Airforce News Mar 2006 


The P-3 Systems Upgrade Project (P-3 SUP) has now advanced to the next stage.NZ4204, the first aircraft to be upgraded, is now being stripped back to its bare bones.Out comes its current equipment and in goes new mission,communication and navigations systems.

Work on the upgrade started on 13 September 2005 when FLTLT Greg Fitzgerald and crew delivered NZ4204 to the L-3/IS facility in Greenville, Texas,USA.

On its arrival, the aircraft entered an extensive induction phase conducting ground and flight tests. The induction procedures covered flight handling, electrical load analysis, retained system functionality, and aircraft weight and balance tests. The flight testing proved to be challenging to the Contractor and the Crown due to a number of system unserviceabilities, including a cracked windscreen, that resulted in flight test delays.There were some relieved personnel at the completion of the prolonged tests.

L-3/IS hanger personnel have now put NZ4204 into long-term preservation. The aircraft will be subjected to regular scheduled servicing as it is modified. NZ4204 is looking particularly bare with the tactical rail flight deck and the majority of aircraft rotable equipment removed.Bays11and12 have been fully stripped of all their structure and L-3/IS personnel have removed about a quarter of the wiring looms. In mid January 2006 a Directorate of Logistics Capability team, comprising two supply personnel and a 5 Squadron avionics technician, arrived to pack up the removed equipment for return to New Zealand.    

In its next phase,the aircraft will undergo a comprehensive avionic upgrade consisting of new mission sensor systems, including RADAR, Electro-Optics and Data Management System, and a communications and navigation upgrade that includes a modernization of the cockpit.

Parallel to this activity, L-3/IS is currently developing the Systems Integration and Training Laboratory (SITL). This facility will contain a mission systems replication of the aircraft and a full motion flight decktrainer. The SITL will be used for systems integration and development, as well as crew training, and will also provide system fault analysis.The SITL will be delivered to the P-3K operating base in 2008.

Once the prototype installation is complete,NZ4204 will undergo extensive testing by L-3/IS,followed by an Acceptance Testing and Evaluation Phase. NZ4204 is currently planned to be delivered to the RNZAF, for Operational Testing and Evaluation, in mid 2008. Initial maintenance and aircrew training for the P-3 SUP will be undertaken using a ‘train the trainers’ method of instruction. Further P-3 SUP training will be carried out by the trained instructors on their arrival back in New Zealand. Sub-contractor Safe Air NZ Ltd will carry out the upgrade for the five production aircraft in Woodbourne.


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