Home » Aviation » Lockheed Pitching Revamped Viking to Fill Carrier Cargo and Tanking Roles


Lockheed Pitching Revamped Viking to Fill Carrier Cargo and Tanking Roles

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.

    • Secundius

      @ Sandy.

      All you need to do is put a “Conveyor Launch System” similar to the one used in the A-5 Vigilante, Supersonic Navy Bomber back in the early ’60’s.

      • Sandy

        interesting…I worked for an O-6 at SIXTHFLT in 90 who was a backseater in RF-5’s…I think that was the designation – he talked about how fast that thing was when they did photo-recon although he was in the back. Was that Launch System like the rotary launch system for the B-1B? GOD Bless….

        • Secundius

          @ Sandy.

          Originally the Rockwell International A-5 Vigilante, as it was designated at the time. (1) Internal Bomb Bay of unusual configuration, which could carry either (1) of each of the following. Mk. 27, Mk. 28 or Mk. 43 Thermonuclear Bombs and (1) of each of the following under each wing. The smaller Mk. 83 or Mk. 84 Thermonuclear bombs or 5,000-pounds of “Dumb” bombs under each wing. The Internal Bomb Bay/Duct/Tunnel, ran the length of the plane. From where the Lower Air Intake Cowling starts too the back of the aircraft, between the two engines. The Internal weapons bay was not sealed (no bay doors installed). The Bomb was ejected out of the rear of the aircraft, between the two engines exhaust ports. By a Compressed Nitrogen-Filled Hydralic Piston/Ram. How this was done I’m not clear of. But, my thoughts are that the bomb seated in special cradle, was fired out the rear like an ejection-seat would be, cradle and bomb together. I don’t know whether or not this makes sense too you or not. because its the only way I can explain the process. My suggestion/proposal for S-3C Viking airframe would similar to the release mechanism on C-130 Hercules. When used to deliver a MOAB, but w/o the parachute. Or retain the original weapons drop bay.

          • Sandy

            cool…thanks brutha….I wonder if a Viking could even get off the deck with a MOAB….that would be awesome…be some serious bragging rights for the guys I knew who flew the stripped out Viking they called “Miss Piggy”….have a great weekend!

          • Secundius

            @ Sandy.

            Only if they get the overall weight under 10,000-pounds. They can just push it out on roller-bearings, out of the back of the plane. And they probably won’t even need a parachute, considering the Viking is almost 100-mph faster then the Hercules.

          • Curtis Conway

            MOAB is conventional. The thermonuclear equivalent comes in a much smaller package.

          • Sandy

            ah, yah…I know…we used to carry them. 😉 ….MOAB is bigger than a DAISY CUTTER…thus, my point. We were debating the different roles for the VIKING, such as a twin 30mm package they put on the CJ-27 and various options for SOF insertion, persistent ISR

          • Secundius

            @ Guest & Sandy.

            A GBU-43/B MOAB is 30-feet 1-1/2-inches long and 40-1/2-inches in diameter and weighs 22,600-pounds. Wouldn’t fit inside the plane and exceed the Viking’s lift capacity by 12,600-pounds.

            The BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, the last one was used years ago and they don’t make the anymore.

            The GBU-57A/B MOP, is 20-feet 6-inches long and 31-1/2-inches in diameter. While it would fit in the fuselage it weighs 30,000-pounds.

            JDAMS, are only REALISTIC choice. You could probably mount one under each wing and the rest in the fuselage, on a Conveyor Launch System. Similar to the one used in the North American A-5B Vigilante, 1950’s/60’s era Navy Supersonic Bomber.

          • Secundius

            @ Guest.

            With a top speed of only 450mph, it couldn’t get out of the Thermonuclear Blast Zone fast enough. It would be a One-Way Mission only delivery system.

          • Secundius

            @ Guest.

            You’ll be glade to know a new 2,000-pound “Bunker Buster or Abbreviation Buster (BB)” called the BLU-109 has developed and tested.

  • 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.

    • Aaron Schram

      I doubt this would even be possible. The GAU-8 would beat the airframe to death, the recoil is so massive on the gun that the A-10 is built specifically to handle and buffer it.
      For argument’s sake lets assume you could make it work or even go with a smaller gun. It would only be useful in a low threat environments because the airframe doesn’t have the armor and systems redundancy of the A-10 to stand up to even small arms fire. The altitudes it would operate at over land would stress the airframes far more than the ASW role using them up at a greatly increased rate. It would have to be a purpose designed role which would require developing a VA community with a dedicated mission requiring a warfare center and training syllabus but would overlap the VFA bubbas.
      The installation would have to be permanent not RO/RO so you would lose the tanker/COD role which is a pressing need. The capability you would gain could be covered by other airframe sorties and fires.

      • Secundius

        @ Aaron Schram.

        It was just a thought. I hate to see aircrafts, equipment and armament systems underutilized.

        • Aaron Schram

          Hey you called it “Thinking Outside the Cube.” Never hurts to advance an idea and let people take shots at it. Keep ’em coming, I’m with you.

        • Sandy

          agreed!

      • Secundius

        @ Aaron Schram.

