David Oliver – Nine P-3 Orion aircraft were acquired by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) from the US Navy in 2006, and were upgraded at Airbus Defence and Space facilities at Getafe in Spain, near Madrid.
The upgrade package included the installation of Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS), a new suite of mission sensors, communications systems and cockpit avionics. In addition the engines and airframes were updated. Airbus delivered the last upgraded P-3AM in 2014.
At the end of 2018, the Brazilian company Akaer, a Strategic Defence Company (EED) was awarded a contract to rebuild the Orion’s main wings to extend the life of the P-3AM aircraft. Akaer engineering teams undertook training with Lockheed Martin, a partner in the rebuild programme. Disassembly and assembly will be carried out at the FAB Air Base in Rio de Janeiro and after removal, the first set of wings will be taken to Akaer’s facilities in São José dos Campos.
Several elements of the wing will be replaced including the top coverings, front and rear spars, and the upper panels of the central wing/fuselage structures. This process will avoid the structural fatigue of the wings, that would limit the life of the aircraft.
Akaer’s initial contract is for upgrading three FAB P-3AM Orion maritime patrol aircraft, each of which will take six months to upgrade and return to service.
The FAB P-3AM aircraft are employed in the surveillance of Brazilian territorial waters and have the ability to detect, locate, identify and, when necessary, attack surface targets and submarines. In addition the P-3AM is the only airborne asset capable of carrying out search and rescue (SAR) activities over all maritime areas under Brazil’s responsibility, as well as playing an important role in protecting the environment and identifying illegal drug trafficking and fishing.