The S-3 followed in to that CVA environment, an environment that is dominated by the Strike and Fighter community. If you did not go fast or carry a lot of bombs you were nobody in the CVA. Since the threat that the S-3's were employed to defeat was invisible for the most part, no one in the Strike/Fighter side cared. We were a necessary evil on and around the boat.
This was also reflected in the repair of our parts up in the Intermediate Maintenance Activity or IMA. The concept at that time was that boxes of avionic gear would be removed at the Squadron level and shipped (hand carried) to the IMA (usually through the supply system which would check to see if any were actually in stock waiting for issue) for repair. Here they used a system know as VAST and HATS to repair the equipment inside the box. The VAST concept was based on a large test stand that could be re-configured to accommodate pretty much any box that came to it and then using software which was loaded in for each part, the VAST station would diagnose the problem. Bad circuit cards were pulled out and fixed separately and then returned for re-test in the original box with the VAST station.
This is all well and good on paper. Application however is another story. In most cases the VAST stations were pre-configured to run parts for either the E-2 or the Strike/Fighter aircraft. Most of the boxes that came in for the S-3 were put aside to wait until there were no more boxes needing repair for the A-6's, A-7's, the F-4 and F-14 (when we got them). Most carriers had three VAST stations and one was always down for parts that were stripped to keep the other two VAST stations operating.
So, within the S-3 community, we got by using the time honored method of: Cannibalization.
Yes, we always had at least one aircraft that was parked in a quite out of the way place in the Hanger Bay and methodically stripped of parts to support the rest of our little air force. Sometimes it would be two aircraft down there missing so many parts that they would actually be hard to climb into because the weight on the shocks would raise the airframe up on the landing gear.
It was that bad.
So, every now and then, we would hear those words "Up the Hanger Queen" and we would crap our pants. Most of the time it would be my shop, the Electronics Branch (Work Center 210) that had the most parts stripped out of the Hanger Queen. Sometimes more than 50 individual boxes would be missing from the Queen. And for whatever reason that maintenance control deemed necessary we would have to pull all those parts out of a almost perfectly good flying aircraft and move them into the Queen.
Now, most would think that this was an easy process, simply plug in boxes into empty holes but, if it was really that easy anyone could do it and that was not the case. Each time we had to "work" the jet back to life, sometimes using up even more parts than the sacrificial aircraft had in it, making the problem worse for the other Queen. And it took many hours. We would in fact have to detail almost the entire shop to the effort of bringing life back to the Queen.
These orders always came at night while they were fleshing out the next day's flying schedule. Sometimes this was triggered by rules and regulations, the Navy had a surveillance program on all their aircraft. If any single aircraft was out of service for longer than 90 days the aircraft would be moved into a list that got visibility way up the chain of command. SPINTAC or "Special Interest Air Craft" was to be avoided like grabs or clap on liberty. And the bane of SPINTAC was that we were always cycling the Hanger Queen up to keep it out of SPINTAC, simply transferring the problem and starting the clock on a different aircraft. No one wanted to bite the bullet, let the NAVAIR HQ guys come down and ask why was that aircraft down so long, no one wanted to throw the blame back on the core of the maintainability issue. So, till the day the S-3 left service we lived with cannibalization.
Which bore the following patch, which some of us wore with pride!
Not the most politically correct patch especially in today's 'enlightened' times but back in the '70's and '80's it was how we lived.
BT: Jimmy T sends.