P-3K2 Orion

The Airborne Surveillance and Response Force (ASRF) is provided by No. 5 Squadron RNZAF. The Squadron is equipped with a total of six P-3K2 aircraft, each having undergone various airframe and mission system upgrades.

The P-3K2 provides airborne surveillance and reconnaissance of New Zealand’s areas of economic interest, exclusive economic zone, the South Pacific, and the Southern Ocean including Antarctica in support of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

They provide a range of services to Government agencies (including Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Customs and Police, and Department of Conservation) and the community (including search and rescue missions, humanitarian relief and support in the event of natural disasters).

No. 5 Squadron provides six crews, of typically 12 personnel comprised of pilots, flight engineers, air warfare officers, air warfare specialists and air ordnance specialists to conduct its tasks.

Fleet History

The RNZAF took delivery of five P-3B Orions in 1966 (NZ4201 – NZ4205). In 1985 an ex-RAAF P-3B was purchased (NZ4206). All six aircraft were upgraded (avionics and radio systems) under project RIGEL in the early 1980’s and the re-designation P-3K was applied to these aircraft. Following this, the aircraft were re-winged under project KESTRAL extending their service life. Since going through the latest upgrade program to modernise navigation, mission and communications, the aircraft are now designated the P-3K2.


Aircraft P-3K2 Orion 
Manufacturer Lockheed (USA) 
Power plant Four Allison T56-A 14 engines, (4,600 shaft horsepower) 
Length 36m (117ft) 
Wingspan 30.4m (99ft) 
Height 10.3m (34ft) 
Basic weight 30,450kg (67,000lb) 
Gross weight 54,950kg (127,500lb) 
Max fuel 27,300kg (60,000lb) 
Cruising speed 630km/h (340kts) 
Ferry range Approx 7,100km (3,850nm) 
Typical performance Radius of action of 1,850km (1,000nm) with four hours on station. Endurance of 15 hrs with two engines shut down to conserve fuel. Note: All performance figures for still air, ISA conditions with standard fuel reserves. 
Standard crew Two pilots, two flight engineers, three air warfare officers (tactical coordinator, information manager, systems employment manager), four air warfare specialists and one air ordnance specialist. Can carry a maximum of 21 personnel including crew.