Welcome back to Karl’s Korner! Read my other entries here.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to spotlight our S-3B Viking aircraft, appropriately bedecked with a large cloverleaf from Fleet Readiness Squadron 41, the “Shamrocks”.
Did you know… the Lockheed Viking was the first carrier jet designed for anti-submarine warfare? And, our particular S-3 was built in Burbank in November 1975. She became a ‘Lant Fleet bird, operating out of Naval Air Station Cecil Field, near Jacksonville, Florida. Throughout the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s, our S-3 flew with East Coast squadrons like the Topcats, Maulers, and Checkmates, and deployments aboard the USS Independence, USS Eisenhower, and USS John F. Kennedy. By 1991, all East Coast Vikings had been upgraded to the –B model, which now included Harpoon missile capability and new “Sea Control” squadron designators.
The Gulf War of 1991 found our S-3B flying combat missions from the deck of the carrier USS America in the Red Sea. Eventually, duty called her to North Island with VS-41, where she helped train air and maintenance crews on all things Viking before reporting to their deploying squadrons.
As technology progressed and other specialist planes, like the EKA-3 Skywarrior, were retired, interest developed in making the Viking a combat surveillance platform that could detect tactical targets and relay real time information to other strike assets. Accordingly, our Viking was one of two airframes selected for conversion into the S-3B SSU (Surface Surveillance Upgrade) at the Naval Air Systems Command facility as NAS Patuxent River in Maryland in August 1999.
These upgrades included removal of the anti-submarine warfare equipment to make room for a new radar offering ultra-high resolution imagery, the latest tactical and sensor data information link technology, and a powerful digital aerial computer. Deploying with the Dragonfires aboard the USS Nimitz during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, our Viking flew as a key conduit in finding specific targets between Basra and Baghdad for other aircraft and missiles to strike. By the following April, the squadron was disestablished as the entire Viking fleet was phased out. After a quick trip to Midway’s Airing team at our restoration hangar at North Island, our newly re-painted Viking was craned aboard the USS Midway Museum on December 7, 2004.
As always, thank you for reading! If you have seen our Viking or Skywarrior in the flesh, comment below and share this post with friends. Happy St. Patrick’s Day and don’t forget to wear green!