Final Deployment

by Steve on December 18, 2008

Over the last year or so I’ve been posting occasionally on the draw-down of the Viking Community, the ride and the people that I enjoyed during my relatively short Navy career.  The Checkmates of VS-22 are the last squadron flying the Lockheed S-3B and they will soon cease to exist, closing the final chapter on the Viking as an integral player on US flight decks.  Ironically the final deployment of the Viking did not take place on a carrier deck, it happened far from the oceans where Viking crews practiced their original trade of anti-submarine warfare.  This deployment was land-based, in harm’s way, and would have been befitting of Marine or Army aviation.  Crews were trained in anti-terrorism tactics and desert survival, qualified to fight with small arms (M-16 and M-9), and operated out of Al-Asad Air Base, Iraq.  The primary mission was surveillance and recon, mostly at night down in the weeds, a far cry from traditional employment of the Viking platform.

The squadron brought four S-3B Vikings to Al Asad, each equipped with the latest LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation Targeting Infrared for Night) navigation pod. LANTIRN is a terrain-following radar that enables pilots to maneuver and surveil at low altitudes during daylight or at night. According Lt. Jason Tarrant, the squadron flew about 80 percent of its non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) combat missions at night.

“The Viking’s LANTIRN infrared capability was invaluable for taking away the cover of darkness from enemy combatants,” said Tarrant. “The Checkmates routinely detected heat signatures of vehicles, shelters, people and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) –and relayed that information to convoys and combat teams in the affected area.”

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The squadron returned home to NAS Jacksonville, FL, on December 15th and will now prepare to shut down, closing the book on what turned out to be a highly valued, capable, and adaptable aircraft. Welcome home Checkmates and Merry Christmas!


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