The top ten maritime patrol aircraft

11 June 2019 (Last Updated January 30th, 2020 12:06)

Maritime patrol / reconnaissance aircraft are crucial for nations with long coastlines. Modern patrol aircraft such as P-8A Poseidon with multirole capabilities are an asset to any naval force. Naval-technology.com lists the world's top ten maritime patrol aircraft based on range, endurance and patrolling capabilities.

The top ten maritime patrol aircraft
A P-3 Orion patrol aircraft from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol air drops a sealed capsule on the port side of the USS Underwood (FFG 36). Image courtesy of Frank J. Pikul, US Navy.

P-3 Orion

The P-3 Orion is a long-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) with multi-mission capabilities. Its 16-hour fly-time and high ferry range of 8,944km make it the top MPA in the world. The aircraft was developed by Lockheed Martin principally for the US Navy. The aircraft entered service in 1962 and is currently in service with 21 operators in 17 countries worldwide.

The aircraft can conduct a variety of missions such as maritime / over-land patrol, anti-submarine warfare, anti-piracy, anti-terrorism, drug interdiction and the prevention of illegal immigration. Lockheed Martin offers a P-3 Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) programme to extend the aircraft’s service life by 20 to 25 years.

The aircraft can be equipped with infrared and electro-optical (EO) sensors, as well as special imaging radar to detect objects at long ranges. Its large internal weapons bay and ten external hardpoints can house a range of weapons. Four Allison T56-A-14 engines provide the P-3 Orion with a long-range cruise speed of 350k at 25,000ft.

Boeing P-8A Poseidon

Based on Boeing’s 737-800 Next Generation, the P-8A Poseidon long-range multi-mission maritime aircraft was for the US Navy. The aircraft is capable of performing maritime patrol, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The Indian Navy also operates a P-8A version designated as P-8I.

Boeing completed the maiden flight of the P-8A in April 2009. The aircraft is equipped with Northrop Grumman infrared countermeasures and electronic support measures systems, Raytheon AN/APY-10 radar and MK 54 lightweight torpedo, GE Aviation flight-management and stores-management systems, and air-to-surface / anti-ship missiles.

The aircraft flies at a speed of 907km/h and can be deployed up to a range of 7,240km without refuelling. Its power-plant integrates two CFM56-7B engines, which each develop 27,000lb of thrust.

Kawasaki P-1

The Kawasaki P-1 is a Japanese maritime patrol aircraft manufactured by the aerospace division of Kawasaki Heavy Industries. It is intended to replace the P-3C MPA fleet in service with the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF).

The aircraft features eight external hardpoints for missiles and eight internal bomb bays. It can be armed with anti-ship missiles, air-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and bombs.

The Toshiba active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Shinko Electric advanced combat direction system, and magnetic anomaly detection and infrared/light detection systems aboard the aircraft ensure efficient detection and tracking of submarines and small vessels. The Kawasaki P-1 has a ferry range of 8,000km and a combat radius of 2,500km.

Saab Swordfish MPA

The Saab Swordfish MPA is a multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft that is capable of conducting maritime ISR, maritime counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) missions. High dash speed and long endurance make the Saab Swordfish MPA an ideal maritime patrol aircraft.

The Saab Swordfish MPA comes with an advanced sensor and C4I package comprising 360° rotating multi-mode maritime surveillance radar, electro-optical sensors with laser payload, automatic identification system (AIS), identification friend or foe (IFF), electronic warfare and self-protection system, SATCOM, and tactical data links. It also features four weapon hardpoints to carry weaponry load.

Based on the Global 6000 business jet, the Swordfish MPA has a maximum cruise speed of 450k and a long-range cruise speed of 360k. It can remain airborne for 11.5 hours and conduct patrols in an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200nm for 7.3 hours while flying at an altitude of 5,000ft.

CN-235 MPA / HC-144 Ocean Sentry

The CN-235 MPA is a multirole maritime patrol aircraft deployed in maritime surveillance and homeland security missions. It also served as the basis for the HC-144A Ocean Sentry surveillance aircraft used by the US Coast Guard.

The aircraft’s long endurance capability of up to 11 hours and 4,200km range make it one of the best MPAs in the world. Two General Electric GE CT7-9CE turboprop engines, each with a rated power of 1,750shp, ensure superior performance.

