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The development of the very successful Harpoon antiship missile system improved the offensive capability of both our aircraft and surface ships. By mid-1970, the U. S. Navy had decided that the primary air-launch vehicles for the Harpoon would be the P-3 Orion and the S-3 Viking; the secondary aircraft would be the A-6 Intruder and the A-7 Corsair II.
Immediate funding was provided for the P-3C/Harpoon program, and flight testing was conducted from April 1974 through June 1975. At the same time, the missile’s launch compatibility with the Knox (DE- 1052, now FF-1052)-class surface ship was being tested. Final testing and evaluation officially ran from October 1975 to March 1977. In addition, the new Pegasus (PHM-1) hydrofoil patrol combatant is now being tested and equipped with Harpoon. The A-6E attack aircraft is being fitted for Harpoon employment, and fleet introduction should follow the P-3C program by one year. The S-3 has been left out.
Accomplished tests from aircraft include evaluation of the "Capability of the HARPOON missile to acquire and hit stationary or moving targets ranging from a patrol boat at minimum range to a large naval vessel at maximum range, when launched anywhere within the missile launch envelope and under realistic operational conditions.” The analysis included many tests with the launching aircraft flying off the missile launch axis and with the aircraft at various pitch attitudes. The Harpoon system rapidly proved to be operationally effective.
Unfortunately, the Navy has withdrawn its support of Harpoon employment on the S-3, and congressional funding, though originally scheduled, was never initiated. Additionally, engineers at the Naval Air Systems Command estimate that two years would elapse before the first Harpoon could be operationally deployed on S-3s—even if the project were funded immediately.
Although Harpoon was initially planned for a simultaneous P-3/S-3 employment, the A-6 was moved in ahead of the S-3. This initial set-
pears to be an attractive addition to a carrier bat force. There are several reasons why the HarP1
cruise missile should be employed on the S-3A mediately and perhaps even prior to cornpletm11 the A-6E modifications
back came about, perhaps, because of supply difficulties experienced with the S-3A after fleet introduction in 1974-1975 and congressional concern over Harpoon effectiveness. Additionally, the A-6 priority was apparently accelerated because of impending cancellation of the A-6/Condor missile program. It now appears that the A-7 may also employ the Harpoon before the S-3. Even so, both Lockheed and a few naval evaluators have taken several significant steps toward S-3/Harpoon employment.
Lockheed first accomplished the software (computer) planning for the S-3/Harpoon matchup while designing the P-3C/Harpoon system. Many of the programs and hardware modifications will be identical to the Harpoon system employed in the Orion. The original Lockheed concept required a modification of the hardware design for the P-3C/Harpoon aircraft command launch control subsystem (HACLCS) which connects the plane and the missile. It also required modification of the software in the S-3A general purpose digital computer and minor modification of the S-3 A armament control panel. However, many improvements in HACLCS design and launch modes may be expected with the experience gained through the P-3/Harpoon program development. The only other major modification for S-3/Harpoon integration involves the incorporation of an auxiliary armament interconnect unit. This device will be installed in the wing pylons of the Viking to coordinate signals for Harpoon release functions.
The Viking’s tactical coordinator (TACCO) can use any single sensor or a combination of sensors for target assignment. Available means of detecting enemy ships include radar, electronic surveillance measures, forward-looking infrared, visual, acoustic, or information from another aircraft or a ship via the Navy tactical data system (NTDS link 11). Additionally, the S-3 A can perform over-the-horizon targeting for ships or other aircraft through NTDS. Once the TACCO designates the target, he may employ either “on-line” computer or “off-line” manual modes for missile launch. Once programmed by the TACCO, the Harpoon may be launched by the TACCO, pilot, or COTAC (copilot/tactical coordinator).
Modification to existing airframes to make room for additional avionics and HACLCS equipment is unnecessary. The S-3A was intentionally designed with
The P-3s of Patrol Squadron 23 comprised the first Navy air unit to he equipped with Harpoon when they received the missiles in August 1979. S-3s were earlier scheduled to he among the primary Harpoon-armed aircraft, hut they're still on the outside looking in.
extra space for possible modifications and 1,11 provements such as Harpoon. Lockheed also devej| oped a complete maintenance concept for & Harpoon squadrons. Organizational, intermediate' and depot level maintenance plans were through examined and developed.
