Fighter-jock hot rods may get more attention, but Lockheed Martin's S-3 Viking
Fighter-jock hot rods may get more attention, but Lockheed Martin's S-3 Viking - called the "Swiss Army Knife of Naval Aviation" - remains one of the most successful designs in carrier aircraft history. First built in the '70s, most of the 187 original Viking airframes are not only still flying, their strategic role is expanding and projected well into the 21st century.
Conceived primarily for ASW, the Viking has proven itself so versatile that its current mission is called simply "Sea Control." It does so many things so well. Surface and undersea warfare, mine warfare, electronics recon and analysis, over-the-horizon targeting, missile attack, even aerial tanking. Airwing commanders (notoriously stingy about deck space) insist upon it, in fact, make extra room for it. Carrier captains like it, too, because it can launch and recover downwind and can stay up for hours. Pampering is not required.
It should also be a hit with taxpayers. The current S-3B and ES-3A (for electronic surveillance) were built as upgrades of the original S-3A. An essentially new airplane was created for next-generation missions, without high development costs or lengthy timetables. So if "V" is for Viking and versatile, maybe the "S" is for sensible and smart.
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