Douglas A-3 Skywarrior "Whale"

The Restoration Crew has been hard at work this past summer to complete restoration of the A3 Whale cockpit just outside of the Obbie Atkinson Hangar. Originally, we were in line to receive a complete aircraft, one of the last flying A3's left. The Naval Museum in Pensacola took precedence and we were left with just a cockpit. The down and upside of this was when the cockpit was originally delivered, it was void of all instrumentation. Fortunately, we were able to obtain the majority of instrumentation since that time and it has been installed. The display is designed for a up close and personal view inside the cockpit. It is another reason to revisit the museum and bring your favorite kids!



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Specifications

Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Co
Year/Model: RA-3D
S/N:  
Tail Number: no tail
Power Plant: 450hp Pratt & Whitney J-47 Turbojet
Wingspan: 72 feet 2 inches
Length: 76 feet 10 inches
Height:  
Gross Weight: 82,000
Maximum Speed:  
Maximum Range:  
Service Ceiling:  
Crew: 4
Status: Static Display
Owner: Estrella Warbirds Museum

A-3 Skywarrior in Action

History

The A-3 Skywarrior – often called the “Whale” due to its size. It certainly was big – more than 76 feet long, and with a 72-foot wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 82,000 pounds.

The A-3 had a range of 2,100 miles and could carry 12,800 pounds of payload.

While the Skywarrior did some bombing missions early on, it shined in the electronic warfare and tanker missions. The Navy turned 85 planes into KA-3B tankers, and 34 were also given jamming pods to become the EKA-3B.

These planes not only could pass a lot of gas to the planes in a carrier’s air wing, they helped to jam enemy radars, blinding them to an incoming attack until it was too late.

The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was designed as a strategic bomber for the United States Navy and was among the longest serving carrier-based aircraft in history. It entered service in the mid-1950s and was retired in 1991. Throughout its service, it was the heaviest operational aircraft to operate from aircraft carriers, earning its nickname, "The Whale." Its primary function for much of its later service life was as an electronic warfare platform, tactical air reconnaissance platform, and high capacity aerial refueling tanker.

The Skywarrior is one of only two U.S. Navy attack aircraft intended as a strategic bomber to enter full-scale service (the other being its predecessor, the North American AJ Savage). The carrier-based supersonic North American A-5 Vigilante was also originally designed for strategic nuclear strike missions and initially, very briefly, supplanted the A-3 in that role beginning in the early 1960s. However, with the removal of aircraft carriers from the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), the realization that very high altitude penetration of the Soviet Union was no longer feasible, and the transfer of the U.S. Navy's strategic nuclear deterrence mission to the Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine force, the Vigilante saw its mission changed to carrier-based tactical air reconnaissance.

Skywarriors saw some use in the conventional bombing and mine-laying role (A-3B) during the Vietnam War from 1964 through 1967, often to deliver 2000 lbs bombs. The A-3 found subsequent service in the tanker (KA-3B, EKA-3B), photographic reconnaissance (RA-3B), electronic reconnaissance (EA-3B), and electronic warfare (EKA-3B) roles.

For most of the Vietnam War, EA-3Bs of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1 (VQ-1) flew from Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam, providing continuous electronic reconnaissance capability over the area, including the Ho Chi Minh Trail and all the way north to Haiphong harbor. This was known as VQ-1 "Det.B". The aircrew and ground support personnel were temporarily assigned from their home base at NAS Atsugi, Japan and after 1970, NAS Agana, Guam. After Det B was disestablished, VQ-1 provided detachments of two EA-3B aircraft that deployed with Western Pacific and Indian Ocean (WESTPAC/IO) bound aircraft carrier battle groups up until the late 1980s when it was replaced by the Lockheed ES-3A Shadow.

In addition, a version of the A-3B was modified into the RA-3B and used in Vietnam as a photo reconnaissance aircraft. Heavy Photographic Squadron 61 (VAP-61) at NAS Agana, Guam and sister squadron VAP-62 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida furnished crews and flew out of Da Nang AB performing mapping and intelligence gathering flight over the Southeast Asia area. With 12 camera stations the RA-3B was well equipped to perform cartographic mapping of areas where no detail maps existed. With IR gear installed, the RA-3B was used at night to monitor the movement of troops down roads and trails in Laos. Other locations included Det Tango at Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base in Bangkok, Thailand, Det Southpaw at RAAF Base Townsville, Australia, as well as work out of Osan Air Base, South Korea.

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