Douglas A-3 (A3D) Skywarrior
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Douglas A-3 (A3D) Skywarrior

The largest and heaviest aircraft designed for operation from an aircraft-carrier when the Douglas El Segundo division's project design was completed in 1949, the Douglas A3D Skywarrior originated from a US Navy requirement of 1947. An attack bomber with strategic strike capability was envisaged, tailored to the giant new aircraft-carriers that were ultimately (after prolonged opposition from the USAF) to materialise as the 'Forrestal' class of four ships, as it was believed that the moment had come to exploit the potential of the rapidly-developing gas turbine engine.

The Douglas design was a high-wing monoplane, with retractable tricycle landing gear, two podded turbojets beneath the wing, and a large internal weapons bay to accommodate up to 5443kg of varied weapons. The wings were swept back 36° and had high-aspect ratio for long range, all tail surfaces were swept, and the outer wing panels and vertical tail folded.

The first of two prototypes made its maiden flight on 28 October 1952, powered by 3175kg Westinghouse XJ40-WET3 engines, but the failure of this engine programme meant that the 4400kg thrust Pratt & Whitney J57-P-6 powered the production A3D-1. The first of these A3D-1s flew on 16 September 1953, and deliveries to the US Navy's VAH-1 attack squadron began on 31 March 1956.

In 1962 the designation was changed to A-3, the initial three-seat production version becoming A-3A. Five of these were modified subsequently for ECM missions under the designation EA-3A. The A-3B (previously A3D-2) which entered service in 1957 had more powerful J57-P-10 engines and an inflight-refuelling probe. A reconnaissance variant with cameras in the weapons bay was designated RA-3B (A3D-2P), and EA-3B (A3D-2Q) identified ECM aircraft with a four-man crew in the weapons bay. Other designations include 12 TA-3B (A3D-2T) trainers for radar operators, one VA-3B (A3D-2Z) executive transport, and the final variants in front-line US Navy service were KA-3B inflight-refuelling tankers and 30 EKA-3B tanker/counter-measures/strike aircraft. Skywarrior variants still in service include TA-3B crew trainers, EKA-3B early-warning 'aggressor' trainers, and KA-3B tankers with Squadrons VAQ-33 at Key West and VAQ-34 at NAS Point Mugu, together with an NA-3B test aircraft operated by the Naval Weapons Test Center and NRA-3Bs with the Pacific Missile Test Center.

A3D-1 Skywarrior

 ENGINE2 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-10 turbojets, 4763kg each
    Take-off weight37195 kg82001 lb
    Empty weight17876 kg39410 lb
    Wingspan22.10 m73 ft 6 in
    Length23.27 m76 ft 4 in
    Height6.95 m23 ft 10 in
    Wing area75.43 m2811.92 sq ft
    Max. speed982 km/h610 mph
    Cruise speed837 km/h520 mph
    Ceiling12495 m41000 ft
    Range1690 km1050 miles
 ARMAMENT2 x 20mm rear-firing cannon, 5500kg of bombs

TA-3B SkywarriorA three-view drawing of TA-3B Skywarrior (1000 x 555)

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80 81-100 101-120
Fred Parker, e-mail, 05.07.2017reply

Served in VAP-61 from '69-'71 AK3 with AKC Steve Poppish. Went on dets to Australia, DaNang, Thailand, and Korea. Great squadron and great people. Even got to fly on a few hops in the old whales! LOL I loved the experience!

Joel McEachen, e-mail, 07.04.2017reply

John "Bear" Shattuck-did you work for United Air Lines, spent time in VAH-11 to get multi-engine jet time prior to United's DC-8's. I was with you in VAH-3 1960. Rumor had it that United called you back "or else". The other anecdote is that you were the voice of the documentary of the DC-10 that lost some jet engine fan blades and went down in Iowa.

