By Harold Hutchison
We Are The Mighty
The Navy’s got some planes that are capable of doing some amazing things. But, even with these amazing aircraft, are there some planes the Navy should bring back from retirement? For the following airframes, we think that answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Let’s take a look.
5. Lockheed S-3 Viking/ES-3 Shadow
The S-3 Viking was more than just a submarine hunter. This plane also could carry out aerial refueling missions, electronic intelligence, and carrier onboard delivery. The plane had a range of almost 3,200 miles and could carry anti-submarine torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, bombs, and rockets. With Russia and China deploying advanced attack submarines, this is a plane that would be very useful on carrier decks.
A S-3 Viking attached to Sea Control Squadron Two One (VS-21) conducts routine flight operations from aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). Kitty Hawk is operating in the Sea of Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Alex C. Witte)
4. Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior
The Skywarrior, often called the “Whale” due to its size, was a superb tanker and also served as a standoff jammer. This plane would still be very useful for the Navy and Marine Corps in either role. The baseline A-3 had a range of roughly 2,100 miles. As a tanker and jammer, it would help protect the carriers.
The A-3 Skywarrior may be the most underrated airplane of the Vietnam War. (Photo from U.S. Navy)
3. Douglas A-1 Skyraider
If you’re looking for an aircraft suited for COIN, let’s dispense with the OA-X program. None of those planes bring the firepower needed, but the A-1 Skyraider is a very intriguing option. You have a plane that can haul 8,000 pounds of bombs and packs four 20mm cannon. In terms of firepower, the OA-X competitors can’t keep up.
A-1 Skyraider over Vietnam. (USAF photo)
2. Grumman EA-6B Prowler
Yes, the EA-18G Growler has entered the fleet, but you can never have enough jammers. The return of the EA-6B would be useful, if only to further bolster those numbers. The Marines even equipped it with a targeting bod to designate for laser-guided missiles and bombs.
A U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 (VAQ 133), out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise Northern Edge 2002. (USAF photo)
1. Grumman F-14D Tomcat
No, this is not a case of Top Gun nostalgia. The F-14D was actually a superb strike fighter on par with the F-15E in the 1990s thanks to the addition of Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN. With Russia and China becoming threats, the Tomcat’s long range (1,840 miles), powerful weapons, and high performance (top speed of 1,544 miles per hour) would be very useful, even today.
A U.S. Navy (USN) F-14D Tomcat aircraft flies a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (USAF Photo)
What planes do you think the Navy should bring back?