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ES-3A Shadow

The ES-3A Shadow was decommissioned by 30 September 1999. The FY2000 budget did not allocate funds to continue the program hence both west and east coast squadrons (VQ-5 and VQ-6 respectively) were disestablished by fiscal year's end. Though just a short-lived history since it's inception in 1991, the Shadow provided valuable SIGINT to the Carrier Battlegroup. It was often confused as a "mini" RC-135 or EP-3 but the fact is, built into an S-3A airframe, it employs 4 aircrew and is designed to be an organic carrier-based SIGINT platform.

On 21 January 1972, the first flight of the Navy's S-3A "Viking" ushered in a new era in Under Sea Warfare. Built by Lockheed, this carrier based, twin-turbofan jet dramatically improved the Anti-Submarine warfare and Surface Surveillance capability of the Navy. The S-3A Viking replaced the S-2 Tracker and entered fleet service in 1974. All S-3B aircraft are capable of carrying an inflight refueling "buddy" store. This allows the transfer of fuel from the Viking to other Naval strike aircraft, thus extending their combat radius. The last production S-3A was delivered in August 1978.

The ES-3A is a signal intelligence modification of the S-3 Viking anti-submarine aircraft. All 16 ES-3 aircraft are modified S-3 Viking airframes. It replaced the EA-3B Skywarrior (commonly referred to as the Whale), a veteran of over 40 years fleet service. Flying out of NS Rota, Spain, the last EA-3B's in service were retired from the US Navy 01 October 1991. The ES-3A is a direct replacement for the Navy's EA-3 Skywarrior (commonly referred to as the Whale). Lockheed Martin converted 16 S-3A Viking antisubmarine-warfare aircraft into a replacements for the EA-3B. The S-3's gear was removed and the bomb bay converted to avionics racks to accommodate the ES-3's sensors. The first ES-3A was delivered in 1991, and the last one in 1993. This aircraft served as the over the horizon "ears" for the modern carrier battlegroup. The ES-3A is configured as an airborne refueling platform and can be utilized in the airborne tanking role.

The Navy's ES-3A is a high winged, jet powered, twin engine, carrier-based electronic reconnaissance mission aircraft equipped with folding wings, a launch bar, and a tailhook. The heart of the Shadow is an avionics suite based on the Aries II system of the land-based EP-3E Orion. The Shadow's fuselage is packed with sensor stations and processing equipment, and the exterior sports over 60 antennae. The ES-3A Shadow crew is comprised of a pilot, an NFO, and two systems operators. Advanced sensor, navigation and communications systems allow the ES-3A's four-person crew to collect extensive data, and distribute that high-quality information through a variety of channels to the carrier battle group. This gives the battle group commander a clear picture of potential airborne, surface and sub-surface threats.

One squadron on each coast was established and utilizes the designation VQ. There were 16 ES-3A aircraft in the Navy's inventory with 8 on each coast. US carriers typically deployed with two Shadow aircraft embarked. VQ-6 (Jacksonville, FL) deployed two aircraft per airwing for its entire set of "work-ups" and the 6-month deployment. The ES-3A accumulated more flight hours per aircraft than any other on the flight deck. With five East Coast Airwings, the turnaround time is considerably shortened to usually about 6 months. The Shadown deployed with every CVBG since 1993 with the last of the funded two-plane detachments on deployment with the USS Enterprise. The ES-3A Shadow provides indications and warnings for the Battle Group commander, and is normally assigned to AQ, the Command and Control Warfare commander, for tasking and mission assignment. Missions flown by the detachment include over-the-horizon targeting, strike support, war at sea and reconnaissance.

Weapon systems enhancements and upgrades to the electronic support systems were introduced to the fleet once test and evaluation has been completed by VX-1 personnel. In 1998 the ES-3A completed delivery of Fleet Issue 4 and common improvement program, which added the AN/ARC-187 radio and replaced the AN/USH-26 recorders. A quick reaction capability prototype was also installed to demonstrate Delta Wing, an advanced signal processor. In addition, the ES-3A completed system design review for the Joint Airborne Signal Intelligence Compliance Program.

    Statistics & Characteristics

    Weights

    Maximum Launch Weight ........................ 52,539 lbs. Maximum Field Landing Weight ................. 45,900 lbs. Maximum Carrier Landing Weight ............... 37,700 lbs. Weight ....................................... 34,000 lbs. Internal Fuel (1,933 gals.) .................. 13,142 lbs. External Fuel (530 gals.) ..................... 3,604 lbs.

    Dimensions

    Span (folded) ................ 68 ft. 8 in. (29 ft. 6 in.) Length (folded) .............. 53 ft. 4 in. (49 ft. 5 in.) Height (folded) .............. 22 ft. 9 in. (15 ft. 3 in.)

    Performance

    Maximum Speed .................................. 450 knots Maximum Altitude .............................. 34,000 ft. Loiter Speed at 20,000 ft. ..................... 210 knots Maximum endurance ................................ 7 hrs. Ferry Range ........................ 3,000+ nautical miles

Operating Units






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