Last WestPac for the Viking

by Steve on July 26, 2007


The “Topcats” of VS-31 are nearing the end of the S-3 Viking community’s final deployment to the Western Pacific on board USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

The three remaining squadrons are all based out of NAS Jacksonville so the “Topcats” had to cross-country prior to deploying.  After they return, the “Topcats” will begin the process of closing up shop in preparation for formal disestablishment in March of 2008.  The “Scouts” of VS-24 closed out their history this past March so that will leave only two Viking squadrons on the roster: the VS-22 “Checkmates” and the VS-32 “Maulers”. VS-32 will be gone in 2008 and VS-22 will follow in early 2009, the last of the Vikings.

Since entering the fleet in 1977 as the Lockheed S-3A Viking, an anti-submarine platform to replace the Grumman S-2 Tracker, several variants found their way in and out of fleet service: US-3A COD, KS-3A dedicated tanker (tested but never entered the fleet), and the ES-3A Shadow. The Shadow was a SIGINT platform and readily identified by a large fairing on top of the fuselage and all the extra antennas plastered about. The Viking is not a thing of beauty but the Shadow took ugly to a whole new level. Its service in the fleet was short-lived, entering in 1993 and phasing out in 1999. The prospect of costly upgrades to both the high-time airframes and the already outdated SIGINT package killed the program.


In 1981 Lockheed was awarded a contract for a Weapons System Improvement Program resulting in 119 upgraded S-3B aircraft, the first of which delivered in late 1987 with the balance staggered over the next six years. The B mod was a major improvement upgrading ASW and ESM sensors plus adding Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) to the mix. ISAR technology allowed operators to “image” and classify surface targets. Another welcome addition was the installation of chaff and flare dispensers giving Viking crews a fighting chance at self defense. Originally designed as a modern torpedo bomber to hunt and prosecute submarines, the upgraded Viking was given real teeth in the ASUW (anti-surface) arena in the form of the Harpoon anti-ship missile. Vikings also received a tanker package which allowed them to serve as refueling platforms, a need that they aptly filled as the KA-6D retired from the primary tanking role in carrier aviation.

Over the last decade Vikings have been used to test numerous concepts and weapon systems.

Although the US Navy S-3 obtained the S-3 strictly as an ASW aircraft, the service found such a “flying truck” to be very useful, so much so that the Viking was sometimes called the “Swiss Army Knife”.

The community as a whole evolved from a single mission step-child to an integral key in the success of deployed carrier airwings. In the ASW days of the S-3A, the CAG couldn’t wait to kick a few Vikings off the deck to go operate a detachment out of Sigonella but that attitude changed drastically once the capabilities of the S-3B were introduced and fully exploited. The multi-mission Viking brought many options to the planning table that the original design never anticipated and has flown far longer than intended. When you consider upon its retirement from the fleet in 2009 the design will be approaching 40 years old with 32 years of fleet duty, that’s a healthy return on investment.


Last Westpac…  Soon it’ll be the last deployment, last squadron, last flight.  It’s a hard thing to watch as the community you were a part of breaks apart – even if you’ve been gone for quite a while.

For a more detailed history of the Viking here’s an excellent source:


Steeljaw Scribe July 27, 2007 at 11:22

Which now leaves the Prowler as the only other airwing aircraft still around that I have flight time in besides the E-2. There was a time when that wasn’t so… (sigh)

Skippy-san August 1, 2007 at 5:28

“Its service in the fleet was short-lived, entering in 1993 and phasing out in 1999. The prospect of costly upgrades to both the high-time airframes and the already outdated SIGINT package killed the program.”

Not to mention men who should have known better (yes that’s you Carlos Johnson!) thought they could mortage the whole program to the EP-3 and RC-135 and save a bunch of money for Hornets.

Look how good that worked out!

And thus, the self licking ice cream cone was born……………….

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