Lockheed S-3B Viking
From Anti-Submarine Warfare to Primary Carrier Service
On loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum
Located outdoors along the pathway between centers
In the mid-1970s, Lockheed manufactured 187 S-3A Vikings to serve as carrier-based, antisubmarine warfare aircraft. Pilots affectionately named the plane “the Hoover” because its engine mimicked a vacuum sound. Equipped with modern magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) gear, radar, and sonar, the first Vikings took to the sky as part of fleet service in 1974. Many, including the Air Zoo’s Viking, served as part of the U.S. Navy’s antisubmarine squadrons while others administered aerial refueling and carrier onboard deliveries.
By 1987, technicians began refitting 132 S-3As (the Air Zoo’s Viking included!) with modifications to weaponry and equipment and called this modernized model the S-3B. Additions included Sea Control squadron designators, Maverick missiles, the AGM-84 Standoff Land Attack Missile Extended Range (SLAM-ER) missile, as well as Harpoon and Maverick missiles. The upgraded ordnance permitted the Navy to pivot the Viking’s original anti-submarine role to surveillance and targeting. Over time, based on retirement of its predecessors, its ability to detect and collect data on tactical targets, and the addition of a mighty digital aerial computer, the S-3B model emerged as the leading overhead/mission tanker for aircraft carriers before the Navy began a six-year period of phased removal and retirement in 2003.
The Air Zoo’s Viking
The Air Zoo’s Viking S-3A, BuNo 160123, began its journey in the early 1980s. It first served with the U.S. Navy’s Antisubmarine Squadron 29 (VS-29) Dragonflies at Naval Air Station North Island in California where it took on the markings NH-703. By 1983, the Navy transferred the Viking to Antisubmarine Squadron 37 (VS-37) Sawbucks on the USS Enterprise. It returned to North Island, California, and operated under markings NE-700 with Antisubmarine Squadron 38 (VS-38). Technicians converted our aircraft from an S-3A to an S-3B model in 1988.
From 2000 to 2003, the upgraded Viking operated with markings NF-705 and NF-700 as part of Sea Control Squadron 21 (VS-21) Red Tails on the USS Kittyhawk. By 2004, the Viking returned for the last time to North Island where it operated with Antisubmarine Squadron 41 (VS-41) with markings NJ-732. One year later, on June 4, 2005, the Navy retired the aircraft from active service. That same year, the National Naval Aviation Museum loaned the Viking to the Air Zoo. Today, guests may see our Viking on display on the pathway which bridges the Flight Innovation and Discovery Centers and experience an important and contemporary example of antisubmarine warfare and aircraft carrier history.
Derek “Fluff” Martin and the Air Zoo’s Viking
U.S. Navy Reserve Captain Derek “Fluff” Martin holds the Air Zoo’s Viking dear, for he helped to fly the aircraft to the Great Lakes State for display. He shared this story with airliners.net: “I flew this airplane into Kalamazoo, MI, with CAPT Greg Labuda, USN, sitting in my right seat [when] we donated her to the Air Zoo… This was a very special moment for both “Budda” and myself, as we both hail from Michigan, and I attended Western Michigan University. A lot of great people worked very hard, both in the USN and the Air Zoo, to make this donation possible—it was truly a great moment for all of us. The ‘Hoover’ (as she was better known by those of us who flew her or kept her flying) was truly a great airplane: fast (relatively speaking), extremely maneuverable, fully aerobatic, and had great gas mileage (a real plus when flying off the ship). Largely unknown and unheralded, she was a jack of all trades—master-of-none kind of jet that outlasted both the A-7 and the F-14 in the Carrier Air Wing.
Fluff Honors the S3-B Viking Known as Navy One
In recalling his experience with the Air Zoo’s Viking, Fluff also described the historic moment when Viking S3-B (BuNo 159387) became Navy One. On May 1, 2003, the Viking welcomed aboard 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush (1946-) during a carrier arrested landing on USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). This made President Bush, who delivered this “Mission Accomplished” speech that day, the first sitting executive to trap on board an aircraft carrier. In keeping with tradition, the Viking took the name Navy One while flying the President. Fluff had this to say of the Viking: “One of her great accomplishments was bringing aboard then-President Bush to the USS Abraham Lincoln at the unofficial end of hostilities of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He sat in the front right seat and even got a little stick time on his way out to the boat. Sadly, all Fleet S-3 squadrons have been decommissioned, with only a few still flying at VX-30 and NASA. She is a great airplane, greatly missed by all who flew her.”