In 1975, the Harpoon was flight tested on Viking to determine carrier suitability. During five-day period, an S-3 armed with two Harpoon m1 siles accomplished 20 catapult launches, 20 arreSt j landings, and a number of simulated operatin'1, flights. Both missiles successfully passed built-in ^ system checks after the five-day period. No diff,cU ties were encountered on board the carrier, the tJ Enterprise (CVN-65), with missile handling or 'vl maneuvering missile-loaded aircraft.
Finally, in March 1977, the Chief of Naval OperJ tions formally established the operational need for S-3 weapon system improvement program to be ial plemented by 1985. It calls for improvements in 1 S-3 for “. . . day/night surface surveillance; and site response to developing surface threats by Pr°vl j ing force threat/attack warning, and/or indepen^ targeting and stand-off attack.” Specifically, the irn provement program calls for the “Capability to ploy complementary missile systems; direct day/night missile . . .; and long-range antiship siles (AGM-84A [Harpoon] and/or follow-on).” Although still not formally requested by Navy, supported by the Department of Defense- " funded by Congress, the S-3/Harpoon program ^
(1) The S-3A has been evaluated by carrief wings as an excellent SSSC (surface, subsurface,
t 1 ance> and coordination) aircraft. It has been ex- Th 6 ^ ebbect*ve *n this mission for several reasons.
ese include its extended endurance and excellent Usej0r capabilities. Consequently, the S-3 has been ^ as a ‘bird dog” to monitor actual and simulated sy' *et SUr^ace combatants. The S-3 is particularly ^ ,e for this “hawking” mission because it can 'nfr ta'n constant day and night surveillance with its (se are<^ system- has a longer airborne endurance tj^en hours) than any other carrier aircraft, and that e Can be extended still further with the plane’s
lnflight lot fa,
tllee.f 3.5) limit the survivability of the S-3 crew in •ntense surface-to-air missile environment that hkel CX*St around tbe enemy surface ships most
ty and an acceptable level of survivability
refueling capability. However, the S-3 does iCe^°SSess a vulf)le strike capability against the sur- ajrCOrubatants it is tasked to bird-dog. The slow sibl ' S knots) and low positive “G” force pos) ,
t0 be encountered. Therefore, most carrier air Su/S establish tactics for S-3 aircraft to bird-dog a Mcombatant at a safe distance and low altitude. A-7s 'Um a°d light attack aircraft—A-6s and *"ada fnay then be vectored to the target with the Str interrogator mode of the S-3’s radar. The sjjec '°ff attack capability of the Harpoon cruise mis- CaPabV°U^ Provide the S-3 with a credible strike
leas.e Performing the “bird-dog” mission, thereby re- Sl)rpn8 the medium and light attack planes for other ,ace attack missions.
afg "Hvo of the Soviet cruise missile submarines tUj rfH*uired to surface before firing long-range cruise tack 6S tuaintains a moderate torpedo at-
iur Capability against the Soviet “Echo II-” and ijj lett -class submarines as long as they stay sub- rpe - However, once they surface to fire, the only b°^s °f attack is with the Mark 82 general-purpose Alt^ Ser‘es or with the Rockeye II cluster bomb. °ugh the Rockeye II may prove to be a potent p°n for this purpose, the submarine will be vulnerable on the surface only briefly during a complete salvo. The submarine may successfully launch four to eight cruise missiles toward a carrier if the S-3 is out of range or delayed in delivering its Rockeye attack. The short reaction time required with Harpoon will eliminate this possible catastrophe. Once the S-3 gains acoustic contact, the approximate position of the submarine can be assigned a target track. The continuous update of this “generated track” will allow rapid target assignment once verified on the surface either visually, with radar, infrared, electronic surveillance measures, or through data link. Time between target verification and weapon impact is reduced drastically; it is certainly less than the reaction time for a long-range Rockeye attack. This also eliminates the ridiculous notion that attack aircraft can be vectored in over a missile-launching submarine being tracked by the antisubmarine aircraft. The brief vulnerability period of the firing submarine dictates a rapid “sighted sub, sank same” type of maneuver by the tracking antisubmarine aircraft, eliminating the communication problem associated with a “coordinated” strike.
