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How a U.S. Spy Plane Works

        Science | Modern

The Plane and Crew
In the 1990s, the Navy had 12 Lockheed-Martin P-3Cs converted into EP-3E ARIES II aircraft. These new planes were designed to replace the aging ARIES I aircraft, which were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Modifications to the EP-3E began in 1996, and the last aircraft was delivered in 1997. EP-3Es have been used for reconnaissance in support of several military operations, including support of NATO forces in Bosnia and joint forces in Korea.

Photo courtesy

The EP-3E has four Allison T56-A14 turboprop engines, each generating 4,900 shaft horsepower to propel the plane to an average cruising speed of about 345 mph (555 kph). The four propellers, four-bladed Hamilton-Standard 54H60-77s, convert the engine's shaft horsepower into thrust. The plane is built with five fuel tanks, four wing tanks and one auxiliary tank. The auxiliary tank is a bladder-type tank located in the lower fuselage.

EP-3E Aries II
99 feet 6 inches
(30.36 meters)
34 feet 3 inches
(10.42 meters)
105 feet 11 inches
(32.28 meters)
four Allison T56-A14 turboprop engines
3,000 miles
(4828 km)
or 12 hours
Max. Speed
350 knots
(402 mph / 648 kph)

The unarmed plane is operated by a 24-person crew, which includes three pilots, one navigator, three tactical evaluators, one flight engineer, equipment operators, technicians and mechanics. The plane has 19 crew stations and a total seating capacity of 24.

For more information on the EP-3E Aries II and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

Building a C-130

It's not a spy plane, but it's a very popular one. The C-130 Hercules airlifter is a four-engine cargo aircraft used by military forces in more than 60 nations. HowStuffWorks visited Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Georgia to find out how the C-130 is built. Check out our video describing the process.