The Dutch “Marineluchtvaartdienst” (MLD) Dutch Naval Aviation Service first expressed its interest in the Lockheed P-3 Orion after the disestablishment of her only aircraft carrier, the HrMs Karel Doorman, in 1968. In a bid to replace the S-2trackers used by the MLD on the Karel Doorman. At that point in time the political decision was made to by nine French-built Breguet Br1150Atlantic.
With the planned replacement of the SP-2H Neptune a tender was issued in1974 for thirteen new marine patrol aircraft, replacing the BR1150Atlantic at the same time. Two contender where dropped early in the process the British Nimrod and the French Breguet Altantique NG. At the end of the selection process an order was placed for thirteen Lockheed P-3CIIOrion aircraft.
Delivery to the Royal Netherlands Navy (MLD)
Before the delivery stated in the first crews went to the USA for conversion training. The first Dutch crew members started a conversion course with VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville in September 1981 on the LockheedP-3CII Orion. Lockheed delivered the first MLD-Orion to the Dutch Liaison Team with VP-30.
The first four Lockheed P-3CII Orion’s were delivered on 21 July 1982and the last one on 14 September 1984. They received serial numbers 300to 312.
The squadron to resave the Lockheed P-3CII Orion was 230 squadron replacing its aging Lockheed SP-2H Neptune’s. After That 321 squadron resaved the Lockheed P-3CII Orion as a replacement for its BR1150Atlantic.
With the procurement off the Lockheed P-3CII Orion a total update program for NAS Valkenburg was started including; new workshops, hangars, a mission support centre, and a new air traffic control tower were built, while the runways, taxi-tracks and platforms were improved to modern standards.
The Lockheed P-3CII Orion’s were the eyes and ears of the Dutch Navy between 1982 and 2005. Both 320 and 321 squadrons equipped with the Lockheed P-3CII Orion, operated its aircraft from a central pool “MARPAT”(Group Maritime Patrol Aircraft). The training squadron VSQ 2 also used aircraft from this pool when needed.
The main mission for the Dutch P-3s used to be ASW of course, controlling the Northern seas and protecting the sea lanes between Europe and North America. But the aircraft were also used for several other kinds of operations, for example as a communications- and SAR-platform for RNLAF F-16s on route to low-flying exercises in Goose Bay.
In peace time the MLD flew patrol missions over the North Sea and northern part of the Atlantic Ocean, keeping an eye on shipping traffic and hunting after smugglers and polluters’. Other tasks were flying SAR (search and rescue) and coastguard missions
The Orion’s participated almost immediately after their arrival with participation’s in international exercises. One of the first was a NATO exercise “Ocean Safari” in June 1983. In witch 320 squadron detached four Orion’s to Lajes at the Azores.
Next to these exercises they take part in several operational missions.
Dutch Orion’s took up residence at NAS Sigonella (Italy) to take over a part of the USN responsibilities for the Mediterranean area as long as USN P-3s were involved directly in the Gulf War. At the same time during the Gulf War P-3 # 306 was fitted with eight stretchers and eight passenger seats, to evacuate casualties from the area if necessary.
When the Cold War ended, the P-3s became available for new missions. Since 1992 Orion’s conducted anti-narcotics operations over the Caribbean out of Hato airfield on Curacao. Originally known as “Operation PC3″(for Command, Control and Communications) the anti-narcotics mission is now called “Operation Fair Trade” and is conducted in close co-operation with the USN/USCG Task Force 4 and the Dutch Air Force 336 Squadron, which operates the Fokker F-27MPA Maritime. Until they booth were replaced by two Fokker 60 transport planes modified for coastguard duties.
Another new kind of mission is the fishery-, pollution- and environmental patrol missions on behalf of the Dutch Coast Guard. These missions are frequently flown over the Dutch territorial part of the North Sea. Police officers join the MLD-crews on these flights. Since July 1992 Orion’s where detached to NAS Sigonella as the Dutch contribution to the multi-national “Operation Sharp Guard”. They were patrolling the Adriatic Sea to maintain the UN embargo against former Yugoslavian states. “Sharp Guard” was the first occasion in which DutchP-3s were ever operating with “live torpedoes” in their weapons bay. A similar mission was flown over the area around Haiti in support of “Operation Support Democracy”. One P-3 flew reconnaissance missions over Afghanistan, assisting allied forces in their hunt for Al Qaida terrorists.
In January 1999 the Ministry of Defence decided to withdraw three P-3s from service. They were put in open storage on the Portuguese airbase of Alverca. The other aircraft would receive a Capability Upkeep Programme (CUP) starting in 2002; this was cut short by a decision to sell the Orion in 2003.
