Hasegawa 1/72 S-3A Viking 'VS-29'
|PRICE:||$26.95 from GreatModels|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The S-3 Viking was developed as a requirement was needed for a replacement for the venerable S-2 Tracker, a piston engine carrier-borne ASW aircraft that was reaching the end of its usable life. The Viking was to be state of the art with fully upgraded mission avionics, all integrated through a General Purpose Digital Computer with a huge (for the time) 32K central processor. This computer was tasked to handle everything from the radar display, to the sonobouy data information as well as provide a tactical plot for the on-board crew. It was also tasked with weapons delivery and a myriad of other tasks. Aircraft avionics systems were all located in dedicated avionics bays, easily accessible from the outside of the aircraft for rapid replacement in case a unit failed prior to launch. When the system was new, it was a beauty. In fact, so well did the system work, that when Canada decided to buy P-3 Orions, they specified S-3 avionics.
The Viking itself was designed for relatively high speed to get to the search area and then to be able to loiter for a long period of time while hunting and hopefully killing the offending submarine. Its weapons arsenal included depth bombs and torpedoes. It was also capable of carrying standard iron bombs both in the bomb bay and on the wing pylons, which were stressed to 2,000 lbs. The TF-34 turbofans were efficient and produced an odd 'whooping' sound when spooling up, giving the aircraft the 'Hoover' nickname. Interestingly, this same engine in the A-10 did not show this interesting trait.
The preproduction aircraft were modified to US-3A COD standards with the interior modified to carry 6 passengers and cargo. The ES-3A was developed to provide carrier based ELINT to replace the EA-3B, and 16 aircraft were so converted were. Despite the huge cost of developing these planes, they 'over-used' by the battle group and due to high equipment replacement costs were retired after only six years of use. Other S-3s were used for a variety of missions, often resulting in one-off modifications. A planned KS-3 was developed and never put into production. The entire fleet was upgraded to S-3B standards which included a new GPDC, mission avionics and the ability to carry Harpoon missiles. The final aircraft completed modifications in 1992/3 and just a couple of years after this, the requirement for carrier-borne fixed wing ASW was eliminated, relying on P-3s for long range and helos for short range ASW. The aircraft then were stripped of most ASW mission avionics and used for simple patrol and tanking mission, though some from VS-38 did carry out combat operations during the Iraq invasion. The fleet has been decreasing in size over the years with the last units set to disestablish this year if not already. No replacement is in sight and to be frank, I doubt if there will ever be a need. One aircraft has been seconded to NASA and there may be a future for some of the others now waiting in the desert.
I could go on, as I spent nearly half my Navy career with these planes, but will stop there.
This is not a new kit as one can tell from the tell-tale flash. I'm not sure just when the first S-3A kit was produced by Hasegawa, but it had to be before fleet introduction in 1974 as the kit has at least one pre-production aircraft trait. It is raised panel lines with nicely done detailing. There is rivet detail in the gear doors along with nice ejector pin marks, so you'll be sanding off all the detail. The kit includes full span flaps that are separate so can be posed in the lowered position if you wish, though there are no flap actuator assemblies. The interior has some vague ESCAPAC seats that are best replaced. No side consoles and only a partial instrument panel which needs a decal. The bulkhead behind the seats is totally devoid of correct detailing, there should be several circuit breaker panels and a fire bottle. The kit does have a crew access door that can be posed open, but this enters into a blank wall.
The preproduction piece is a small oval clear bit the is between the cockpit and the backseater's square window. paint over this or better yet, fill it in. While on the subject of clear bits, they should all be heavily tinted. The small rear windows had polarizers to totally block out the light when the folks were looking at the scopes so you could paint them black on the inside once they are installed. Hasegawa did provide all the required antennas for the underside of the aircraft and the tip pods are correct for an S-4A. Unless undergoing maintenance, the MAD boom and refueling probe would be in the stowed position. I'd also leave the FLIR doors closed as unless the FLIR retraction mechanism broke (it did happen), this would normally be stowed as well. The FLIR is totally devoid of detail and doesn't even show the optical window. Though the kit has the required number of antennas, the sonobouy receiver antennas were actually longer than the radio ones by a few inches and more 'square' as you can see from the box art photo (which was taken at the VS-41 hangar in North Island. This was before the dedicated VS hangars were built. I'd also dispense with the bombs. Vikings were rarely seen with these and most often carried under wing fuel tanks.
Instructions don't seem to have changed since the initial boxing and provide the usual Gunze references. Markings are for two VS-29 aircraft. Both are in the initial paint scheme of Light Gull Grey over White with White rudder and upper control surfaces. There is also a thin white line that goes behind the all black cockpit canopy surround. All radomes are in tan. One option is the box art plane with its Bicentennial scheme. The other is a similar VS-29 plane but with NS tail codes and a 201 modex. This has to be when they received their first plane as I've never seen a photo of a Viking so coded. Decals are well done and include all the walkway markings.
So, hoping for a new kit, eh bunky? Isn't going to happen. At least, not soon. The S-3 has only been reissued about a dozen times by Hasegawa over the decades so apparently the demand isn't there. There is an Airfix kit of this as well, which is preferred by some, but for my money, the Hasegawa one has crisper detail, even if it doesn't have a bomb bay you can pose open. One thing for sure, the kit doesn't get released too often so you may want to grab this one if you ever decide to build one. There are quite a few resin and photo-etch bits available for those who really want to add in the detailing.
About a dozen years' experience.
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