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The Age of Orion: The Lockheed P-3 Story, by David Reade, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, Pa., 1998, $49.95.

The U.S. Navy’s need for a new airborne anti-submarine platform in the late 1950s and early 1960s was a direct result of the increased capability of the Soviet Union’s submarine fleet. The P-2 Neptune, the Navy’s then-current aircraft, was becoming so heavy and crowded with additional equipment that it could barely take off.

Lockheed Aeronautical Systems would win the design competition for the new aircraft, the P-3 Orion. In the cat-and-mouse game of anti-submarine warfare, the Orion proved to be a very big cat. The Orion, which was based on Lockheed’s L-188 Electra airliner, first entered service in 1962. It became not only a bane to the Soviet Union’s submarine force but also a versatile aircraft that would see service throughout the world.

In The Age of Orion, author David Reade shows just how versatile the Lockheed P-3 has been during its service life. Reade, a consultant and a staff writer with Lockheed Martin’s ASW Log and Airborne Log magazines, knows the Orion aircraft right down to its nuts and bolts.

Reade includes most everything you might want to know about the P-3, its history and future. In six chapters, you go from the early 1960s, when the Orion was used for blockade duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis, through to the new variants being planned today, such as the Orion 2000. Reade shows a real appreciation for the Orion’s versatility. Many readers might be aware that the P-3 is the premier anti-submarine warfare aircraft in the world. But Reade points out that it has also been used to fight fires, chase hurricanes and spy for the CIA.

Given the more than 280 color photographs included in this volume, readers get an extensive look at both the interior and exterior of this venerable aircraft. Also provided in several appendices are descriptions of the major P-3 variants, diagrams and specifications of the exterior and interior, and the P-3 Orion Bureau Number List. Reade has also included mock-ups of what the next generation of Orions might look like.

Although the book might be a bit technical for the casual reader, Reade provides a close look at an aircraft that has been there and back. For anyone who loves great aircraft, The Age of Orion: The Lockheed P-3 Story is a story worth reading.

Bill Spath