13 Juli 2015
US Navy P-3C Orion (photo : Naval Technology)
Take a peek inside one of the US Navy's spy plane —the P3 Orion aircraft. The P3 Orions were used during the Cuban missile crisis and the Cold War.
But now, P3 Orions patrol the South China Sea to safeguard the United States' economic interest.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
We’re inside one of the US Navy’s P3 Orion aircraft. It’s a rare opportunity to see inside this long-range maritime patrol aircraft that has been in the wish list of the Philippine Navy.
Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: We’ll take you for a quick tour through the P3 Orion
This so-called “spy plane” is invaluable in maritime patrol.
The US military used the P3 Orions during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War. It provided ground commanders instantaneous information on the location and movement of hostile troops.
The P3 Orion remains a reliable asset to this day. The Japanese Navy also acquired the aircraft.
Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: We do regular routine missions in the South China Sea
This particular P3 Orion patrols the South China Sea to protect US economic interest.
How? It makes sure one of the world’s busiest trade routes are open and safe for carriers moving goods across the world.
SOT Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: We have maritime domain awareness. Making sure we know who is where and what everyone is doing primarily to promote safety to avoid collision at sea. It can get to be a tight and very busy space.
The US Navy says it's neutral in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.
But one of its planes – was spotted flying over a Philippine ship facing a Chinese blockade in 2013.
The Philippines has begun talks to acquire P3 Orions from the US Navy as the superpower moves to upgrade its fleet to the more advanced P8 Poseidon.
It will be a huge step-up for the ill-equipped Philippine navy.
This plane’s most important mission is to detect submarines, a growing concern in the increasingly militarized region.
Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: Submarine tracking is very difficult, very challenging mission. You have to use a lot of different sensor to listen to different signals to tell exactly where the sub is and where it is going. That is our primary mission.
Analysts believe Chinese submarines are all over the South China Sea undetected and unchecked.
Although it will take time for the Philippines to acquire a P3 Orion, training of the Filipinos by the US navy has already begun.