George Haloulakos, e-mail, 15.02.2017reply

Prior to officially being named to Astronaut Group 3, Roger Chaffee (pilot for the Apollo 1 spacecraft) was awarded the US Air Medal for flying several photographic missions in a photo-recon variant of the Douglas A-3 Skywarrior over Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Phillip Hurbace, e-mail, 03.11.2016reply

Plane Cpt on A3D 1967 to 1969

Bob Harville CWO, e-mail, 24.10.2016reply

I was in VAP-61 1966-1969,Photo warrant, Aircraft Maintenance Officer and det maintenance, numerous flights, Guam to Johnsville,PA. Guam to Australia, Viet Nam and Thailand. Took det from P.I. to DaNang four days before 68 Tet. One of the greatest tours in my thirty year U.S.Navy career

Bill Isakson, e-mail, 31.08.2016reply


My Dad, Carl O Isakson Jr, passed away July 26, 2016. He flew as a Bombardier/Navigator on the Forrestal in '57-'58.
I have some of his squadron memorabilia: photos, patches, squadron beer stein with "smoking tigers" logo, copy of 1957 German magazine cover depicting "3 men in a bomber", digitized 8mm film clips (including early JATO tests in Sanford, and footage of a F4D breaking up whilst doing a low, high-speed formation pass abeam the ship).
I can find no VAH-1 squadron memorabilia repository in any association or museum.
Could members direct me where these items could be donated for posterity to honor the A3D crews? I can be reached at

Mark Johnson, e-mail, 15.07.2016reply

My father (Gunnar Edward Johnson) was an A3D Bombardier/Navigator on the U.S.S. Midway from 1956-60. I was looking for information on the flight crews, etc. and came across this site. He passed this past Thursday (July 7th, 2016).

Leonard Harvey, e-mail, 02.07.2016reply

As a young AE3 I joined VAH 2 at NAS Barbers Point in July 1957. Was selected as member of the Barbers to Cubi en-route maintenance team with stop overs at Kwajalein and NAS Agana. Remained at NAS Cubi until April 1958 then deploying back to NAS Whidbey. A wonderful experience that I’ll never forget

Bob Knotts, e-mail, 29.06.2016reply

I went to Vap-61 in 1960. A friend, Freddy Flitter, PH1, was a third crewman in I think VAH-4. When he told me that the "whales" had an enlisted man as a crewman, I was in VAH-123 going to a "fan" school on the A-3. I pput in for 3rd crewman school.ut with only one night nav flight left, I discovered that after 4 hours flying, my eyes would get too tired to get a decent celestial fix. After talking to the VAH-123 crew traing officer, I dropped out of the program. But after getting to VAP-61, Freddy told me he had never had an A3 flight over 4 hours. So I asked the aircrewman leading chief if I could finish qualifying as a crewman, He said no, he was going to use me for a permanent touch and go right seater. I didn't like thst idea, so when CDR Deveas, the photo officer, asked me how things were going, I told him I didn't like the idea of "bouncing" in the right seat for two years, he told me I could go to the photo lab. Talk about a REALLY irritated E-8!!!When I mentioned the deal to Ray Boll, he got a little upset. Actually, a lot upset. He said they never had enough crewmen. So I ended up making warrant, going to Ranger boat as the photo officer, then to RVAH-3 as the Recon Division officer. I retired early as a PHCM, my permanent grade, because my wife had a serious medical problem, and the navy decided to cut my shore tour from 3 years to 2. And back to sea. Nope!

Ray Johnson, e-mail, 12.01.2016reply

Flew in both the EC-121M and the EA-3B as Electronic Warfare Operator in VQ-2 1969-70. Flew both land based and carrier missions in the EA-3B. Flew off carriers Kennedy and Roosevelt. Some of my most memorable EA-3B pilots were Glen Hatch, Lou Hettinger, Tom Maxwell.

