During its 35 years of service, the Viking proved itself so versatile that its mission was called simply “Sea Control.” Conceived primarily for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) against Soviet submarines with long range anti-shipping cruise missiles, the S-3A entered service in 1974, and received a number of upgrades over their lifetimes. Roles filled included anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare, electronic reconnaissance and analysis, over-the-horizon targeting, surface surveillance, missile attack, and aerial refueling.
The USN’s Viking fleet was phased out in 2009, and their tanker and land attack missions were taken over by F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets. Fleet-borne anti-submarine capabilities now depend on slower and shorter-range helicopters like the MH-60R, despite global submarine proliferation and the growing range and lethality of submarine launched missiles. That brings the Vikings’ era to a close… or does it?