20 March 2024

Check out the hidden secrets of Australia's only airborne Orion submarine hunter

Start the conversation
Lockheed Orion flying.

The former RAAF Lockheed Orion 753 takes to the skies over the HARS Museum at Shellharbour Airport. Photo: Howard Mitchell.

Aviation fans have a rare chance to see “behind the covers” of Australia’s only flying RAAF Orion aircraft at Shellharbour Airport.

Engineers from Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) have been undertaking intensive maintenance on the Lockheed Orion 753, and as a result have opened up all of its hatches and panels.

The former submarine hunter and surveillance aircraft was officially handed over to HARS in 2017, the year after it was retired from RAAF service.

The aircraft, operated by the RAAF as A9-753, is now the only retired Orion in Australia flying under civil registration.

HARS media officer Ian Badham said engineers were aiming to finish their maintenance work and take the aircraft for a flight on Saturday (23 March).

“All panels, hatches and the bomb bay have been opened as engineers conduct checks to allow it to continue as a flying tribute to the electronic monitoring and maritime surveillance effort carried out by RAAF crews with this particular four turbo-prop engine aircraft from 1978 until 2016,” he said.

“Although its ‘secret squirrel’ radio and sonar buoy equipment was removed before ownership was transferred to HARS, the Orion maintains the look, feel and even aroma of its important former defence role.”

The Orion clocked up more than 16,400 flying hours during its service duty, including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, maritime surveillance, search and survivor supply.

It had numerous deployments to the Middle East and in 2014, it scoured the Indian Ocean for more than 350 hours searching for the missing MH370 airliner.

Historic aircraft Orion in a hangar.

Engineers have opened all the hatches and panels on the Orion 753 for inspection. Photo: Howard Mitchell.

Renowned for its rugged airframe and fast speed of 405 knots, researchers in the US often flew Orion aircraft into hurricanes to gain vital data.

“It was only late last year that the RAAF retired its last two Orions after the type completed 55 years of continuous service, with their role now undertaken by Poseidon aircraft developed from the Boeing 737 jet,” Ian said.

READ ALSO Pets set to jet: Virgin Australia to allow pets to travel with owners in Australian first

HARS now boasts three generations of functional marine patrol aircraft.

Before the Orions entered service, their marine surveillance role with the RAAF was undertaken during the Cold War by the Lockheed Neptune, the first aircraft designed for long range, maritime patrol, anti-submarine warfare tasks.

And before the Neptune, Catalinas carried out the role, with HARS maintaining Australia’s only flying examples of both types.

“The HARS Orion flew during the recent Airshow Downunder airshow at Shellharbour and, once the current engineering work is completed, will be ready to fly into the future with its volunteer crew,” Ian said.

HARS Aviation Museum offers a largely undercover and hands-on experience for visitors at its Shellharbour Airport hangars.

It features almost 60 aircraft of significance to Australia’s aviation heritage including a former Qantas Boeing 747-400 and the beautiful Southern Cross Replica. Food and drinks are available at Cafe Connie (open from 9:30 am to 2 pm).

HARS Aviation Museum is open from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm every day (except Christmas Day). For more information, click here.

Original Article published by Jen White on Region Illawarra.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.