During its service at Point Mugu, the Lockheed-Martin S-3 Viking–with its substantial endurance, speed and room for multiple types of avionics, pods and test equipment–played a vital role in VX-30’s mission to support the Navy and its customers. Not only did the Viking support test operations at the California base and its adjacent 36,000 square mile Sea Range, but also at test facilities and ranges around the world.
Captain John Rousseau has been in the S-3 community for a large portion of his navy service, flying the S-3 for over 20 years as a fleet pilot with VS-38, instructor pilot with VS-41 (the former Viking Fleet Replacement Squadron), and in the test community with both VX-20 at Patuxent River and VX-30 at Point Mugu.
A 2001 graduate of the Navy Test Pilot School, Capt Rousseau has been the Chief Test Pilot at VX-30, Squadron Commander of VX-30, and most recently commodore of Naval Test Wing Pacific (NTWP) until September of 2015.
“VX-30 uses a variety aircraft for clearing the Sea Range,” stated Rousseau. The Sea Range is the Department of Defense’s largest instrumented overwater test range, with 36,000 square miles of controlled sea and airspace off the coast of Southern California. “Because of the capabilities of the S-3’s APS-137 radar, as well as having a long range and loiter time, we felt adding the Vikings to VX-30’s stable of aircraft could execute our mission more effectively.”
Reflecting on his time at VX-30, Rousseau helped save the S-3 from retirement back in 2008 and stood up Viking operations at the squadron basically from scratch.
“It was really a show of confidence in the squadron and the S-3 support community that leadership allowed VX-30 to continue operations without an active FRS or Weapons School,” the captain explained. “As much as the S-3 is a great aircraft, I think what made this community so unique over the years was the amazing community of professionals associated with it. The aircrew, maintainers, and program support folks have made being in the Viking community special and fun to be a part of. I also think that is why there is so much interest in these final flights.”
In November, VX-30 retired the first of its three Vikings. Bloodhound 701, with its awesome Centennial of Naval Aviation (CoNA) paint scheme, flew to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. On January 8, 2016 VX-30’s current Executive Officer, Commander Jim Mittag, accompanied by a crew of three, delivered one of the squadron’s remaining two jets (Bloodhound 700) to AMARG for storage.
Two of the squadrons S-3’s now are in Tucson, and on January 11, 2016, the final S-3 (Bloodhound 702) was delivered to NASA at the Glenn Research Center located in Cleveland, Ohio. That aircraft is to be modified to fulfill its role in NASA’s research missions and begin flying with the center’s other modified Viking.
“This is an obviously a bittersweet day, not only for me but for anyone who was a part of the S-3 community. This is likely the last time I will ever fly that airplane, but somehow I am hoping that I am actually not the last pilot to fly the plane,” said Commander Mittag, a long-time S-3 pilot.
He shared his final thoughts on the S-3 as he stepped off of the plane for the final time in Tucson. “We are all hopeful that Bloodhound 700 flies again somewhere. Maybe for South Korea, or someone else who sees the value in the platform that in reality does have a lot of life left in it. As far as what it did for us at VX-30, we couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Given the squadron was working with limited parts and limited support from the fleet, the remaining three aircraft stayed airworthy thanks to of the personnel behind the scenes. Day after day, they worked really hard to keep these aircraft flying to support the test mission, right up until the very last day.
“We are delivering this aircraft to the Boneyard in such great shape,” said Commander Mittag. “Anyone who may decide to buy these aircraft and bring them back into service is getting a fantastic aircraft, and I am proud to have been the one to deliver it in this condition and represent the hard work everyone at VX-30 put in to the Viking over the last years of its Navy service.”
Fair winds and following seas…
(All photos by Scott Dworkin)