Build Date: Start Sept 10, 2018
The Lockheed S-3 Viking was the most versatile aircraft in the US NAVY. The S-3A was initially designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). It entered service in 1975 to replace the ageing piston engine powered Grumman S-2 Tracker. (Italeri and Kinetics produced several 1:48 S-2 kit). In the original ASW mission, the aircraft comprised of four crew members: The pilot and the copilot in the front of the cockpit and the Tactical Coordinator (TACCO) and sensor operator (SENSO) in the back. In the cat and mouse game of ASW, the S-3 played the important search and attack aircraft in which it laid sonobuoys to find Russian submarines trying to sneak within the striking distance of the Carrier Group. When the S-3 detected a Russian submarine, the Tactical Coordinator in the lead S-3 would lead and direct other Carrier assets, such as an ASW Sea King, to find and attack the sub. I recommend the Reader to view the S-3B episode of the SeaWing show by the Discovery Channel to learn more about this aircraft and how it hunts for a submarine.
In the 1990s, with the Cold War won, the threat by the Soviet submarines diminished. As a result, the S-3’s ASW mission ended and the aircraft are retasked for tanker and/or anti-surface warfare which included air to ground attack and air to ship attack. The Sensor Officer (SENSO) was deleted from the crew in an S-3B and an aircraft would typically fly with only a pilot and a copilot/Tactical Coordinator in the front. During Desert Storm in 1991, S-3Bs conducted electronic warfare and attacked ground targets with conventional bombs. They also served as in-flight refuelling tankers, decoys to draw Iraqi SAM missiles away from the actual strike group, launched decoy missiles, and surveillance and scouting missions.
In 1984, the NAVY began the S-3B development by upgrading S-3A with new radar and Harpoon weapon to provide scouting and attack capability. Later in the S-3B’s life, the tail MAD boom and the sonar buoy dispensers at the bottom of the rear fuselage were also removed since the S-3B were no longer tasked with ASW missions. Scott Van Aken at Modelling Madness has an article that explained how to identify the visual differences between the A and B variant.
The US Navy officially retired all S-3 squadrons from fleet service in 2009. Many are still stored at 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) near Tucson in Arizona. However, a handful was retained in missile testing services and also served as research aircraft for NASA.
I am building an S-3A from the AMT/ERTL ES-3A kit which was issued in 1995. I never had much interest in this NAVY aircraft until I saw a built model of an S-3A displayed on the shelf of Continental Models (康田模型) in Hong Kong when they were on the 2nd floor of a shopping mall on Nathan Road. That modeller did an impressive job of it such that it impressed upon me to build an S-3 model one day. Well, I have this kit since 2004 and finally, it is time to build it.
This ERTL kit is not a bad kit at all. It has nice deep and crisp panel lines which will be easy to hold a wash. My dry-fitting indicates that the parts will fit together well without any really bad seams to repair. The cockpit truly sucks so a good replacement is necessary. Maybe that’s why they give you an overly dark tinted canopy so you can’t look inside to see the disappointment. On the other hand, if one were to put in a detailed cockpit then the dark tinting will hide that as well. Luckily, I was able to purchase a clear Squadron vacuformed canopy to replace this kit part.
1:48 S-3 Viking is a very popular subject for aftermarket vendors. There are many 1:48 scale aftermarket resin options available to turn this model into something incredible.
The first aftermarket parts for this kit came from Paragon Design from UK when they issued a set of beautifully renditioned wing fold set. They also made a set of flaps and slats for the S-3 should one want to display the model with wings stretched out. Of course, Paragon has long since gone out of business and so Wolf Pack step in and now you can purchase a set of their folding wings. The beauty of the Wolf Pack set is you get a complete set of replacement wings with the wing folds all built in.
About 10 years ago, Goffy Model was selling a set of resin cockpit and bomb bay for this kit, but they are now out of production. Later, a Chinese vendor – Black Dog, issued a series of resin parts for the bomb bay/landing gear wells, several opened access panels, and a bunch of other stuff. Check them out here at Hobby Easy’s website.
Squadron’s True Details sells a beautiful resin cockpit set. In fact, there are at least three companies selling aftermarket resin cockpit, including the backseats, for this aircraft! But of course, if you use the overly dark tinted kit canopy then you won’t see any of it and so one should not waste any money with any sort of cockpit upgrades. So, to be able to see into the cockpit then one must purchase a clear replacement canopy and Squadron is the only manufacturer that sells a clear vacuformed canopy for a 1:48 scale S-3.
In addition, Eduard has a set of photoedge for the cockpit and stuff, but why use photoedge when you got resin, right?
Wolf Pack and Phase Hanger (Two Mikes) has a conversion set to update the ERTL S-3A to S-3B.
