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Thursday, 31 March 1966

Mr HOWSON (Fawkner) (Minister for Air) . - by leave - Mr. Deputy Speaker, honorable members will recall that in November 1964, the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, announced in the House that in the course of this current three year programme, new Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft would be purchased to rearm No. 11 Squadron, stationed at Richmond. At present there are two Neptune maritime reconnaissance squadrons in the Royal Australian Air Force - No. 10

Squadron, which is equipped with Neptune SP2H aircraft embodying modern surface and underwater submarine detection equipment, and No. 1 1 Squadron, which is equipped with an older version of the Neptune aircraft, the P2E, containing submarine detection and tracking equipment which is now coming to the end of its useful operational life. It is, accordingly, necessary to re-equip No. 11 Squadron with new aircraft so that it will be effective against modern submarines. An order for 10 P3B Orion aircraft will therefore be placed with the United States authorities shortly. The P3B Orion is probably the deadliest submarine hunter killer aircraft in the world. It is manufactured by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation which also manufactured the Royal Australian Air Force's Hercules transport aircraft, and it is equipped with the world's most advanced devices for sonar analysis, navigation and direction finding. It is capable of seeking out enemy submarines oyer vast areas, pinpointing the target and then destroying it. The F111A aircraft are due to be delivered in the last half of 1968 and, in order to spread the impact of deliveries of new aircraft, the delivery date for the Orions has been brought forward to early in the same year.

A team of R.A.A.F. specialist officers and airmen will leave for the United States in the next few weeks for detailed examination of the technical and equipment aspects of the purchase. The leader of the team will leave tomorrow and the others will follow later this month. Arrangements have been made for the crews of No. 1 1 Squadron to be trained on Orion aircraft by the United States Navy at a naval establishment in the United States. Aircrew members undergoing this conversion training will fly in R.A.A.F. Orions and R.A.A.F. ground staff will maintain the aircraft during the conversion phase.

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