And the opening salvo . . . . the ES-3A Shadow


The ES-3A Shadow came and went faster than probably any other U.S. Navy carrier jet with the possible exception of the F7U Cutlass or F-11F Tiger.

As for kits of this delightfully ugly twin jet, AMT-Ertl managed to issue a 1/48 scale kit based on the old ESCI 1/48 S-3A Viking before deciding that die cast John Deere and plastic car kits were their bread and butter. That was a crying shame, as most longtime modelers will attest, since AMT had come out with some really nice 1/48 and 1/72 aircraft models – both original moldings and repops – that were affordable and well detailed.

The original Viking issue featured good fit, great external detail and was a great palette for paint and markings schemes. The Shadow issue kept much of those qualities as well as all the parts needed to build a standard S-3A ASW bird.

The new parts for the Shadow were a bit more problematic. While there were a nice set of antennae to cover the forest of aerials and radomes cluttering the electronic ‘Hoover,’ the dorsal ‘canoe’ fairing takes a bit of trimming and beveling to achieve a close fit.

The canoe, however, does have the bonus effect of strengthening the upper fuselage seam from the weight of two substantial wings trying to pull it apart.

The kit’s new bulged electronic bay doors (which replace the S-3’s standard weapons bay doors) fit poorly, and the instructions don’t help. The louvers on each door should be on the side and not underneath, and they don’t really fit well even after proper alignment of the vents. Unless you’re doing one on the ground during electronics maintenance, you’re just going to have to gut your way through gluing and filling.

The new ES-3A sprue also contains a drop tank and a buddy refueling store. Both look a bit anemic.

 If you’re lucky enough to find an ES-3A kit out there, there’s a fair variety of research and imagery out there on the web.

Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center offers a nice little page on ES-3’s stored there. You can’t save the photos to disk, but they are well-captioned, clear and full of airframe and markings details.

The Federation of American Scientists offers a pretty compact little description of the Shadow as well as four of the most common photos you’ll find while trolling for info.

US Cockpits contains shots of the pilot’s and front-seat SENSO’s offices and the center console.

Modeling Madness and HyperScale each contain a few kit reviews and notes on decals available for the ES-3A, but the kit wasn’t quite as popular as you’d think or as it should have been.


One response to “And the opening salvo . . . . the ES-3A Shadow

  1. Chuck BOH Carlisle

    I flew these in the Navy from 1992 to 1996. Great avionics for the time. The airplane couldn’t keep up with the job though. Too low and too slow. The need for money to build the super hornet and a silent bias against enlisted carrier flyers doomed the project. Was sailor of the year in VQ-5 in 1995. Hardest I ever worked in my life and most rewarding.

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