Australian Orions complete 10-year Middle East deployment

Singapore
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Australia's Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion aircraft have returned after 10 years of continuous service in the Middle East.

"The final aircraft to deploy, along with personnel from Number 92 Wing, RAAF Base Edinburgh, returned home on 29 November following a successful long-term commitment as part of Operation Slipper," says Australia's Department of Defence.

Over the last decade, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Orions were operated in the Arabian Gulf, North Arabian Sea, Afghanistan, Iraq and off the coastline of Somalia. Missions included maritime patrol and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

During their last operational mission, RAAF Orions dispensed flares above the Australian warship Anzac as a gesture of farewell.

"The [Defence Materiel Organisation] managed several projects which oversaw the successful upgrade to the aircraft's weapons systems, sonars, infra-red technology and the introduction of a traffic alert and collision avoidance system," says the DoD. "The DMO also successfully managed the maintenance and sustainment schedule that kept the aircraft operationally capable."

RAAF Orions will be replaced by eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft by 2019 under the AIR 7000 phase 2 requirement.

Canberra has yet to place a formal order for the P-8A, but is involved in the aircraft's development. On 5 October, it signed a A$73.9 million ($77 million) agreement with the US Navy to participate in the further development of the P-8A.