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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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.