WP-3D Orion

Source: 403rd Wing Senior Airman Kristen Pittman


Caption credit to Wikipedia

The Lockheed WP-3D Orion is a highly modified P-3 Orion used by the Aircraft Operations Center division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Only two of these aircraft exist, each incorporating numerous features for the role of collecting weather information. During hurricane season, the WP-3Ds are deployed for duty as hurricane hunters. The aircraft also support research on other topics, such as Arctic ice coverage, air chemistry studies, and ocean water temperature and current analysis.

The WP-3Ds are equipped with three weather radars, C band radars in the nose and on the lower fuselage, and an X-band radar in the aircraft’s tail. They are also equipped with the ability to deploy dropsondes into storm systems, and have onboard temperature sensors, and other meteorological equipment. While the aircraft are not specially strengthened for flying into hurricanes, their decks were reinforced to withstand the additional equipment load.

It has a barber-pole sampler (named for its red-and-white stripes) that protrude from the aircraft’s front, a tail Doppler weather radar, and other unique-looking instruments hanging from the wing.

As I mentioned, the WP-3D Orion is a highly modified P-3 Orion.

If the P-3 Orion, with heavy military ties and a great history were to be added, maybe the WP-3D could also be thrown in? Vote for the P-3 as well if you’d like!

Aircraft Specifications

General characteristics

  • Crew: Up to 22 (2 pilots, flight engineer, navigator, flight director, 2–engineering/electronics specialists, radio/avionics specialist and up to 12 scientists)
  • Length: 116 ft 10 in (35.61 m)
  • Wingspan: 99 ft 8 in (30.38 m)
  • Height: 34 ft 3 in (10.44 m)
  • Wing area: 1,300.0 sq ft (120.77 m2)
  • Aspect ratio: 7.5:1
  • Empty weight: 73,000 lb (33,112 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 135,000 lb (61,235 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 Ă— Allison T56-14 turboprops, 4,500 shp (3,400 kW) each


  • Cruise speed: 250 kn (290 mph, 460 km/h)
  • Range: 3,800 nmi (4,400 mi, 7,000 km) at high altitude; 2,500 nmi (2,900 mi; 4,600 km) at low altitude
  • Endurance: 11.5 hours at high altitude; 9.5 hours at low altitude
  • Service ceiling: 27,000 ft (8,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: 3,000 ft/min (15 m/s)


Flying into the eye of hurricane Dorian
Dropwindsound animation
Tornado hunting in it’s spare time

I have seen this aircraft fly around my home airport in Ireland many times. It is very interesting to observe the operations the NOAA is doing. This is also quite an old aircraft. I hope to see this along with many old propeller flyers!

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Not the type of aircraft you want to see flying near your home in more normal circumstances. lol That’s very cool!

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I feel like if they add this plane, they would lump it in when they add the base P-3.