“Even though it may seem incongruous to some, the Navy frequently uses Asheville Regional Airport for routine pilot training,” says Mike Moss, spokesman for the US Navy’s Atlantic Air Force out of Norfolk, VA. “The airplane you have a photograph of is from a squadron out of Florida. It is a short flight to the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean from Asheville.”
P3 Orion aircraft operate with Naval and Marine Corps forces all over the world providing long-range and high-endurance command and control, airborne signals intelligence gathering, and a few extra bombs in the air for emergencies. Variants of the the Orion have been fitted with all manner of airborne weapons systems in the 50 years they have been flying and have proved to be vital to many missions in peace and war. Currently there are Navy P3 aircraft stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan and many other places in Southwest Asia. Recently the assistance of P3 aircraft was noted in the capture of several pirate vessels in the Indian Ocean.
Immediately identifiable form long distances thanks to its Magnetic Anomaly Detector, the stinger-like projection from the tail. Known as the MAD boom, it can sense metal under the water, and has to be out away from the air frame on it’s fiberglass pole. The P3 also can extend it’s flight time by shutting down engines when they are circling on station. This both reduces fuel use and exhaust which helps with visual detection of targets.