The Final Boat: End of the USN’s S-3B Vikings
Conceived primarily for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) as a result of the combination of Soviet submarines with long range anti-shipping cruise missiles, the S-3A entered service in 1974 and has received a number of upgrades over the years. Indeed, it has proven itself so versatile that its current mission is called simply “Sea Control.” Roles it fills include undersea warfare, mine warfare, electronic reconnaissance and analysis, over-the-horizon targeting, missile attack, and aerial refueling. According to Naval Technology, the US Navy operated 113 Viking S-3B carrier-based aircraft as of November 2006.
Once these planes are phased out, their tanker and land attack missions will be taken over by F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets. Fleet-borne anti-submarine capabilities will depend on slower and shorter-range helicopters like the MH-60R. Despite the growing range and lethality of submarine launched missiles, the S-3 Vikings were scheduled for retirement by 2009. That has now happened, bringing an era to a close…
- Vikings and Variants
- Contracts and Key Events, FY 2006 – Present
Vikings and Variants
A total of 187 S-3s were built (8 test and 179 operational aircraft) between 1971 and 1978, and several S-3 variants were fielded. Development of a KS-3A tanker variant began in 1979; although the KS-3A was never produced, it did prove the concept of “buddy tanking” (aerial refueling using a wing-mounted pod), which most S-3s later performed. At the height of combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, S-3 crews transferred nearly 8 million pounds of fuel to Coalition aircraft. The US-3A Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft, capable of carrying 4,250 pounds of cargo, fielded 7 aircraft. The 16 ES-3A Shadows were designed for fleet electronic surveillance, and the first mission capable Shadow flew in May 1991.
The significantly improved S-3B was developed in the early 1980s to counter quieter Soviet submarines, identify targets and carry standoff weapons. An S-3B prototype flew for the first time in September 1984, and the aircraft went on to serve until the beginning of 2009. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, an S-3B from VS-38 carried out the first S-3 attack mission, disabling Saddam Hussein’s ocean-going yacht with a laser-guided AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile. In 2003, an S-3B from VS-35 became the first aircraft ever to have the Navy One call sign when it carried former President George W. Bush to the USS Abraham Lincoln [CVN-72].
Under the S-3 Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP) that ran from 2001-2007, Lockheed Martin and Navy personnel worked side-by-side to perform scheduled depot maintenance and repairs on the S-3s. The program began as a way to shrink the backlog at Naval Aviation depots, and IMP increased S-3 aircraft operational availability by 53%, while reducing maintenance tasking by 47% over the depot-level maintenance plan and lowering costs. A total of 149 aircraft were processed through the IMP inspections, and nearly all of the aircraft were redelivered to the Navy on or ahead of schedule. The program concluded in 2007, as the Viking fleet was being drawn down.
Over its career, the Viking served with 18 Navy squadrons and accumulated approximately 1.7 million flight hours. Civilian variants of its GE TF34 engines are still employed on popular regional jets, and the aircraft itself remains well suited for its array of missions. New-build S-3s that added a MIL-STD-1760 databus, modern electronics, and updated wiring and networking, would be perfectly capable of continuing those missions for the USA and interested allies.
The last active American aircraft will be based at NASA Glenn Research Center near Cleveland, OH. These 4 S-3B Vikings will performing aircraft icing research missions. It is also likely that another 4 S-3Bs will remain in Navy service to provide range surveillance at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in Point Mugu, CA.
Contracts and Key Events, FY 2006 – Present
Jan 30/09: One day after the disestablishment of its last squadron, Commander, Sea Control Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet followed suit with a ceremony above Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville. One of the speakers is Vice Adm. David Architzel, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition:
“In my career as a naval aviator, I’ve accumulated more than 5,000 flight hours. I’m proud to tell you that 4,300 of those hours were behind the stick of the S-3 Viking… Over more than 30 years, the versatility of the S-3 Viking was proven time and time again. There was never a time when the VP community and Lockheed could not reconfigure the Viking to successfully take on new missions.
Our legacy runs deep, going back to World War II when German submarine wolf packs were ravaging shipping lanes between the U.S. and Europe. The Navy responded with convoy carrier task forces that tasked Grumman Avengers to spot and target enemy submarines. Most recently, four Vikings from VS-22 were tasked to spot and target enemy IEDs [land mines], as well as performing surveillance of borders and infiltration routes in Iraq. With their adaptation of LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) pods, they were able to provide full-motion video to commanders on the ground.”
Jan 29/09: The US Atlantic fleet disbands its last S-3B squadron, VS-22.
Sept 27/07: Rockwell Collins Government Systems in Cedar Rapids, IA received $6.8 million for firm-fixed-price order #5078 under a previously awarded basic ordering agreement (N00383-06-G-002G) to purchase 170 AN/ARN-153 Receiver transmitters used on the US Navy’s S-3 Viking and EA-6B Prowler aircraft. Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, IA, and is expected to be complete November 2008. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA.
Nov 3/06: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA received an $8.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-06-D-0002). It exercises an option for engineering and logistics services in support of S-3B Viking carrier-borne aircraft. Services to be provided include in-service engineering, integrated logistics support, integrated maintenance program for aircraft depot-level scheduled maintenance, and material oversight. Work will be performed in Marietta, GA and is expected to be complete in September 2007. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.
Dec 2/05: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA received an $10.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-06-D-0002). It exercises an option for engineering and logistics services in support of S-3B Viking carrier-borne aircraft, including inspection and maintenance of up to 23 S-3Bs.
Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL and is expected to be complete in September 2006. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-06-D-0002).