|NOAA Lockheed WP-3D Hurricane Hunters|
|Role||Weather reconnaissance aircraft|
|Primary user||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
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.
NOAA currently operates two WP-3Ds nicknamed Miss Piggy and Kermit, and their logos featuring the characters created by Jim Henson Productions. NOAA's other hurricane hunting aircraft, the Gulfstream IV-SP, is named Gonzo; they complement the fleet of WC-130 aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. As of 2014, the two Orions had each flown more than 10,000 hours and flown into more than 80 hurricanes.
Between 2015 and 2017, the aircraft were scheduled to receive major overhauls, costing a total of $35 million. This work was to be performed by the US Navy, Fleet Readiness Center SE in Jacksonville, Florida. The work includes new wings and engines and upgraded radars and avionics. NOAA anticipates that these changes will allow the aircraft to fly for another 15-20 years.
Data from Riders of the storms
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era