        You could also mount (2) Rheinmetall GmGb 27x145mm (1.063-inch) Revolver Auto-Cannon Pods, under each wing. And use it as a tank buster, as well.

      • Curtis Conway

        How about a ball under the nose and LAU pod 2.75″ guided rockets? There are wing stores stations plumbed with the cabling. APKWS, HYDRA and others are out there with petty good range and warheads, though small warheads.

    • Buzz

      During the late 70’s/early 80’s, S-3’s were configures with gun pods. The configuration was successful, but the Navy decided that using the S-3 for attack purposes was not a good idea due to the lack of armor.

      • Secundius

        @ Buzz.

        I can’t think of any Navy aircraft that has Armor…

  • Secundius

    Being LOW, SLOW and QUIET does have its advantages. Especially when using Low/No Light Night Optics and Electronics, when going after Go-Fasts.

    • Sandy

      Quiet?? Brutha…I used to do flutter kicks and pushups on the beach on the NAS North Island approach (BUD/S) – I think we might debate the “quiet” as they didn’t call it the “Hoover” vacuum cleaner when they throttled up on final…LOL….all kidding aside, though, overall…it is pretty quiet compared to a MC-130 or other low/slow prop insertion platforms….. as for your next comment this being a flying A-10 – interesting, but I don’t think it could take the small arms fire punishment a WARTHOG can….better to have some side firing canons as well as side firing or forward firing HELLFIRES at 5000AGL – they are doing various iterations of this with the CJ-27, Marine KC-130J, and CASA-235 (? – Jordanians just bought some). Also, that bulbous nose could have upgraded radar/thermal/IR sensors added – pretty good persistent ISR package – could have other “special packages” for intel as well.

      • Curtis Conway

        Those test stands would keep you up all night at North Island.

      • Secundius

        @ Sandy.

        If you can mount an 2.95-inch (75mm/37.5-caliber T12E1/M5 cannon) on a Mitchell B-25 Mitchell. Or a Royal Ordnance QF 32-pounder 3.7-inch (94mm) AA gun on a Ply-Wood de Havilland Mosquito “Mossie” Mk. XVIII. There sould be any problems in mounting a “Intermediate” sized gun in the airframe of a S-3 Viking/Berserker…

        • Sandy

          don’t know, brutha…I’m not an engineer, but I hope you are right….problem, at the face of it, is that the Viking would need to stay at at least 5000AGL to avoid small arms – the A-10 can take that punishment, but I don’t think the Viking could as it wasn’t designed for that – it was designed for light, low, slow to be the Sheep-herder for ASW; hence, why I would say side firing. The Mosquito and B-25 were beasts meant for punishment – that ould be my concern. Not a sermon, just a thought, and I am certainly not a NAVAIR engineer,,lol….would love to see it come back as such as they need something like that from the CVN for persistant ISR with a CAS capability on call.

          • Secundius

            @ Sandy.

            Technically speaking, neither were the B-25 Mitchell or the Mosquito. But the Viking was designed to take on the “brutal” take-off’s and landing’s of a pitching carrier’s flight deck, so the airframe has to be reasonably sound…

          • Sandy

            yes, good point, but remember the pilot’s area and some of the vital areas on the A-10 are armored…I guess my overall point, as you stated below, is why we can’t still “re-use” airframes that have a great number of hours left on them for things such as this instead of sinking billions into things lke the F-35 that can’t do real persistent ISR/Ground support CAS “from the sea”. The Marines armed their KC-130 tankers to do this, and it has been very effective. The Jordanians just bought CASA 235’s (I think that’s it) with configurable external pods, and, they are looking at, or have, a pallet that has a 30mm cannon that can be loaded aft firing out the side door. DoD hierarchy is always looking towards the next “big fight” as they did in Vietnam without concentrating on the real and present dangers now. GOD Bless.

          • Secundius

            @ Sandy.

            A fairly skilled Naval Aircraft Mechanic/Technician could apply Titanium Sheeting inside the Cockpit of a S-3, without to much trouble, and in other Vital Areas as well…

  • Secundius

    You can also use it as a Covert Operations “Stick” Transporter…

  • vincedc

    This was a great airplane. I hope the Navy brings it out of early retirement.

  • Curtis Conway

    The fleet of the future will require reliability, versatility, flexibility, and capability in order to stay out in front of the threat. When we place this prospect within the Pacific Basin we add a whole new dimension to the equation, and divert fields may be far away. Other “Flies in the ointment” are specific and unique logistics requirements for things like outsized cargoes of the future. The F-35’s F135 engine in its shipping container for example. Then let’s add different operating environments that must be supported like an underway Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) that may, or may not be in the immediate vicinity of each other, or the beach, and that also needs some of that unique logistics support in the form of a peculiar outsized cargo because they fly a similar aircraft with the same engine.
    The Pacific Basin with its vast reaches and large areas and mostly no land around, or volcanic atolls that maybe a V-22 could set down on the beach, is your theater of operations. The flexibility of supporting things with flight decks large and small become much more important and add weight to this factor in the decision making greatly.

