The Navy seems to have a clear need for an organic tanker, a long range fixed wing ASW aircraft, and a long range ECM/ESM aircraft. Unfortunately, the R&D costs to develop a new multi-role support aircraft would be prohibitive in today’s budget climate. If only there were an already fully developed and flight proven aircraft just sitting waiting to be put into production. But, alas, we don’t have … Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t the S-3 Viking do all that stuff? Couldn’t we just put it back into production? Well, yeah, we could but it’s out of date. We need a modern aircraft. Yeah, I guess that won’t work because an old design like that just won’t … well, it wouldn’t be able to, um … Actually, what’s wrong with the old design? None of those roles call for stealth. None of those roles call for supercruise, Mach+ speed. None of those roles call for 360 degree sensor fused, integrated, networked, anti-gravity, vertical takeoff, invisibility, and whatever other features the Navy would try to wedge into a new design. Those roles just call for a flying truck. This is exactly what CNO Greenert has been preaching.
For those of you who have forgotten, the S-3 Viking functioned as a tanker, ASW, and ESM (remember the ES-3A Shadow?). Additional roles are also possible. A commenter once suggested the need for a long range UAV controller aircraft and the
published a thesis in 1994 that examined the use of an S-3 Viking as a carrier based gunship. Naval Postgraduate School
Not only could we quickly put the Viking back into production but my understanding is that the S-3 fleet has been preserved and could be restored to service with relatively little effort. In fact,
S. Korea is supposedly looking into buying several Vikings for ASW work. Restored Vikings, if they won’t entirely meet the needed numbers, could be used almost immediately while a Viking production line is being reconstituted.
Check the Viking’s range and speed. They’re more than adequate for the roles.
Range: 2765 nm
Speed: max 430 kts, cruise 350 kts
Heck, the tanking role, alone, pretty much justifies this. Right now, we’re using combat aircraft, Hornets, to act as tankers. Every Hornet that gets used as a tanker is one less combat aircraft from an already shrunken pool of combat aircraft. It’s not like there’s no room on the carrier. The airwings have shrunk to the point that they barely occupy half the capacity of the carrier.
This is exactly the type of procurement that the Navy refuses to consider. Here’s an aircraft that meets a variety of needs, is a proven design with all the bugs worked out, needs little engineering work, and would cost a fraction of a new design but the Navy won’t consider it because it isn’t a shiny, new toy with all the latest and greatest bells and whistles. The fact that it can perform all the required missions means nothing to the Navy. They only want leap-ahead technology.
C’mon, Greenert. Stop preaching and start practicing.