The Ministry of Defence decided back in 2001 to provide the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircrafts with Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities, as well as to develop a Tactical Mission System integrating all the aircraft sensors, and a Mission Support Centre to give intelligence support to ASW missions. SAES was one of the Spanish companies chosen for the modernisation of the P-3 Orion aircraft fleet, for its SPAS system (Sonobuoys Acoustic Processor System) and its ARAS system (Fast Time Analyser System).
After almost 50 years in service for the Spanish Air Force, on 16th December 2022 a farewell event for the last P-3 Orion aircraft took place at Morón de la Frontera Air Base (Seville). The event was chaired by the Chief of Staff of the Spanish Air and Space Force, general Javier Salto Martínez-Avial, who mentioned that the following months will be a transition until the Spanish Government replace the retired aircraft.
The P-3 Orion aircraft was part of the 11th Wing from Spanish Air Force, one of the key assets in air patrol missions such as the ‘Atalanta Operation’ (a counter-piracy military operation at sea off the Horn of Africa) and anti-submarine warfare.
The end of the P-3 Orion operating lifetime by 2022 means the Spanish Air Force temporarily loses its capability on maritime patrol aircrafts (MPAs). During 2023 the Ministry of Defence is due to buy four C-295 MPA, and SAES will take part with its SPAS-32 system.
SAES participation in the P-3 Orion aircrafts.
In 2001 the Spanish Ministry of Defence wanted to boost the modernisation of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircrafts, operated by Group 22 (11th Wing) from Spanish Air Force.
The project included a strong participation of the Spanish industry. Companies such as AIRBUS (then called EADS CASA), Indra, Tecnobit, ITP Aero or SAES assumed responsibility for providing aircrafts with the most advanced ASW capabilities in the market. The aim was to develop a Tactical Mission System integrating all of the plane sensors, allowing full tactical and operational cooperation, which was finally called FITS (Fully Integrated Tactical System).
SAES took part in the P-3 Orion aircraft with its Sonobuoys Acoustic Processor System (SPAS) in its SPAS-16 version. This system has been able to concurrently process 16 passive and active sonobuoys and record up to 32 sonobuoys.
SPAS is a system fully integrated with the Tactical Mission System, which allows the acoustic operator detecting, locating, classifying and tracking submarines and surface ships by the passive and active acoustic data gathered by the deployed sonobuoys.
Another key objective for the modernisation of the fleet was to provide them with a Mission Support Centre to give intelligence support to ASW missions. To that end, the Ministry of Defence signed a contract with SAES to implement its Fast Time Analyser System (ARAS). It is a portable system that can be deployed whenever the Air Forces need to conduct ASW missions.
The SPAS system had its operational christening during the NATO Operation Noble Manta 2006, and the ARAS system was launched during the NATO Operation Noble Manta 2008.