    The F-35 is the name of the game for the future in the Marine Corps earlier (2015), and the US Navy later. The F135 engine cannot be placed in either a 260kt cruise speed C-2 Greyhound, or 280kt cruise speed V-22 Osprey intact. However, the 350kt cruise speed S-3 Viking rebuild with a larger fuselage can provide the required support . . . and much more. The S-3 aircraft is reliable and has long legs. The GE TF-34 has better performance (thrust, specific fuel consumption, and logistical support) than its predecessor that powered Vikings of old. Development and construction of a new and modern S-3 Viking capable of carrying the encapsulated F135 engine is very possible and within a rather short period of time. Lockheed has already spent some time on this, and dropping the flag on this rapid prototype project would come on more quickly than a whole new airframe, but time is getting short.
    Flexibility of fleet logistics support, within the context of underway units across a disparate group of aviation capable platforms, is the problem which our solution must fix. Fixed wing is obviously inappropriate for this solution alone. Other considerations in the flexibility argument is support of deployed expeditionary units that may have a vertical landing spot, and if it does, it may support more than just helos. The KV-22 can carry an underslung F135 engine capsule as well.

    Then finally the unforgiving Pacific Basin. Fuel is the key to success if you wish to have the largest probability of survival. How many times in the past did the tanker and a troubled jet head for the beach that was far away? The United States Navy has been without a robust and capable tanker aircraft since the retirement of the KA-6D and the S-3Bs. Time to build a mini KC-46A (multi-function tanker) for the Navy.

    The new KC-3A will be a tanker and a COD. The VRC Squadrons will become composite squadrons operating KC-3A and KV-22 aircraft. The roll-on/roll-off equipment will be interchangeable except for the strap down fuel tanks themselves. Control consoles and some support equipment could be the same. This solution provides flexibility and capability to every CSG that they have not enjoyed for some time. A COMBI KC-3A could escort a jet back to the beach (or escort a flock of birds) and take cargo in half the cargo space on a single longitudinally loaded 463L pallet at the same time. The flexibility of KV-22s to ARGs is already showing possibilities. Training for COD pilots would be platform specific, but require Tanker Specific Training for the flight crew and refueling operators, if that is how it is configured. Refueling operations may be run from the flight deck. The PMA-275 office can manage the KV-22 part of the program and a new PMA-XXX must be stood up for the KC-3A.

    Results will be greater flexibility by the VRCs to be able to get the cargo to wherever it needs to go. The CSGs and ARGs will not have to rely on the ‘Hub and Spoke’ supply chain saving time and fuel (less cost with greater flexibility). The flexibility to resupply all forces anywhere will be added to the VRC tool kit and they will send a COD/Tanker DET to the underway platforms, thus expanding the Battle Force Commanders ability to accomplish his mission effectively and efficiently. Many future logistics problems will have a ready solution where in the past the enemy could count on our logistical train to act in a certain way due to equipment capabilities and limitations.

    Development of a pressurized version of the KV-22 will extend its legs and facilitate the development of and introduction of the EV-22 for the MAGTF in support of ESG Operations in the future.

    The VRC Squadron makeup will be somewhat different. Both will contain KV-22s and KC-3As, but the West Coast’s VRC-30 will be KC-3A heavy.

    This solution provides the greatest versatility, flexibility, and capability with two aircraft that have, or are currently, building very impressive reliability numbers and are both faster than the C-2 Greyhound. This provides a more efficient force in time response and fuel management for underway logistical support.

    • Secundius

      @ Curtis Conway.

      The Boeing-Bell are having a engine up-grade to a “C” variant. The new engines Rolls-Royce AE-1107C with a engine output of 10,000shp per engine. Range has also been increased, but is not known at this time. And an internal lift-capacity go from 10,000lbs to 12,000lbs, and external lift-capacity increased to 25,000lbs. Air re-fueling speed is also to be increased from current 185-kts. (~212.9-mph) to 250-kts. (~287.7-mph). For “combat” related missions, a aerial “buddy” refueling systems on a “Hornet/Rhino/-
      Growler” is currently being used…

      • Curtis Conway

        The Lockheed KC-3A Viking COD/Tanker is not just a necessity, its an inevitability.

        • Secundius

          @ Curtis Conway.

          I’m in total agreement with you. But I think the Viking airframe is a truly “Multi-Mission, Multi-Capable” platform with uses that haven’t been “tapped” into yet. It’s no Warthog, but it’s close enough. For a Low, Slow, Ugly yet Beautiful Little Naval Aircraft. They probably said the same thing about the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a “Bantamweight” Attack/Strike/Bomber…

          • Curtis Conway

            There are pictures of Vikings making bomb runs just before the US Navy parked them.

      • old guy

        A bit of the added weight for that engine is for a much beefed up cross-shafting system offsetting some of the gain and increasing the failure risk, considerably.

  • Secundius

    I think the Israeli, Concept of a “RO-RO” would work for both Viking and Osprey airframes. And aerial LCS so to speak, Palletize Everything and use a Single Airframe. To do Multiple Jobs, it would really simplify Maintenance and Cost Savings. Use it as a Tanker, COD, AEW/AESA, everything. Just condense it onto a Standard 20’10” x 5’08” x 5’06.23″ Pallet.