116 Search Radar, the TI ASQ-501 MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detector), and the AYK-10 processing compute.
Dimensions of the aircraft include a running length of 116.9 feet, a wingspan of 99.7 feet, and a height of 34.4 feet. Loaded weight reaches 61,400lb. The aircraft is home to approximately fifteen crew with a total capacity for 20 personnel but can be operated with a Skeleton Crew of just eight is need be.
The last ASW forms were delivered in 1981 while Lockheed's production at its storied Burbank, California facility ended with Arcturus airframes as the company relocated efforts to Marietta, Georgia. The final CP-140A was delivered in 1991. Three airframes were supplied by Lockheed that year though without their ASW equipment (however still retaining APS-134 radar) to which the RCAF utilized them in the crew training/general patrol roles under the designation of CP-140A "Arcturus". CP-140A aircraft were all retired in 2011, leaving the modernized CP-140M as the only Auroras remaining in active service.
The CP-140 line has been progressively updated across four major "Blocks" under the "Aurora Incremental Modernization Project" of the late 1990s (producing the CP-140M designation). Work was primarily directed at upgrading onboard electronics and tactical mission equipment to keep the series viable into the 2020s. The latest incarnation is the "Block 4" series which is undergoing testing as of this writing (2020). At least fourteen of the fleet will be given all-new wings under the "Aurora Structural Life Extension Program" (ASLEP) to further extend their service lives.
Currently (2020), the CP-140 is operated by the 404 Long Range Patrol and Training Squadron, the 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron, the 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron, and the 415 Long Range Patrol Force Development Squadron.
February 2020 - Tests have begun on the new, modernized CP-140 Block 4 aircraft.
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