Steve Rodgers, e-mail, 06.11.2015reply

Looking for anyone who might have known my Father. Flew the A3D and was the very first pilot to land one on a carrier. James F. Rodgers, LCDR

Joseph Kaposi, e-mail, 28.08.2015reply

Jim Schmook, if you have any movie footage of those couple of hairy traps i'd be very interested in talking to you about getting a copy for my collection.

Jim "Bat" Schmook, e-mail, 31.07.2015
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I was a Bombardier/Navigator in VAH-4 Det Bravo. Two cruises in 1963 and 1964 aboard USS Ticonderoga. Pilots were CDR Rupe Legare, and LCDR Fred Backman....two of the best ever. LCDR Lee Kollmorgen assigned me the callsign "BAT' because I tended to come alive at night. Had two exciting landings aboard the Tico, one day landing when we broke the nose strut and ended up looking UP at the crash crew, since we were right flat on the deck. A night landing where we broke the arresting cable, and then dropped off the angled deck was almost a disaster, but LCDR Backman struggled with the yoke and the

Leo Berard, e-mail, 30.07.2015reply

I never flew in the A3D but was an instructor on the flight simulator in Sanford VAH-3 61 to 63.Had hundreds of hours flight testing the simulator. I do recognize the name Lcdr John Bear Shattuck must have had him as a student in the simulator

Michael E. Miller, e-mail, 02.07.2015reply

Assigned to VAH123 out of AEA school in 1961. I remember working on the Liquidometer fuel quantity system on the T bird. The A3D-2 had the Avian system. Spent many hours on a ladder in the bomb bay swapping cg control amps, etc. got out of the Navy 11/1964. Came back in in 1969 and was assigned to VAQ308 NAS Alameda. I will never forget changing out horizontal stabilizer actuators and the 'extremely lightweight' AC generators! Retired in 1985 as AECS. Thanks for the memories...

Dave Stevens, e-mail, 18.04.2015reply

Served in VAH-123 from March63-July66.Flew right seat in the A3B and TA3B.Interesting flying with student pilots.Most of the staff pilots are goneOne of my CO's,Comander Fritch,put me behind the wheel for a hour coming back from mirmar to Whidby.High point of my enlisted stint.Mike Bouchard best pilot I ever flew with.

Frank Ballo, e-mail, 07.03.2015reply

Not about the aircraft but would like to hear more about Admiral Earl Yates with whom I served at Quonset Point NAS, R,I. from Earl Blaker, 16.08.2012?????

James Orr, e-mail, 22.02.2015reply

Joined VAH-4 out of ADJ school in June65 went on carrier quals in Aug, then West pac as a P/C abord the tiny Ti. Learned a lot about that plane and to this day I can still sit in the pilots seat and start her up. After I left the squadron in 67 got out of the Navy but inlisted the reserves in 78 and worked and flew on P-3 until I retired in 96.

Lcdr John Bear Shattuck, e-mail, 17.02.2015reply

I flew A3D from 1957 to 1962 and had more hours than anyone in it. Have special plaque from Douglas. Seedbed hurricane Ester, flew over Soviet Union, have over 100 traps on Roosevelt in VAH-11.

Gregg Bambo, Capt USN-ret, e-mail, 10.02.2015reply

Fun Skywarrior memories: First night car quals on a 27C. Black moonless night recoveries to a pitching, heaving & rolling deck with the fuel low level light illuminated . Max weight JATO takeoffs out of Cubi P.I. Night refueling rendezvous. Midnight dropping of parachute equipped frogman Marine Recon team out of the bombay. California to Yankee Station transpacs. My aircraft featured on the cover of LIFE magazine after USS Forrestal disaster. The camaraderie of some great and trusting enlisted aircrewmen (especially when asked to go back in the bombay to free a jammed refueling hose). Catastrophic engine failure with later second engine flame out culminating in a disconnect manual control “dead stick” landing and arrestment at Whidbey (had to be towed off the runway). Lots of other interesting experiences but overall, a great aircraft that always brought my crew back safely.

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