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VSX: Sub-killer for the USN

N A FEW WEEK S ' T I M E the US N avy will announce the
winner of its design competition for a carrier-borne anti-
submarine warfare aeroplane. VS X, to replace the Grum-
man S-2 T racker. T ried and well-proved as the T racker is,
continuous improvement in submarine design increasing
speeds, ranges, operating depths, better armament and counter-
measuresall these have begun to make this 1954 design
increasingly less effective. Apart from these factors the T racker
is a piston-engined aircraft and in conjunction with turbine-
engined aeroplanes requires extra space in the carrier for the
storage of inflammable high-octane fuel.
T he submarine threat is at least as great as any other hazard
to national well-being. America is acutely conscious of the
400-plus Russian submarines, many of which are equipped
with Polaris-type intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Provid-
ing an adequate counter is one of the most difficult technical
problems of warfare today, and the US N began to consider
new AS W designs as long ago as 1962-63. At that time AS W
effort was generally in a minor key and it was not until 1967
that the VS X programme got under way. I n N ovember of
that year five firmsDouglas, Grumman, M cDonnell, Lock-
heed/ LT V and GDwere selected for study contracts.
I f the problems were difficult, the rewards were correspond-
ingly high. T he entire programme will be worth somewhere
between $2 thousand million and $3 thousand million, of
which a substantial sum will go towards carrier modification.
I t is expected that the US N will order between 150 and 300
S-3As (as the project is now known) at a unit cost of some
S3 miillion-$4 million. T he value of the aircraft design, develop-
ment and production contract will probably be well over
$1 thousand million. ,
T wo firms, GD and Lockheed, were selected last August to
pursue contract definition studies worth about $19 million,
and an artists' impression of the GD submission is illustrated
above. T his particular design is believed to be fairly typical
of others which have been submitted, is similar in shape to
the Douglas A-3 S kywarrior, and approximates in size to the
T racker. T he moderately swept wing (there is no v.g.) allows
a cruising speed of about M ach 0.7, but, at the same time
(with high-lift devices) enables good approach and take-oft
performance. T wo engines are housed in under-wing pods, and
a frameless cabin allows an excellent view for AS W work for
a crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, and two AS W operators.
T he S-3A will be operated from five Essex-class aircraft
carriers. Four of these will at any time be on station, the
fifth being in dock for refit. I t is probable that these carriers
will be stationed in the Pacific. T he gradual withdrawal of
American bases in this area, both voluntary and as the result
of international pressures (the Bonin I slands, which include
I wo Jima, were returned to Japan last year, and the agree-
ment with Okinawa terminates in 1970) throws increasing
emphasis on seaborne patrols. T he huge area and distance
calls for long range and a performance greatly in advance of
its piston-engined predecessor. T he S-3A will have an opera-
tional radius of about 1,000 milesthree times that of the
T rackerand will be able to cruise to the patrol area at
30,000ft-40,000ft (compared with 6,000ft-7,000ft of the S-2)
thereby ensuring greater crew comfort and efficiency.
Optimisation of engine parameters for AS W is extremely
important. T he General Electric T F34-2 was selected over its
rival, the P&W T F32, in April last year, and the first engine
will run this summer. T he T F34-2 is a twin-spool, high-bypass
ratio turhofan of about 9,0001b thrust, designed to give a high
thrust/weight ratio and low s.f.c.
T he S-3A will complement the Orion in protecting the fleet.
I ts avionics system will be comparable with that of the
larger aircraft, but will be miniaturised. As with the RAF' s
N imrod, the emphasis is on a much greater degree of auto-
mation in data processing. T wo factors account for this. First
the automatic routings of information from the various sen-
sors: sonobuoy. radar, fume detection and ECM , and second,
the provision of a computerised display system in which the
various inputs can be "weighed" to provide the most probable
fix and track. T hese techniques considerably off-load the crew
which is thus able to give more time to the assessment of dat a
and the planning of the attack.
T he development schedule calls for the completion of
concept-definition studies by next mont h and the award of a
development contract in June leading to first flight 24 months
later in June 1971. First flight of t he "systems" aeroplane
will take place in December of that year, and initial opera-
tional capability is planned for late 1973.