Squadrons equipped with the Lockheed P-3CII Orion
After the war 320 squadron was temporarily disbanded on May 1, 1946. On March 22, 1949 it was re-activated again at NAS Valkenburg. In the first post war year’s 320s main task was Search and Rescue, for this several aircraft types was used.
The squadron proved very effective during the 1953 flooding of the Dutch province of Zeeland. From that year on 320 concentrated on maritime patrol tasks. For this purpose the Harpoons were replaced by long range aircraft, the Lockheed P2V-5, or SP-2E. These were better equipped for anti-submarine warfare. In 1960 the faithful Neptune was, in its turn, replaced by the Grumman S-2A Tracker.
After the disbandment of the Dutch New Guinea based 321 Squadron, theirP2V-7, or SP-2H Neptune’s, went to 320 Squadron to replace the Trackers. When the Neptune’s reached the end of their service life, a replacement was found in 1982, in the form of the Lockheed P-3CII Orion. The end of the Cold War meant that there was no longer any direct soviet submarine threat, and the political decision was made to cease all fixed wing aircraft operations. The unit was disbanded on 14 January 2005 and its Orion’s sold to Germany and Portugal.
This squadron was founded during the war as a part of the British Fleet Air Arm. The AVRO Anson was used by the Dutch personnel, usually people who had fled for the German occupation of their country. The tasks of321 squadron were coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare. Due to lack of personnel the squadron had to be temporarily disbanded on January 18, 1941.
As many airmen had fled the Japanese occupied Dutch East Indies, and had gathered in Ceylon, the squadron was re-activated at Trincomalee in March 1942. With Catalina flying boats and amphibians anti-submarine missions were flown, also during detachments in Port Elisabeth and Aden. From 1944 the Catalina’s were supplemented by Consolidated B-24HLiberators.
After VJ day 321 squadron dropped supplies for the thousands of internees in the POW camps in the Dutch East Indies. Later the squadron provided aerial reconnaissance and transport for the Government. For this task a number of Dakotas were used in addition to the Catalina’s.
After the independence of Indonesia the squadron moved to Dutch New Guinea, at Biak air base. During the hostilities in New Guinea, 321sNeptune’s were operated in anti-shipping missions. On December 28, 1962the squadron was disbanded and its SP-2Hs went to Holland to serve there as the new nucleus for 320 Squadron.
In 1969 after the procurement of nine Breguet SP-13a Atlantic’s was activated again. During its period whit the SP-13A Atlantic the squadron lost three aircraft due to engine fire and problems with the rudder. The last was also the reason for the early retirement of the SP-13A Atlantic in 1984. From there the squadron transited to the Lockheed P-3CII Orion. First in the active role and from 1993 in the training role after the disbandment of VAQ2 until the end of the Lockheed P-3CII Orion service with the MLD in 2005 at which point the squadron was disbanded.
Vliegtuigsquadron 2 was established in 1949 at NAS Valkenburg and received Fairey Firefly’s. The tasks for the squadron were Convoy protection, reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare, which they performed together with sister squadron Vliegtuigsquadron 4, alternating their deployments. At sea they operated from HNLMS Karel Doorman, the aircraft carrier of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and at land they operated from their home base NAS Valkenburg.
In 1954 the Firefly’s were replaced by Grumman TBM Avengers. The squadron was temporarily disbanded in 1961, to become active again at the end of1962, this time with the Grumman S-2 Tracker. When the Royal Netherlands Navy decided to retire the ageing carrier HNLMS Karel Doorman in 1968, the squadron was disbanded again.
For over two years the squadron was inactive, but it was reactivated again in 1970 as a training unit, to keep the readiness and training of the flight crews at the highest level. The first courses were performed for Atlantic crews and later the Neptune crews were also trained. The squadron did not have aircraft of their own and loaned these from 320Squadron and 321 Squadron. From 1981 onwards, the squadron trained flight crews for the Lockheed P-3CII Orion until its disbandment.
End of the line
The official end of an operational era of Dutch Lockheed P-3CII Orion was on 14January 2005. Eight of the Lockheed P-3CII Orion’s where modernised under the Capability Upkeep Program (CUP) and where sold to the German Marineflieger. The other five not modernised Lockheed P-3CII Orion’s went to the Portugal air force after inspection by the OGMA Company.
The sale of the Lockheed P-3CII Orion not only ended the fixed wing operation with the Dutch Naval Aviation. It also resulted in the closure of NAS Valkenburg and the disbandment of the two oldest Dutch Squadrons 320 and 321 Squadron.