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SLAM-ER armed S-3B of VS-29 “Dragonfires” over the Nevada desert.  Visible in this photo are the ALR-76 wingtip ESM antennas, starboard and belly ALE-39 ECM dispensers, and ASW deconfiguration modifications including removal of Sonobuoy Reference System antennas, deleted MAD boom, and 16 of original 60 sonobuoy chutes.

Updating Your S-3 Viking

Part One

S-3A, S-3B (Baseline),
GPS Mod & "ASW-Deconfigured" S-3B


Bill Suggs



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With the recent re-release by Italeri of the ESCI 1/48 S-3 Viking, and a surge in availability of aftermarket parts and decals for the S-3, it seems as though the modeling community’s interest in the Viking has recently reached a new peak.  This article is the first in a series that will cover the evolution of the S-3A and B from a modeler’s perspective, and will focus on building an accurate S-3A or B (up through the “ASW deconfiguration” modifications) from the ESCI kit.   Future articles will cover S-3 weapons and external stores, special projects Vikings (including OUTLAW Viking, Gray Wolf, ODIN, and the Sensor Systems Upgrade), Viking cockpits, ejection seats, and flight gear, and upgrades that have recently reached the fleet, such as the Communications Improvement Program and the Maverick Plus weapons system upgrade.

Although both Airfix and Hasegawa have produced 1/72 scale S-3s that are good starting points for a small-scale Viking, this article is tailored to the ESCI 1/48 Viking kit.  All dimensions referenced are for 1/48 scale and should be reduced appropriately if you are working with the Airfix or Hasegawa kits.  All three kits are accurate representations of a production S-3A right out of the box, and most of the visible changes associated with the S-3B upgrade and subsequent modifications are well within the capabilities of the average modeler.

The single best published reference on the S-3 is World Air Power Journal Vol 34; it provides an excellent development and operational history of the S-3 up to the late 1990s and includes a great selection of photos.  It is highly recommended for the modeler.

The changes outlined below are arranged in rough chronological order as they appeared on the airframe.  A total of 187 S-3As were delivered from Lockheed to the U.S. Navy from 1972-1978.  These aircraft were produced with only one mission requirement: protect carrier battle groups from the Soviet submarine threat.  With the rapid expansion and modernization of the Soviet surface navy in the 1980s, the Viking’s role expanded to include over-the-horizon targeting, reconnaissance, and anti-ship strike.  The S-3B was developed to meet these new mission requirements.  S-3B upgrades included enhanced acoustic processors, an upgraded Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar capable of imaging ships from long ranges, a new Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system tailored to detect and identify the latest Soviet naval radar systems, self-protection chaff and flare dispensers, and the AGM-84 Harpoon antiship cruise missile.  All production S-3Bs were remanufactured from existing S-3A airframes between 1989 and 1992.  The collapse of the Soviet Union and the lessons learned from the Gulf War in 1991 led to the initiation of numerous additional avionics and weapons system upgrades that are still ongoing.  In 1998, due to a drastic shift in mission focus away from antisubmarine warfare, the Navy elected to remove the Viking’s acoustic processors, sonobuoy reference system, and magnetic anomaly detector (MAD).  This modification program became known as the “ASW deconfiguration” program – somewhat of a misnomer as the Viking retains the most advanced periscope detection radar in service today and is still capable of delivering ASW torpedos. All Vikings were brought to this configuration in 1999-2000



Corrections and Modifications


Airframe Corrections for any S-3A or B:

  • Add low-intensity strip lights on forward fuselage, aft fuselage, and vertical stabilizer (strip lights were added to all S-3’s in the early 1980s). 

    As shown in the photos below, the pattern is two connected strip lights under the canopy, three connected strip lights on the aft fuselage, and two sets of two connected strip lights above a single strip light following the first panel line back from the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Baseline S-3B updates:

  • ESM Antennas:  The 8 ESM antennas at the fore and aft ends of the wingtip ESM pods need to be modified to correctly represent the S-3B’s ALR-76 ESM antennas.  Sand the little antenna bumps of each pod (JUST the 4 small round bumps, NOT the wingtip position lights) and either use the ALR-76 antennas provided in the Eduard photoetch set or make your own by cutting some .010 sheet plastic into squares to match the facets on the antenna pods.  Use a dull knife – you want a raised ridge around the edge of the new antenna.  A small dome rivet or a drop of white glue should be placed in the center of each new antenna. 


