It was one of the first three P-3A DELTIC Orion of the Spanish Air Force in 1973

The rest of Cisne 31, a Spanish airplane that tracked Soviet submarines

On December 16, 2022, the farewell ceremony for the last remaining Lockheed P-3 Orion of the Spanish Air Force took place.

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That last Orion was the P.3M-08 (22-31), which he had made his last flight in April of that year , after 35 years of service in the Air Force and 24,000 flight hours, 11,000 of them in Spain. The Morón Air Base held a great ceremony to say goodbye to this system of weapons. This completed almost half a century of the history of the P-3 Orion in Spain, an aircraft that has covered a capacity, maritime patrol, that has now been lost in the Air Force, to the waiting for the 6 C295W MPA announced in June 2023, a more modern aircraft but with a speed and autonomy much lower than those of the P-3.

The "Cisne 31" on its last flight on November 14, 2017, between Morón and Cuatro Vientos. We see on the platform of the Morón Air Base one of its predecessors, the Grumman HU-16B/ASW Albatross AN.1B-13 / 221-13 (Photo: OFICOM Ala 11 / Ejército del Aire).

The history of the P-3 Orion in Spain began on July 25, 1973, when the first three aircraft of this type arrived to replace the old Grumman HU-16 Albatross operated by the 221 Squadron of the now defunct La Parra Air Base, Jerez. The first three P-3s were of the P-3A DELTIC Orion type and came from the US Navy. They were the P.3-1 (221-20, cn 185-5123), the P. 3-2 (221-21, cn 185-5119) and P.3-3 (221-22, cn 185-5115). Of these first three, the P.3-2 was lost in an accident on July 8, 1977, in which its six crew members died.

The "Cisne 31" on its last active flight with the Air Force on November 14, 2017 (Photo: OFICOM Ala 11 / Ejército del Aire).

In 1978 four more P-3A Orions were leased to the US Navy (the P.3-4, the P.3-5, the P.3-6 and the P.3-7). The first three were returned to the United States between 1991 and 1992, while the P.3-7 is kept at the Cuatro Vientos Air Base, without engines. To replace those four rented P-3As, in 1988 Spain purchased five P-3Bs from the Norwegian Air Force (P.3-08, P.3-09, P.3-10, P.3-11 and P.3-12). Three of them would be modernized to the P-3M version (the P.3-08, the P.3-09 and the P.3-12, which were re-registered as P.3M-08, P.3M-09 and P.3M-12).

The traditional water arch of the Spanish Air Force firefighters to the "Cisne 31" on its last flight (Photo: OFICOM Ala 11 / Ejército del Aire).

The P.3-1, later reregistered as P.3A-01 and with radio callsign "Cisne 31" was not the oldest of the first three Spanish P-3s (as their numbers indicate of construction, the P.3-2 and the P.3-3 were built earlier), but it was popularly known as "Abuelo" (Grandpa) by the members of Group 22 of the 11th Wing of the Base Morón Air Force, where the Orions were located when they were transferred from Wing 22 in 1992 after the closure of the aforementioned La Parra base.

The farewell of Group 22 to "Cisne 31" after 44 years of service to Spain (Photo: OFICOM Ala 11 / Ejército del Aire).

"Grandpa" flew with the US Navy's VP-8 Tigers squadron from 1965 to 1973. As noted by Ejército del Aire, since his arrival in Spain he dedicated himself to different missions. During the Cold War and along with the other Spanish P-3s, the "Cisne 31" was dedicated to tracking Soviet submarines sailing near Spanish waters. Later, she went on to track human traffickers and boats carrying illegal immigrants. In Operation Atalanta, "Cisne 31" also fought against piracy in the Horn of Africa.

The crew of the "Cisne 31" on its last flight (Photo: OFICOM Ala 11 / Ejército del Aire).

The "Cisne 31" made its last flight on November 14, 2017, between the Morón and Cuatro Vientos air bases. It is currently preserved in the latter base, awaiting its incorporation into the Air Museum. This Tuesday Fly By Wire Aviation has published a video showing the current status of this airplane, which in 52 years of service has made a total of 19,940 flight hours:

You can see below some details of this plane that can be seen in the video. In this first photo, below the Spanish cockade, we see a black hole: it is the out flow air outlet, to regulate the pressurization in the fuselage (thanks to Iñaki for the note).

The MAD CN-191/ASQ-8 spar at the stern of the "Cisne 31". This magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) detected the magnetic anomalies generated by submarines in the Earth's magnetic field. Its position in the fuselage sought to avoid as much as possible the interference caused by the fuselage of the plane itself.

In the following image you can see the weapons bay located behind the front landing gear. The P-3A could carry torpedoes, air-to-surface rockets, mines and bombs both in this bay and in several weapons racks located under the wings.

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