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Lockheed Pitching Revamped Viking to Fill Carrier Cargo and Tanking Roles

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An artist's concept of Lockheed Martin's C-3 concept to replace the Navy's Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft. Lockheed Martin Photo

An artist’s concept of Lockheed Martin’s C-3 concept to replace the Navy’s Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft. Lockheed Martin Photo

Lockheed Martin is entering the fray to replace the U.S. Navy’s ageing fleet of Northrop Grumman C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft.

The company is proposing to refurbish and modify retired Lockheed S-3 Viking anti-submarine warfare aircraft — currently in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona — to fill the nascent Navy requirement. The rebuilt aircraft would be designated the C-3.

“There is actually 91 [S-3 airframes in storage], but 87 are useable,” Jeffery Cramer, Lockheed’s COD program manager told USNI News on Tuesday.
“There’s about 9000 flight hours remaining on each of those airframes on average.”

In fact, that’s just until the first wing inspection, Cramer said. There are actually more flight hours available on those retired S-3s, which were originally built to last for 18,750 hours. Cramer noted, the COD mission is far more benign than the challenging anti-submarine role.

To refurbish the S-3, Lockheed would completely disassemble the Viking airframe, Cramer said. While the company intends to keep the wings, empennage, engines and flight controls, the fuselage would be discarded. In its place, the S-3 would receive a larger fuselage purposely built for the COD mission. The new fuselage is 22 inches wider and six feet longer and the aircraft would stand about three feet taller.

Cramer acknowledged that the C-3 would have to effectively be flight tested as a new aircraft.

“This is really a new design airplane, however you don’t have to get the sticker shock because we can capitalize on that previous investment the Navy has made,” Cramer said.

An artist's concept of Lockheed Martin's C-3 concept to replace the Navy's Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft loading a F-135 engine. Lockheed Martin Photo

An artist’s concept of Lockheed Martin’s C-3 concept to replace the Navy’s Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft loading a F-135 engine. Lockheed Martin Photo

The advantage for the Navy is the C-3 would be able to carry the Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s Pratt & Whitney F135 engine without breaking it down into modules, Cramer said.

It would also retain the S-3’s ability to act as an aerial refueling tanker—even if individual types like the Boeing F/A-18 would have to have recertified to take-on fuel from the C-3. The Navy’s Hornet fleet burns off about five F/A-18 lives per year on the tanking mission, Cramer said.

The C-3 would be able to carry 10,000 pounds of cargo or 28 passengers and features an advanced cargo handling system and loading ramp lifted directly off the company’s C-130 aircraft albeit with some modifications.
Meanwhile, Northrop continues to offer an upgraded C-2 based on technology from the company’s E-2D. The aircraft would receive new wing components, new engines and the cockpit from its Advanced Hawkeye cousin—and Northrop claims that the aircraft could benefit from the economies of scale as a result of the E-2D multi-year procurement.

Like the C-3, the C-2 carries 10,000lbs or 26 passengers. The company is working on a reconfigurable cabin, said Steve Squires, director of Northrop’s C-2 program. Squires would not say if the C-2 could be configured as a tanker.

Bell-Boeing is also offering a variant of the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor for the COD mission. Last year, the company funded an aerial refueling demonstration using a roll-on/roll-off kit where a F/A-18 moved into contact position behind a V-22 tanker.

In February, Vice Adm. David Buss, commander Naval Air Forces, said the Navy was about a year away from making a decision on the COD replacement and was then in the midst of an analysis of alternatives for the follow on to the COD.

  • Brett Allen

    A few months ago “Combat Aircraft” magazine reported that South Korea is buying refurbished S-3s to bolster their ASW capability. If there is already going to be a program refurbishing existing Vikings this may be the way to go. Maybe it would save some money that could be used to fund more Growlers.

  • AlohaMikeB

    vikings were already used in the COD role. I flew out of Diego Garcia to meet my first ship on an Viking configured as a COD.

    • Javier A. Medina

      US3A Miss Piggy……

    • yerbullshit

      I did too! Were you on the Saratoga in ’85?

  • http://nickysworld.wordpress.com/ Nicky

    I think they should revive the S-3 for MPA/COD and tanker roles.

  • 2IDSGT

    It probably would have been a good 80% solution for the EW mission as well… USN should have been working on this 10-years ago instead of the growler.

    • MTFlyboy

      The S-3 would make a poor EW platform because it can’t match the speed/altitude envelope of the aircraft it would need to protect in a strike package. This is also one of the main reasons the A-6 and EA-6s went away, because you significantly impact the performance of your primary strike aircraft (Hornets) if you are trying to go slow/low enough to maintain package integrity.

      • muzzleloader

        In addition to being slow, the 50 year old J-52 engines were becoming too costly and difficult to maintain, especially at the depot level.

  • vincedc

    This is a great idea. Never saw why the Vikings were retired in the first place.

  • Sandy

    if they also intend to widen the fuselage, this could do the job that they were preparing the C-27 for – a ground attack gunship with side firing 30mm cannons and Hellfires or Griffins….the nose could also be fitted with sensors for firing/ISR. the Corps is already fitting out it’s new tankers, KC-130J’s, for ground attack. something to ponder, especially with it’s capability to loiter over a battlefield at a slower speed.

  • Matthew Vidakovich

    i’ll believe a COD replacement when they start a C-school for a new platform. i’ve been in the community 5 years and even our CO’s give the airman salute about this one.

  • Secundius

    @ Just Thinking Outside the Cube.

    The Viking is suppose to be extremely maneuverable aircraft at low altitudes. Has the US. Navy considered mounting a GAU-8 7x30x173mm (1.18-inch) Avenger Auto-Cannon, on the co-pilot side, down the length of the airframe (as like T13E1/M5 75mm/40-caliber [2.95-inch] gun on the B-25M Mitchell). And using it as a Navalized-version of the A-10 Warthog. I think the airframe could be used in a Land Anti-Tank Attack/Ground Support Configuration.