Lockheed Martin is proposing the S-3 Viking to replace the C-2A in the carrier-on-board-delivery role. Here, an S-3B launches from the flight deck aboard the USS Nimitz. (US Navy)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — The Northrop Grumman C-2A has been a familiar sight aboard US aircraft carriers for decades, shuttling people and cargo from ship to shore in the carrier-on-board-delivery (COD) role. But the venerable aircraft are wearing out, and an unusually intense competition between Northrop Grumman and Bell Boeing already has garnered attention, even though the program to buy 35 replacement aircraft is not expected to officially begin until next year at the earliest.
Now, a third player has entered the COD fray, with Lockheed Martin offering refurbished and remanufactured versions of its S-3 Viking antisubmarine aircraft, nearly all of which were retired by early 2009. Ninety-one of the aircraft remain in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
“Those aircraft still have quite a bit of life on them, having flown an average of 9,000 hours” said Jeff Cramer, Lockheed’s COD program manager.
Designed in the early 1970s as a carrier-based anti-submarine aircraft, the Viking was used in its later service years as a tanker. Lockheed’s COD proposal — dubbed the C-3 — would replace the S-3’s fuselage with a wider version, but retain the original wings, tail assembly, engines and crew compartment.
A refurbished and remanufactured aircraft, Cramer said, would have a flying life greater than 10,000 hours. Using the old components would cut costs significantly, he claimed.
“This is a real opportunity to help the Navy and their budget challenges,” he said April 9 during the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition outside Washington.
The aircraft would be big enough to transport Pratt & Whitney jet engines for the F-35 joint strike fighter, Cramer said, unlike the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor proposal from Bell Boeing or a new C-2 from Northrop.
With an unrefueled range of 2,400 nautical miles carrying a 10,000-pound load, Cramer said the C-3 would have twice the range of a new C-2, and triple the range of an Osprey.
Of the 91 S-3s in storage, Cramer said, 87 “are useable. Some of the aircraft were stored in near-flying condition.”
A number of spare General Electric TF-34 turbofan engines used by the S-3 also are in storage, he added.
Lockheed has also proposed refurbishing S-3s for the Republic of Korea, which is seeking an anti-submarine aircraft. Those planes would not be rebuilt as in the C-3 proposal, but retain their original fuselages. ■