(3) The third reason for employment of the Harpoon on Vikings is a derivative of the first point and was, perhaps, the reasoning behind a weapon system improvement program. At present, the only weapons an S-3 employs to counter surface combatants or submarines are the general-purpose bomb series, the
wiLii tvciy nun. lb capaDie ui u
ing for the Harpoon cruise missile. Arming Vik<nk
time delays between the moment of identificati°fl localization and the time of missile launch. Durl
Rockeye cluster bombs, air-to-surface rockets (Zuni and 2.75 inch) and the Mark 46 torpedo. Because of inadequate visual sighting devices, the S-3 community is considering increasing dive-bombing tactics to include a 40° dive angle, primarily to increase accuracy with general-purpose bombs. This maneuver will require roll-in altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet. A 10,000-plus feet roll-in altitude is not feasible in a normal—that is, low-altitude—antisubmarine patrol. The excessive time which would be required for the climb and dive also substantiates the need for an S-3 quick-reaction weapon.
The accurate and effective warhead of the Harpoon would provide a sizable improvement to the S-3’s weapons suite and to the carrier air wing as well. Since the Viking possesses only a plastic “pop-up” gun sight for rapid weapons delivery, a “smart,” seeker-equipped weapon should provide a significant increase in the kill probability of the S-3 weapons inventory.
(4) The S-3 does not face the same threat from enemy air forces that the P-3 does. As one writer put it, ”... the Kiev class [Soviet warship] seems designed to deny airborne antisubmarine warfare forces the immunity they have enjoyed when out of range of shore-based fighters. A Yak-36 ‘Forger’ might not be much of a challenge for an F-14, but it could give a P-3 fits!”* Because S-3s are carrier planes, they theoretically operate under the continuous umbrella of fighter protection of the carrier air wing. Morale •David C. Hazen, ‘‘V/STOL and the Naval Planner’s Dilemma,” Astronautics & Aeronautics, June 1977, p. 22.
would tend to be much higher among a flight Harpoon-equipped S-3s within the protective range' Phoenix-equipped F-14 fighters than it might be >n' Harpoon-equipped P-3 working alone in the °Pe, ocean, within possible range of Yak-36 ‘ForgerS from the Kiev or Minsk. The hazard for an airb0^ enemy closing within the range of carrier-bas£ fighters may outweigh the advantage of seeking otl and locating the Harpoon-equipped S-3. ,
(5) The S-3 is the only carrier-based aitcr‘' equipped with every sensor that is capable of targ1
with Harpoon would therefore eliminate much 0 the coordination problem associated with platform targeting and launching. Passing infofin tion from sensors on other platforms under local1 remote control implies communication and targf refining difficulties. On the contrary, targeting "’j sensors on board the firing platform imposes mi0'111
evaluation testing, the S-3 proved to be an exc6 targeting platform for Harpoon in a surface pattern and significantly improved the carrier bac group’s reaction capability. ,
(6) While employment of the Harpoon on k aircraft seems to complement the firepower of c; carrier air wing, employment on attack planes s# to degrade the level of firepower available. The k' Intruder is capable of carrying 10,000 pounds of structive weapons for strikes in a war at sea- 1 A-7E Corsair light attack aircraft is capable of c9ff/ ing 6,000 pounds of ordnance. Equipping attack 3'|| craft with Harpoon would reduce the firepower of the attack aircraft in a carrier air vV'n,' S-3s equipped with Harpoon add to the total putlC „
(7) The S-3 is the only potential missile-launch* j aircraft in a carrier air wing with the Navy taCcl data system, capable of data-linking hostile conta
^ 1"^ J
tie targCtInS ‘n^orrnat*on throughout the carrier batE 2 ^rouP- The link capability of the S-3 with the info a‘rh°rne early warning plane, carrier combat °trnation center, and surface combatants has hnl<en re^a^e" Established tracks through data rnay still be targeted even after loss of com- 'cations and surface plots in a jamming env'ronment.
