Article by Rich Thistle ©

Pursuit of the Luciana by Rich Thistle Although by no means a new idea for a maritime weapon, the introduction of the submarine into actual combat in World War I had immediate and lasting effects on warfare. Suddenly, the invincibility of huge, heavily-armed surface warships was no longer a fact to be taken for granted. This vicious little shark had some sharp teeth. In the first short battle between a German submarine and the indomitable Royal Navy, two large British cruisers were sunk in the space of a few minutes. The fact that such a seemingly minor - yes even innocuous - craft as the early submarine could pose such an immediate and immense threat to the most powerful surface ships of the world was shocking, almost inconceivable.

Meeting this new threat called for an uncharacteristically swift and appropriate response. The menace of this not-so-new underwater-stealth technology weapon was met by the rapid development of a newer weapons technology, the maritime patrol aircraft. Barely in its infancy at this time, the aircraft was to provide at least a partial anecdote to the new underwater menace. Both during and after the war, it was seaplanes which first provided the platform for anti-submarine measures. At first these aircraft simply acted as the eyes of the surface fleets, searching out the marauding subs and removing, as much as possible, the condition of surprise on which they relied for their success. But soon these patrollers were carrying weapons to mount attacks on surfaced and submerged submarines.

By World War II, with the addition of improved anti-ship weapons and first-generation electronic detection devices, much of the Maritime patrol tasking was being taken over by land-based aircraft. Versions of medium and heavy bombers such as the Lockheed Hudson and the Consolidated Liberator cruised the sea lanes providing a shield for vital maritime lifelines, searching for their elusive target. Moreover, seaplanes such as the Consolidated Catalina and the Short Sunderland were still giving invaluable patrol service.

Because of the nature of the task, the primary requirement of the purpose-built maritime patrol aircraft is exceptional endurance and, coupled with advances in electronics, avionics and weapons, post-war patrol aircraft became ever more efficient hunters. Lockheed, in the tradition of its Hudson, Ventura and Harpoon had actually issued the first work order for its extreme long-range P2V Neptune on December 6, 1941, the day that will live in infamy. However, it was not until April of 1944 that Lockheed got the go-ahead to build the prototype. And what an aircraft they built! In September of 1946 the US Navy demonstrated the huge capabilities of the Neptune by flying the third production P2V-1, nick-named "The Turtle", non-stop from Perth, Australia to Columbus, Ohio, a distance of 11,236 miles in 55 hours and 17 minutes, an official distance world record which stood for 16 years until finally surpassed by a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress in 1962.

Canadian Maritime Air Command flew 25 of this exceptional patrol aircraft from 1955 to 1968. In fact, as the owners of the world's longest coastline, Canadians have always been somewhat preoccupied with maritime patrol, and for good reason. In 1957, to replace its aging fleet of Avro Lancaster Mk 10's, Canada accepted the first of 33 Canadair CP-107 Argus long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, essentially a revised Bristol Britannia airliner with four fuel-efficient Wright Cyclone turbo-compound piston engines. The redesigned fuselage of the Argus, incorporating two weapons bays, was not pressurized due to the types role as a low altitude patroller. Canadair delivered 12 of the Mk I Argus with American APS-20 search radar, employing an antenna in a chin radome. The remaining 21, the last of which was taken on service in 1960, were Mk II's with British ASV Mk 21 radar housed in a smaller radome. With their fleet of Neptunes and Arguses, Canada's maritime patrol needs were well served during this, the heyday of Maritime Air Command.

As the Neptune neared the end of its service career in the US Navy, Lockheed was well into the design stages of the company's turboprop L-188 Electra airliner. Bucking the trend toward jet propulsion, Lockheed hoped that its new airliner's fuel-efficient design would make it competitive. Unfortunately, design problems in the aircraft's engine mountings, although quickly solved by Lockheed, and competition with the new jets of Boeing and Douglas, led to an early end to the L-188's production run.

But, in 1957, even before the Electra had flown for the first time, the US Navy began searching in earnest for a replacement for the aging Neptune. And they wanted one fast. Lockheed suggested a modified version of the Model 188 which at this stage had yet to make its first flight. Lockheed's reputation for long-range patrol aircraft was well established. The Navy didn't hesitate. The new aircraft, designated P-3A Orion, was accepted into squadron service in August of 1962. Through its long production life the Orion has undergone extensive development and is projected to serve into the twenty-first century.

Canada's advanced version of the P-3 Orion is similar in outward appearance to the P-3C but is heavily modified to meet Canadian requirements. Consequently, it has been re designated CP-140 and renamed Aurora. Modifications to the Canadian version include specialized avionics, alterations to the cabin interior to allow grouping of the tactical crew, and configuration for a larger variety of roles beyond anti- submarine warfare. These include maritime (fishery, shipping and anti-drug tasking), arctic surveillance, ice reconnaissance, aerial survey, mapping, resource location, pollution control and search and rescue. All considered, the CP-140 is a highly capable, flexible platform.

On November 14, 1992, an Aurora out of CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia, on a routine sortie, spotted the fishing boat Luciana at sea anchor about 100 miles off Cape Race. Flying no flag and showing no fishing gear, the Luciana refused to respond to radio calls. No reason could be established for its presence. The Luciana met all the profile characteristics of a drug mother ship vessel.

Eight days of constant surveillance by Canadian Forces Auroras, a high-speed run for international waters, a confrontation with the US Coast Guard Cutter Reliance, a low pass by the Aurora over the bow of the speeding boat to drop a line of smoke markers, the sudden, unexplained sinking of the Luciana and the subsequent rescue of its nine-man crew by the Reliance were all ingredients in this high-seas drama. Although not necessarily a typical Aurora mission, this eight-day episode is proof that there is much more to modern maritime patrol than could have been predicted a few years ago before the end of the cold war. It reinforces the need in Canada today for a competent, flexible, multi-task patrol aircraft. The Aurora fits the bill very well.

A few months after this event hit the media, I got a call which suddenly brought it all back. It was the late Doug Stuebing, legendary editor of Air force Magazine. Their summer issue was to feature the Aurora as well as the story of the Luciana. They needed a cover. I was their man. My painting PURSUIT OF THE LUCIANA was the result.

Now, as I may have told you before, my paintings are my babies. I have a hard time parting with them. But after a while they seem to grow up and I eventually enjoy seeing them go to a good home. All along, I think I knew this particular painting should go to a good home where it could be appreciated adored and adopted by those who maintain and fly the Aurora.

I decided PURSUIT OF THE LUCIANA should live at CFB Greenwood. So, with the help of my friend Len Wilson, former wartime 442 Spitfire and Mustang pilot who flew 405 Squadron Arguses out of Greenwood from 1958-1961, and then in 415 Squadron out of Summerside for four years (total of 4025 hours on Arguses), I arranged for the adoption. On November 20, 1996, three years after the event depicted, the painting was proudly hung in the 14 Wing Crosswinds Mess by Len himself on a visit to his old East Coast stomping grounds.