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S-3A Viking

AMT 1/48 S-3A Viking Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2012 Manufacturer AMT/ERTL
Subject S-3A Viking Scale 1/48
Kit Number 8634 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Best kit of the Viking in 1/48 scale Cons Only kit of the Viking in 1/48 scale
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

S-3A Viking
S-3A Viking
S-3A Viking
S-3A Viking
S-3A Viking

During the mid-1960s, the US Navy released a new requirement for an advanced anti-submarine warfare aircraft that could operate on all of the classes of aircraft carrier in service to replace the venerable Grumman S-2 Tracker. Lockheed and LTV teamed up and won the program with their design. This new aircraft, dubbed S-3 Viking, was powered by a pair of TF34 engines (same as the A-10) and featured a huge wing that gave the aircraft excellent low speed performance getting on/off the ship as well as trolling for submarines. Unlike the S-2, the Viking could also air refuel enabling it to stay aloft indefinitely.

The S-3A was the first version and featured advanced avionics, excellent internal and external weapons stowage, retractable air refueling probe, retractable MAD boom, retractable FLIR turret, and the ability to fold those huge wings and tail to fit below decks. In the mid-1980s, most of the S-3As were upgraded to the S-3B configuration with a new radar and the AGM-84 Harpoon capability. A small number of Vikings were stripped of their avionics and equipped with large pods to serve as Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft. 16 S-3As were converted to the ES-3A Shadow configuration as a carrier-based ELINT platform.

War Story Alert: In the mid-1980s, I was working as a flight test engineer on the F-4G Wild Weasel program at George AFB in California. A few times per week, I'd make the drive over to Edwards AFB (and back) across the empty desert on excellent roads in my Toyota Corolla GT-S (with the MR2 engine) and made excellent time cruising at 120+ mph. On one of those trips, another engineer came along for the trip and as we zoomed west across the desert, we watched an S-3 making low-altitude runs toward a tower north of us. At the end of each run it would turn away from us and head west on its racetrack pattern for yet another run on that tower. After three passes, we saw him turn toward us and line up on the road behind us. Sure enough, when we looked up through the sun roof, there was a Viking slowly coasting overhead, flaps out and weapons bay doors open. Very impressive sight indeed! He went back to his test runs but I'm sure the crew was enjoying the looks on our faces through the FLIR...

A few decades ago, AMT/ERTL produced the first (and only) tooling of the Viking in 1/48 scale. The Hasegawa and Airfix S-3s were nice in 1/72, but this remains the only tooling of the S-3 in 1/48 scale. Over time, AMT/ERTL produced variations of the tooling to render the ES-3A Shadow and the US-3A COD. Since this tooling already had Harpoons, the S-3B was also possible. While I already had one of these kits in my stash, I scored this one at a recent IPMS contest for $10.00 USD. You'll definitely pay more for this kit in an Italeri box.

Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on seven parts trees plus a single tree of tinted clear parts. Despite its age, the surface detailing is scribed. The kit has a reasonably detailed cockpit out of the box with decals providing instrument panel and console details. Viking lovers know that there is a wealth of aftermarket detail sets for this kit including a few resin cockpits which look great with the canopy removed. Since the canopy isn't supposed to be removable, you may have some problems seeing all of that detail when the model is completed. Squadron produces a vacuformed canopy which is clear so you can tint it to a lesser degree and you'll be able to enjoy that detail inside that front office.

Among the features and options in the kit:

  • Air refueling probe can be posed extended
  • MAD boom is extendable
  • FLIR turret can be posed extended or stowed
  • Crew entry door can be posed open or closed
  • Weapons bay can be posed open or closed

External stores in the box:

  • 4 x torpedoes for the weapons bay
  • 2 x AGM-84 for the external pylons

The S-3 could carry a much wider array of weapons and were usually showing off at Fleet Workups at NAS Fallon by shacking targets with Mk.82 bombs using nothing more than a grease pencil cross drawn on the windscreen (which really embarrassed the Hornet crews that weren't doing so well placing their bombs with advanced HUDs. Check your references to see how you want to set up your Viking. As I mentioned above, there are a wide range of aftermarket sets for this kit which provide nice cockpit options, folding wing options, extended flap/slat options, improved TF34 engine faces, weighted wheels, and loads of decal options as well.

This kit provided markings for one aircraft:

  • S-3A, 159409, VS-41, RA/25, wearing early high-visibility colors

The decals provided a nice array of airframe stenciling and the dorsal fuselage walkway and wing walkways. I wouldn't dream of using these for a build as they're likely to disintegrate in water given their age.

I don't know if we'll see another manufacturer take on the Viking (which would be quite welcome) but until then, this kit does built up into a nice model. I built one of these many years ago though it didn't survive the move back from flight test. It's about time for another S-3 build!

Still recommended!