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ES-3A Shadow Kit

Italeri 1/48 ES-3A Shadow Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2014 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject ES-3A Shadow Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2735 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Back on market after long absense Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $79.00

First Look

ES-3A Shadow Kit
ES-3A Shadow Kit
ES-3A Shadow Kit
ES-3A Shadow Kit
ES-3A Shadow Kit

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.

Italeri previously reissued the AMT/ERTL 1/48 S-3B Viking kit after a long absense on store shelves. Here we have its spooky cousin back after an even longer absence. This is the ES-3A Shadow kit which represents the handful of Vikings that were converted into electronic intelligence platforms. This aircraft allowed the carrier to retain an onboard ELINT capability after the EA-3 Skywarrior was retired, a mission performed today by the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler.

This tooling is by far the best S-3 Viking kit in 1/48 scale (it is the only Viking kit in 1/48 scale) and until someone else comes along, it is probably the best kit of the Viking in any scale to date. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on six parts trees plus one tree of smoke-tinted clear parts. While some of the basic S-3 parts are in the kit, the tree that contained the Harpoons and the ventral panel for sonobouy launchers has been replaced by a different tree with a blanked over plate since the Shadow didn't need sonobouys.

Among the features and options in the kit:

  • Air refueling probe can be posed extended
  • FLIR turret can be posed extended or stowed
  • Crew entry door can be posed open or closed
  • All of the antennas and domes of the Shadow are provided
  • Positionable landing gear
  • Two external fuel tanks
  • Optional buddy refueling pod

One very important note - the smoke-colored canopy. If you look at the tinted canopy that came in the AMT/ERTL S-3A we examined, there was no point in working any details inside the cockpit because of the very dark tint. I was very pleasantly surprised to see the tint in the canopy of this kit looks just right.

The kit provides a huge decal sheet that has an extensive set of airframe stencils and walkways as well as markings for two options:

  • ES-3A, 150572, VQ-5, NK/727, USS Abraham Lincoln, 1999
  • ES-3A, 159414, VQ-6, AC/765, NAS Jacksonville, 1999

Many modelers have been unhappy with the shallow depth of the TF34 engine faces in their nacelles but this kit has been out there for so long that there are several aftermarket options available to fix this with simple resin inserts. In addition, there is at least one set of wing folds that has been produced for this kit should you wish to preserve some shelf space when you park this beauty. Finally, as I'm sure you've seen in other instances, many of these reissues are receiving higher MSRPs, but if you shop around, you'll find street prices are more reasonable.

Thanks to MRC for the review sample.