The CN-235MPA incorporates a fully integrated tactical system (FITS), which can be integrated with a variety of mission sensors for conducting complex surveillance missions. The aircraft features six hardpoints to carry anti-ship missiles or torpedoes.

ATR 42 MP Surveyor

Alenia Aermacchi developed the maritime patrol aircraft ATR 42 MP Surveyor based on the ATR 42 short-haul regional airliner. The ATR 42MP is currently operated by the Italian Customs Police (Italian Guardia di Finanza), Italian Coast Guard, Nigerian Air Force and Libyan General Security Agency.

The aircraft has a ferry range of 3,741km and can conduct non-stop patrols for up to 11 hours. It integrates the advanced tactical observation system (ATOS) mission management system. The state-of-the-art mission system, along with onboard sensors, enables the aircraft to conduct a variety of missions such as identification and tracking of vessels, maritime and coastal surveillance, search-and-rescue (SAR)and pollution detection missions.

The aircraft is powered by two PW 127E engines, each with a take-off power 2,160shp. The maximum cruise speed of the aircraft is 280k.

AN-74MP

The AN-74MP was developed by ANTONOV based on its AN-74 transport aircraft. The maritime patrol aircraft ensures security across coastal areas in all weather conditions. It can also be used for SAR, electronic and radio reconnaissance, and the detection of marine pollution.

The aircraft is equipped with integrated sight navigation and flight system, radio communication equipment and a television system. The GSh-23L 23mm Cannon, unguided missiles, aerial bombs and optional anti-ship missiles aboard the aircraft ensure interception of threats. Self-defence is provided by electronic countermeasures, self-protection system, radar warning receiver, laser warning and missile approach warning systems.

The 7m-long cargo compartment can accommodate 44 armed infantrymen and 16 stretchers, in addition to a medical attendant and a payload of up to 10,000kg. It also allows the airdrop of 22 fully laden paratroopers. The power-plant integrates two D-36-4A turbojet engines providing a maximum speed of 725km/h, range of 3,704km and endurance of eight to nine hours.

C295 MPA

The C295 MPA is a versatile maritime patrol aircraft developed by EADS CASA (now Airbus Military). The aircraft can be deployed in maritime patrol, EEZ surveillance, SAR and anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare missions. It is in service with the Chilean Navy, Portuguese Air Force and Royal Air Force of Oman.

The fully integrated tactical system (FITS) aboard the C295 MPA integrates aircraft navigation and communications systems, radar, EO/IR turret, acoustic system, magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), AIS, IFF interrogator, ESM/electronic intelligence, weapon system and a sea pollution detection system.

The under-wing stations of C295 MPA can be armed with anti-ship missiles and torpedoes for striking surface and sub-surface targets. The power-plant integrates two PW127G turboprop engines. The aircraft can patrol a range of 1,800nmi (3,333km) and stay airborne for more than eight hours, depending on the configuration.

ATR 72 MP

Based on the ATR 72-600 platform, the ATR 72 MP (Maritime Petrol) aircraft was developed by Alenia Aermacchi. The aircraft is primarily deployed in surveillance and reconnaissance, maritime patrol and SAR missions. It is in service with the Italian Air Force, Pakistan Navy and Turkish Navy.

The ATR 72 MP can operate in extreme temperatures, altitudes and environmental conditions. It is equipped with SELEX Galileo ATOS mission system, which is interfaced with onboard sensors and equipment to perform electronic surveillance, optical reconnaissance, vessel identification, and pollution detection.

The aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW 127M turboprops. Each engine driving a six-bladed, variable-pitch propeller provides a maximum cruise speed of 248k and an endurance of ten hours.

EMB 145 MP

EMB 145 MP is a new-generation multirole aircraft produced by Embraer to meet the challenging requirements of maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare. Derived from ERJ 145 platform, the aircraft can be configured for maritime patrol and AsuW and ASW missions.

The EMB 145 MP’s open architecture allows for the integration of mission systems according to the customer’s requirements. Its under-wing hardpoints can be fitted with conventional and smart weapons.

The aircraft is powered by two AE 3007 turbofan engines, each generating a maximum thrust of 7,420lb. The maximum speed is Mach 0.78 and range is 3,020km.

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