US Navy Lockheed Martin
S-3B Viking tanker/strike aircraft being retired under the navy’s sundown programme are likely to be found wearing new markings in the near future, the company believes.
At a briefing at the show yesterday, Rick Kirkland, vice-president of Lockheed Martin’s Maritime Surveillance Enterprise, said that several potential customers had made official approaches to the navy for price and availability information on the aircraft.
S-3B squadrons are being retired from US carrier air groups as each new Boeing
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
enters service. By 2009, around 100 S-3Bs will be available. An average S-3B has around 11,000h of flight time remaining when retired from the USN, providing new customers with many years of future use.
“I think you will find in the very near term there will be some international operators,” said Kirkland.
He declined to name potential operators, but Bulgaria is known to have expressed an interest in the S-3B, while Lockheed Martin has talked to the Indian coastguard over whether the type would be suitable for its purposes.
The aircraft began service life with the USN as anti-submarine aircraft, but evolved into the surface strike and tanking roles. On retirement from USN service they still carry air-to-air refuelling equipment; supplying that kit to a new customer would be at the US government’s discretion. However, that should not be a problem for a US ally, believes Kirkland.
The Indian navy’s request for proposals for a new maritime patrol aircraft seems to be written around two platforms, the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion and Ilyushin Il-38
, Kirkland said.
The P-3, also the subject of a USN draw-down programme, would be offered to India in its latest Update III version. One unusual specification is that it should have a radar with both air-to-air and air-to-surface modes.