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Tails of the Vikings

Robert Verbrugge looks at the disestablishment of VS-41

Sea Control Squadron 41 (VS-41) 'Shamrocks' was commissioned on 30 June 1960 in response to the United States Navy’s need to conduct sea-based Under-Sea Warfare operations from aircraft carriers throughout the world and initially recieved the Grumman S-2F1 'Tracker' for these missions.

Viking fleet

When Lockheed built the S-3A 'Viking' and flew it for the first time on 21 January 1972 it improved the Anti-Submarine Warfare and Surface Surveillance capability of the US Navy, VS-41 receiving its first S-3A on 20 February 1974.

By the mid-1980s the first reworked and improved S-3B was flown. Transition to this state-of-the-art upgrade was completed in 1990. VS-41 has trained all East and West coast fleet S-3 squadrons in the new weapon systems since September 1994, based at Naval Air Station North Island, California. VS-41 flew in excess of 10,000 hours per year, qualifying approximately fifty fleet pilots and Naval flight officers each year.

But after forty-six years, a disestablishment ceremony will take place on Thursday, 27 July 2006. To commemorate the occasion the tails of several S-3Bs were painted in former Pacific fleet Viking squadrons, including VS-21, VS-29, VS-33, VS-35, VS-37, VS-38 and of course VS-41. All but one of VS-41's birds were painted with high-viz tail markings, done by Navair, also based at North Island. First sightings of the high-viz markings were in October 2005 - 160136 was the first retro bird, followed by 159756. The best part is, that on every tail, there's a small Shamrock to find!

All S-3B aircraft are capable of carrying an in-flight refueling 'buddy' store. This allows the transfer of fuel from the Viking to other Naval strike aircraft, thus extending their combat radius. This role will be taken on by the Super Hornet, flying from Lemoore - it is not known yet if units are going to be placed at North Island.

The Navy's S-3B 'Sundown Plan' calls for the gradual disestablishment of Viking squadrons as the number of
operational carrier-based squadrons flying the F/A-18E/F increases. The F/A-18 will take over the aerial
tanking role from the S-3; when an air wing receives its first Super Hornet squadron, the Viking squadron
in that air wing reduces its number of jets from eight to six. When that air wing receives its second Super
Hornet squadron, the Viking squadron disestablishes. The Viking is scheduled for retirement from service in 2009.

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