S-3A ALR-47 ESM Antennas (left wing, spread)


S-3B ALR-76 Antennas (right wing, folded)


  • ECM dispensers:  The S-3B is equipped with the ALE-39 ECM system and has 3 expendable payload buckets – one on each side of the aft fuselage just forward and below the lower forward corner of the left and right aft avionics bay doors and one on the belly just forward of the sonobuoy chutes (see the belly photo of the S-3B in the “ASW deconfiguration” section, below).  The buckets have 30 chutes arranged 6vertical by 5 horizontal.  ALE-39 buckets can be sourced from the Eduard S-3B photoetch (although it only includes two) or the out-of-production Teknics photoetch set of ECM dispensers and formation lights.  The modeler on a schedule can simply scab on some appropriately-sized (1/4” vertical by 7/32” horizontal) rectangles of sheet plastic at each dispenser location to represent the blank-off plates that are installed when the aircraft is not actually carrying chaff or flares.


 Right side ALE-39 blankoff plate                      Left side ALE-39 dispenser with
(just below the “30”in VS-30).                           10 flares (silver) and 20 chaff
Note position relative to fuel           
                  rounds (blue) loaded.
 filler cap.


  • GPS antenna:  Added under a separate program, the GPS antenna was installed on fleet S-3B aircraft from 1996-1999.  The GPS antenna is a small black “brick” antenna on the center canopy frame above and behind the refueling probe door.  In 1/48 scale, the GPS brick antenna can be simulated with a 1/8” x 3/16”rectangle of .040 sheet plastic with the leading edge located  ˝” aft of the aft edge of the refueling probe door.  The antenna should be centered on a backing plate made of .010 sheet with the outer edges beveled; the backing plate should be the same dimensions as the kit-supplied refueling probe door.



GPS antenna on S-3B center  canopy frame.  Refueling probe door can be seen at extreme right of the photo.


 AFC-284 “ASW Deconfiguration” Modifications:


VS-38 CAG Viking showingAFC-284 sonobuoy chute arrangement, belly ALE-39 ECM dispenser on centerline forward of sonobuoy chutes, and MAD boom blank-off plate (just visible inside extreme tail)


  • MAD boom:  Leave it out.  The MAD boom is removed and the hole in the tail is blanked off with a flat plate from the inside.  From any aspect except looking straight at the tail of the aircraft from behind, it looks like the boom just fell out.
  • Antenna removal:  Remove all antennas from the lower wings and gear doors. Remove the raked blade antenna from the top center of the fuselage – it represents a LORAN/Omega antenna only carried on US-3s.  Also remove the forward blade antenna on the aircraft centerline just aft of the canopy.  There is a blade antenna offset slightly to the left of centerline aft of the canopy; this should be retained.  The 3 centerline blade antennas on the belly should be retained, as should the aft-most blade antenna on the upper fuselage.  Check references for your particular aircraft for the antennas mounted beside the starboard nose gear door.  Antenna configuration can vary if certain “add-on” equipment is carried while deployed.



VS-21 Viking on the cat showing AFC-284 fuselage blade antenna configuration


VS-29 Viking over the Sierra Nevada showing offset upper forward blade antenna


  • Sonobuoy launch area:  AFC-284 reduces the number of sonobuoy chutes from 60 to 16.  Count 8 pairs of sonobuoy chutes starting at the extreme front of the sonobuoy launch area.  Keep these and cover the rest with sheet plastic and fair it into the existing surface.





As you can see, the external changes required to update your Viking are relatively minor.  Check references for the particular aircraft you are building, as antenna configurations can differ subtly in detail.  The next article will focus on weapons and external stores.


Text and Images Copyright © 2003 by LCDR Bill Suggs
Page Created 10 March, 2003
Last updated 10 March 2003

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