My S-3 Project:
For my S-3 project, the aftermarket accessories I will be using are merely a set of the Paragon wing folds, a Squadron True Details cockpit and a vacuformed canopy. I’m not rich enough to dump another $100 for the Black Dog resin stuff on this kit so I will be scratch building the landing gear bays and access panels.
I choose to do the difficult tasks first and leave the easy stuff for later. Installation of the Paragon wing folds is not entirely easy, but with patience and careful trimming the wing at the joints everything worked out just fine. After cutting the wings, the joint surfaces had to be shaved thin to accept the resin wing stub.
I opted to not fold the fin because I like the look of this plane with the large fin decorated with colourful unit markings.
The kit cockpit is devoid of details and depended entirely on decals for details on the instrument panels and side consoles. I suppose this would be just fine if one were to use the darkly tinted kit canopy as this would hide anything underneath it. For this large cockpit, I could not resist wanting to have a fully detailed cockpit, as such, I am using the True Details S-3B Viking resin cockpit set for this project.
This resin set is a former KMC product. When KMC went out of business they sold all their moulds to True Details. The details of the cockpit and the seats are excellent. The set provides a new cockpit with detailed bulkhead, instruments panel, overhead controls panel, 2 detailed ESCAPAC ejection seats, and crew entry steps.
When dry fitted into the kit, this resin set drastically improved the appearance of the cockpit and absolutely justify the need for a new clear canopy to show this off on the finished model.
The cockpit is painted in the following colours:
- Ejection seat, instrument panel, console, cockpit side walls and floor: Gunze H305 (FS36118 Dark Grey)
- Instruments, overhead consols/instruments and seat headrest: Model Air 71056 Black Grey
- Seat cushion: Model Color, 70967 Olive Green
- Oxygen bottle: Gunze H16 Yellow Green
- Ejection handles: Yellow with black stripes
Here are two photos of a S-3 interior for references:
I did not bother to enhance the instrument panels further with instrument gauges and dials because it is very likely I will not be able to see the panel in the finished model. Same can be said of the centre overhead console details.
Scratch Build Avionics Bays
The Lock On book by Willy Peeters has a few clear reference photos of the starboard avionics bays opened up. I’m sure it was those photos that prompted others to make resin sets for those compartments. Using those photos I scratched built the radar avionics compartments with styrene cards.
The aft avionics bay is also scratch build with styrene cards. Handles and wires are merely stretched sprues.
Much more scratch building is required for the main landing gear bays, the bomb bays and the bomb bay doors. The kit parts for these areas are totally devoid of details. Below is a photo showing the original kit part on the right and my rebuilt door is on the left. To create the detailed bomb bay door panel, I lined the door with a sheet of styrene that has been impressed with rivet pattern. Then, I patiently cut the hinges and ribs that lined the edge of the panel where it is connected to the fuselage. This work takes about 2 hours to complete for each panel and the end result is well worth it.
I tried my best to interpret the details of the bomb bay from the few reference photos I have. The Lock On book only have two photos of the bomb bay but I was able to find a few more online. It was a long and arduous task to scratch build the details from styrene and lead wires. This is as many details I’m willing to spend time on building. It should be enough….
I opened up the access to the back cabin by cutting the plastic away at the entrance. Then I build up the entrance hatch and added two computer screen consoles inside. When looked into this space, and you can’t see too deep into it, what I’ve done should give enough details to satisfy the mind.
Next up for the challenge is to assemble the two external engine pods. The difficulty is to get rid of the visible seam lines inside the engine intake cowlings. It is not possible to putty and sand smooth the intake’s seam lines after assembling the intake housing together. Hence, my approach is to cut and separate the intake cowling from the compressor housing. In this manner, I can assemble both housings and still be able to reach inside to putty and sand without the compressor fan part getting in the way. The result is a perfect “seamless sucker”.
I carefully attached the resin cockpit into the fuselage, all the way ensuring the fit is as best as I can get it. This is very important because I am using a clear vacuformed canopy instead of the kit’s dark-opaque canopy. Additional details, such as tubings, wires, etc are now added to enhance the details inside the cockpit. I carefully cut the vacuformed canopy with a sharp X-Acto blade and the edges are sanded smooth and fit-up with the fuselage. I am very relieved that everything fit up near perfect and without gaps.
All the joint seams on the model were filled with putty and blended in smoothly. Panel lines were rescribed/added and rivets rolled in on locations that are obvious as per reference photos. It is almost ready for the primer/check coat.
I tinted the vacuformed clear canopy sufficiently dark but still be able to see inside the cockpit.
Lock On No. 23 Lockheed S-3B Viking, Willy Peeters, Verlinden Publications
Net Maquettes Lockheed S-3 Viking Photos
Cybermodeler Online S-3 Viking Walk Around