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While Navy SH Seahawk helicopters provide antisubmarine protection, they can only operate over fairly short distances at low speeds, suitable for close protection rather than large area patrols. Long-distance patrol duties are now confined to large P-3 and P-8 maritime patrol planes, which operate from bases on land. This means the carriers can only make limited contributions to the antisubmarine mission , even though we live in a time when cheap and effective submarines are proliferating to an unprecedented degree in the Pacific, and submarines have repeatedly succeeded in slipping through defenses to sink carriers in naval exercises.
The Viking provided valuable service to the U. Navy by virtue of its very long range and adaptability to a wide variety of roles. It could likely have gone on doing so for many more years if newer, more expensive and more limited alternatives had not displaced it. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. Read full article. Search News Search web. Sebastien Roblin. Story continues. What to Read Next.
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For now, however, the Navy must start pumping money into its unmanned systems for its capital ships to remain relevant, Clark said. Because the idea of having to have 12 or so tankers just so your fighters can get to 1, miles means you have to have a lot of your deck and hanger space being taken up by tankers and not strike aircraft. By: David B. Sign up for our Early Bird Brief Get the defense industry's most comprehensive news and information straight to your inbox.
For more newsletters click here. Fear of missing out? Thanks for signing up. Bush on May 14, The ship was the first carrier to successfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. Navy via Getty Images. Upgrades and updates. Missed opportunities.
Lockheed S-3 Viking
Ship No. The designated KS-3A prototype was flown for almost two years and proved to be a remarkably stable and efficient refueling platform. It demonstrated the ability to move large quantities of fuel with a minimum fuel consumption which maximized available fuel for in-flight transfer. During tests, the KS-3A refueled a variety of Navy aircraft.
With its ability to be replenished itself in-flight using its refueling probe the S-3 could give up more fuel than any other carrier-based tanker aircraft to date. But despite its laurels, the Navy did not buy the KS-3, so none were produced. In total, this KS-3 Viking derivative would be able to carry a whopping 30,lbs of gas—and possibly more today if further modifications were made. The current requirement for the Navy's MQ drone is to be able to fly out to miles and offload 14,lbs of gas and then safely return to the carrier. In other words, the KS-3 would shatter that requirement. By our calculations, an S-3 burns roughly 1,lbs an hour at cruise.
It would take roughly 1.
Navy A4 Aircraft
That is 4,lbs of gas. Add in an hour of loiter time and margin for launch and recovery, and that totals around 7,lbs just as a rough estimate. Add an extra 1,lbs for good measure.
That leaves 22,lbs of fuel to offer to its 'customer' aircraft. When you consider all the engineering had been done and paid for decades ago to turn the S-3 into a dedicated tanker, and the configuration has even been flight tested for two years, the risk and costs in doing so now today would be minimal. To save even more time and money, and in exchange for a little fuel, the existing Cobham aerial refueling pod could be used under the wing instead of an internal system. In fact, the MQ program requires the use of this pod on any entrants into the tanker-drone tender.
In addition, an updated KS-3 would still have room for additional capabilities.enter
Lockheed S-3 Viking - Wikiwand
The MQ tender requires the aircraft have an electro-optical sensor ball, and the S-3B already has such a system that retracts in and out of the fuselage that could be easily upgraded with a new unit. It also has a big radar aperture that is ideally suited for surface search radar. There is also plenty of room for communications relay and satellite communications gear as well, much of which could make use of the jet's existing infrastructure.
And as the quote above stated, a KS-3 can do what no current MQ entrant can—it can take on fuel in midair itself. As for a concept of operations, an 'MQ-3T' could be optionally manned, being flown by a human during positioning flights, and put to use in an unmanned fashion onboard the carrier and for training missions over designated airspace.
The US Navy’s Vikings
Alternatively, they could be strictly unmanned, which would provide even more weight and space savings that could allow for even more fuel to be carried. Still, the optionally manned factor could be key to any Navy tanker-drone program's survival—more on that in a moment. These adapted airframes could leverage all the research garnered from the XB program and incorporate that as well as other relevant emerging technologies into their control suites. As for how hard this would be to accomplish, I asked someone who works in this exact space.
They said it would be easier than incorporating it into a new drone and would allow for redundancy that would help quickly prove the unmanned concept and the technologies it relies on.
They also mentioned the QF program as a reference along with other developments in the semi-autonomous unmanned space, like those related to the Navy's MQ-4C Triton program. It's also worth noting that all the competing companies in the MQ tender have semi-autonomous control software and interface experience as well that they could build into the MQ-3T tanker for unmanned operations just like they could with an MQ drone.
The Navy already blew it by not procuring a multi-role Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle UCAV capable of penetrating enemy airspace over long distances as was originally planned. Because of the Navy's ever-changing requirements and their decreasing fiscal attractiveness to contractors, every entrant into the MQ contest heavily draws upon or is a direct remodel of previous work done for the now-defunct Naval UCAV programs. In other words, none of the MQ competitors are proposing a full-fledged 'clean-sheet' design or even building prototypes of such a design.