Two Pakistan navy Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft have been destroyed on the ground during a raid by Pakistani Taliban militants.

Ten to 15 militants infiltrated the PNS Mehran base near Karachi late in the evening of 22 May and occupied it. During the assault they reportedly launched rocket-propelled grenades that set the Orions ablaze.

Pakistani forces eventually regained full control of the base after 15h of fighting. They killed or arrested some of the attackers, while others reportedly committed suicide. Five naval personnel were also killed and 18 injured.

 Pakistan P-3 flames - Rex Features
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An official in the Pakistani military has confirmed that two P-3Cs were destroyed. Pakistan media reports suggest that other P-3Cs could have been damaged. One image showed a P-3C as a burnt-out hulk, with only its port wing left intact.

The loss of two P-3Cs and possible damage to others will come as a major blow as the type is the mainstay of the Pakistan naval air arm. Under a 2006 contract with the US government's Foreign Military Sales framework, Pakistan purchased seven former US Navy P-3Cs. The aircraft were fully refurbished by Lockheed with upgraded mission equipment.

"The aircraft support anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare missions and will enhance Pakistan's ability to conduct maritime surveillance in littoral and deep-water environments," Lockheed said in early 2010.

Source: Flight International