(8) Damage assessment following a Harpoon at- 'nt ■ I?USt ^eterrriine first, whether the missile hit its f]j n ed target, and second, what damage was in- ijy * ‘ HarP°°n damage assessment will rely primar- Th°n ^aunch'ng platform and its remote sensors, sigh 1TI0SC re^ak*e damage assessment is usually by j C' however, the difficulty of accurate visual of a^e assessment is illustrated by the large number pi,;;;roneous damage assessments by Army Air Forces V * during naval strikes in the Pacific during Ham ^ 11' AS in the identification phase of the •Da ^L°n engagement sequence, visual observation dam 6 hazardous- Visual assessment of the level of ap t0 3 target hit by Harpoon may require close ^entaChCS ^ an °^serv‘nS aircraft. Minimal assess- tTlUstCan he made with radar, and an aircraft usually for ■ enter rhe postulated enemy antiaircraft range v'sual damage assessment.
of j_j ^hinations of sensor data can provide indicators s0rsarP°°n hits. The S-3A has a greater array of sen- craftr asscssment than any other carrier-based air- thn ^<)r*°buoys may detect Harpoon explosions errat. changes in target acoustic characteristics and raja 'C target movements. Sudden shutdown of target roc. ern'tters monitored by electronic surveillance ageSUres may indicate Harpoon target impact. Dam- hilitaSSeSSment at n'Sht with the S-3A infrared capa- vestV aIlows the launching platform to visually in- rangfatC tke h*t zone while remaining outside the apale SUrface-to-air missiles. Harpoon engagement Ho^ls w'h of necessity be a rather uncertain affair. nUmbVer> cht“ level of uncertainty is reduced with the er of sensors available in the S-3.
tary to claims by many critics, identifica-
with Harpoon becomes necessary, less than three minutes of reaction time would be required from receipt of the launch command to the time a missile could hit the target.
(10) The final argument for employing the Harpoon on the S-3A is rather controversial. The Viking was not designed or intended to be a surface bomber or close air support plane. As previously mentioned, the limited airspeed, “G” force possible, and unsatisfactory pop-up gunsight preclude the aircraft’s use in many surface attack roles. However, with the advent of possible Harpoon employment on board the S-3, the complement it would add to a coordinated antisurface ship strike is obvious. The deterrent it poses to a possible enemy who must now encounter extended endurance antisubmarine aircraft possessing a formidable weapon is also notable.
The extended endurance of the S-3 would provide adequate time for covert or overt positioning off the planned strike axis. A series of Harpoon attacks from a disassociated axis would not only provide a welcome softening up of the surface target but would also add to the enemy’s confusion while analyzing the threat axis. This role, of course, is nothing new. Attack aircraft are already used in this fashion for softening targets. However, the addition of S-3s in a coordinated strike would provide more aircraft for the traditional conventional strike and increase the enemy’s confusion.
Most importantly, an enemy’s perceptions of the size or quality of a threat would change drastically once he realized that even the previously “unarmed” carrier ASW aircraft possess long-range surface attack weapons.
The combination of two extremely capable weapon systems—the Viking and the Harpoon—would provide the fleet with a very valuable and attractive antisurface threat in a future war at sea. Unfortunately, continued resistance may eventually preclude the combination altogether.
tracking of possible Harpoon targets would threat'y interfere with the basic, primary mission taske<j VikinS- The S-3’s crew of four is normally All t a surface plot of a submarine datum area.
idetl ,H>ets within a search zone would generally be Sgrfa^ Ie<a and classified prior to investigating a sub- COuld<K^atUm A hostile surface or subsurface contact silte assigned a Harpoon target track and all mis- Ceecj. re'*aunch requirements could be met while pro- n8 to prosecute a hostile submarine. If attack
Lieutenant Commander Voss, a 1969 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, was commissioned through Aviation Officer Candidate School in October of that year and received his wings in January 1971. He has flown the S-2 and S-3 aircraft as a member of Air Antisubmarine Squadrons 30 and 31, making deploy
ments to the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. He was graduated from the Naval War College in 1979 and is now stationed with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VX-1) at Patuxent River, Maryland.