With nuclear-armed Russian submarines an increasing threat in the 1960s, the Navy decided it was high priority to acquire a reliable, modern anti-submarine aircraft to replace the aging S-2 Trackers. The new aircraft had to carry "more bombs farther." Many companies, including Grumman, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed built prototypes.
Lockheed was awarded the contract in 1969 in coalition with Vought and Univac. The Lockheed company was to build the fueslage, while Vought designed the engines, landing gear, and the folding wings and tail. Univac was responsible for the powerful onboard computer.
On February 20, 1974 the aircraft first equipped VS-41 aboard the John F. Kennedy (CVN-67). In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many S-3s were modified to become tanker aircraft and transport planes. During the first Gulf War, they were useful as tankers, transports, and scout aircraft. However, one airplane launched a Maverick laser-guided missile, destroying an Iraqi target, the only instance where an S-3 was used in combat.
On May 1, 2003, George W. Bush rode in an S-3 to the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), the only aircraft ever to use the callsign "Navy One." The aircraft was piloted by Commander John "Skip" Lussier, the commander of VS-35.
The last S-3 will be replaced in 2009.
The S-3A was the first service aircraft; 186 were built.
The ES-3 was an electronic warfare aircraft; 16 S-3A aircraft were converted.
The US-3A was a carrier transport and tanker, retired in 1998.
|Power plant||Two TF34-GE2 General Electric 9,275 turbofans|
|Length||53 feet, 4 inches|
|Height||22 feet, 9 inches|
|Speed||518 miles per hour|
|Wingspan||68 feet, 8 inches|
|Empty weight||26,650 pounds|
|Range||Unrefueled 2,300 miles|
|Maximum Weight||52,539 pounds|
|Armament||Assorted weapons including Mark 82, 83, and 84 bombs, B57 nuclear bombs, Mark 50 and 48 torpedoes, mines, and depth charges. Up to 62 sonobuoys.|