This kit was a gem back when it was originally released in 1980 by ESCI, mainly due to its finely engraved panel lines and general good fit of parts. It remains to this day, the only injection mold production of the S-3 Viking in 1/48 scale.
Notable Kit Features:
Decent ejection seats
Finely engraved panel lines
Nice surface detail
Good parts fit with some notable exceptions
Crew entry door can be posed open or closed
Positionable MAD boom
Optional position FLIR Radome
Weapons bay can be posed open or closed
In-flight refueling boom can be retracted
I came across this kit at a reasonable cost during a visit to local model shop, which is a deadly combination for me if I have money to spend. (Fortunately these ESCI/ERTL kits tended to be fairly inexpensive). I liked the original decals of the kit which featured VS-29 "Dragonfires" which had a Viking boat on the tail, however...
... I then came across a set of decals featuring a Diamondcutters (VS-30) squadron CAG aircraft in High-visibility paint scheme, complete with shark-teeth. The red tail markings of this Squadron's exit scheme was too significant to pass up so I bought the decals and had my build package set.
Cockpit instruments and sidewalls represented by decals (and they are inaccurate)
Fit of the engine fan blades is poor, requiring a reduction in diameter in order to fit them in the engine pods (breakout the sandpaper or files)
Engine pods have visible center seam which needs to be dealt with on the interior of the engine, leading up to the fan blades (not an easy task but doable. An effective way to deal with this may be with filler and a rotary tool fitted with an eraser head)
Sparse detail in wheel wells
Underside panels require some work to fit into the flow of the airframe
Kit Additions / Modifications:
Added seatbelts made from painted masking tape strips
Used third-party decals VS-30 Diamondcutters (Super Scale 48-1054)
The paint scheme for this aircraft was the later overall gray (FS 36320) scheme with the high visibility markings typically reserved for the CAG (Commander Air Group). Weathering was added in the paint process by varying the tone of the base paint with a lighter colour in the panel centers and where the references showed this to be the case. Additional painting of weathered areas was done by brush afterwards. A panel line wash was also used to bring out the details.
The After-Build Report:
My kit was the 1982 version release of ESCI/ERTL. The molds were later bought by Italeri who has released their versions of this kit as recent as 2021 (Unfortunately the Italeri versions are not nearly as reasonably priced as the original versions were.) I recommend this kit if you want an S-3 in your 1/48th collection, as with a bit of work it gets you a nice display.
Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building, gain experience, challenge yourself if you like, but try not to stress yourself out over the build - it is suppose to be an enjoyable hobby after all - Cheers