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A-3 (A3D) Skywarrior

Early in the Second World War, the Navy began to explore the concept of a jet powered aircarft operating from carriers. Success encouraged further development of the concept, and early in the post war years the Navy began to consider jet power as a possible means of operating from carriers, aircraft that were large enough to provide a strategic bombing capability.

In January 1948, the Chief of Naval Operations issued a requirement to develop a long range, carrier based attack plane that could deliver a 10,000 pound bomb load. The contract which the Navy awarded to the Douglas Aircraft company on 29 September 1949 led to the development and production of the A3D Skywarrior. Unusually large for a carrier-based aircraft, the A3D quickly earned the nickname whale.

The first contract was made on 29 September 1949. The A-3 first flew three years later on 22 October 1952. By March 1956 it had begun service. Last delivery of the A-3 was made in January 1961.

There were several variants of the A-3. The A3D-1 (later designated A-3A) had a primary mission of attacking enemy surface targets. The A-3A had a conventional swept-wing structure, two turbo-jet engines, provisions for a three-man crew of pilot, bomber-assistant pilot and a gunner-navigator. There were provisions for twelve 4,500 pound thrust JATO bottles and for in-flight refueling. The airplane was a conventional swept-wing structure with an all metal wing and a semi-monocoque fuselage. The two turbo-jet engines were enclosed in under-wing nacelles. The tricycle landing gear, arresting gear, wing fold and tail fold mechanisms, single slotted wing flaps and power boost were operated by hydraulic power. The horizontal stabilizer was adjustable for trim in flight.

At first designated A3D-1B, the A3D-2 differed from the A3D-1 by additional provisions for a fourth crew member. The leading edge slats were actuated automatically by aerodynamic loads. Anti-skid braking was provided. The JATO installation accommodated twelve 4,500 pound thrust bottles. In-flight refueling and tanker provisions were provided for the A3D-2.

The A3D-2P (redesignated RA-3B) was the production version of the YA3D-2P. This reconnaissance aircraft carried a pressurized camera compartment with twelve camera stations. The compartment also housed camera controls, camera door controls and stowage for spare film magazines. The bomb bay accommodated photo-flash bombs and/or cartridges. Sighting equipment and view-finders were located in the cockpit.

The A3D-2C (redesignated EA-3B) was designed to search for enemy radar. Provisions were made for a crew of seven: pilot, navigator-assistant pilot, gunner-radioman and four ECM operators including an evaluator.

There was also a trainer version

The Navy would never have a strategic bombing role in the defense of the United States, but the 282 Skywarriors which the Navy purchased served well in many roles. And as the last decade of the century began, the KA-3 and EA-3 soldiered on as tankers and electronic warfare aircraft.

The TA-3B was a trainer version of the plane also known as the A3D-2T.



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