Gate guard a tribute to Orions’ long service

Gate guard a tribute to Orions’ long service

In recognition of the Orion’s distinguished service in the RAAF over more than 50 years, a decommissioned aircraft now takes pride of place at the RAAF Base Edinburgh front gate.

The refurbished Orion with the tail number A09-658 was selected to be the gate guard, and it was towed into position along West Avenue at Edinburgh on November 1.

A significant operation for this Orion, which began its RAAF service in 1985, was the aerial search for the missing MH370 aircraft between March and April, 2014.

Former AP-3C Orion navigator and tactical coordinating officer, director-general Air Force History and Heritage Branch Air Commodore John Meier, said the gate guard honour highlighted the importance of preserving Air Force history for future generations.

“The location of the aircraft at the front gate at Edinburgh reinforces the dedication, sacrifice and exemplary service of the many Air Force and civilian personnel who have supported the P-3 Orions since 1968,” he said.

“The History and Heritage Branch has an ongoing commitment to preserving the history of service to the nation by the Orions, as represented by this magnificent new gate guard.”

Flight Lieutenant Rob Nieuwenhoven was second in charge of the Orion gate guard project, which began in April last year.

“The success of the project has clearly been through the commitment and talent of members supporting the refurbishment, which required repairs and restoration, while ensuring the historical heritage of the aircraft was retained,” he said.

“It was a delicate balance, but one which we have achieved.”

Since its introduction to the Air Force on January 26, 1968, the Orions’ operational history has included maritime patrol support to Operations Slipper, Resolute and Gateway.

The Orions, affectionately known as a workhorse and based at Edinburgh, have had roles in anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, maritime surveillance, Navy fleet support and rescue and supply missions.

Aircraft A09-658 was the first Orion to be built in Palmdale, California, and was accepted into the RAAF in July 1985, arriving at RAAF Base Edinburgh in August that year.

A09-658’s final flight was on October 21, 2016, at which time it was withdrawn from active service and used as a taxi-able ground trainer for No. 92 Wing and, a year later, as a static training aid for No. 292 Squadron.

The aircraft’s decommissioning began in June 2018 and it was earmarked for the gate guard duty.

The retiring Orions are being replaced by the P-8A Poseidon, which entered service in late 2016, and, into the future, the unmanned MQ-4C Triton.

Senior Australian Defence Force Officer – RAAF Base Edinburgh Air Commodore Brendan Rodgers said the AP-3C Orion gate guard was a “fitting tribute to the aircraft’s operational history and achievements”.

Managed by the Surveillance and Response Systems Program Office, the gate guard project has included contributions by Air Force’s No. 10 maintenance section, No. 3 Security Forces Squadron, Army 1st Brigade units 1st Combat Service Support Battalion and 1st Armoured Regiment, as well as consultation and support from Estate and Infrastructure Group, Air Force History and Heritage Branch and external organisations.

The final stage of the gate guard’s refurbishment will now begin in preparation for the official unveiling, which is planned to be held during next year’s centenary of Air Force.

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