A3-D - History

A3-D - History

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Manufacturer: Douglas

Engine: 2 Pratt & Whitney J57

Speed: 630 MPH

Ceiling: 45,000

Range: 2,880 miles

Wingspan: 72ft 5 inch

Length: 75ft 7 inch

Weight: 78,000( max)

First Flight: 10/22/52

A3-D - History

As mentioned in previous WEHS articles, Waukesha’s were used in just about every application you can think of. One of the unusual applications was in those small rail cars that transported railroad section crews and their equipment up and down the several miles of tracks they were responsible for inspecting and maintaining.

These railroad crew cars were originally propelled by pumping up and down on a seesaw, teeter-totter, mechanism that transferred the motion via rods, cranks and gears to the wheels of the crew car. They were designed so that two or more crewmembers could do the pumping as required. These man-powered rails cars where technically known as “velocipedes”, but were more commonly as “Pumpers” for obvious reasons. These rail crew cars were also known by a host of names, some conventional, such as Section Car, Handcar, Track Car, Gang Car, Crew Car, Inspection Car, Maintenance Car, Motorcar, Pump Car, Railcar, Railway Motor Car, Section Car, Track Car, etc. and then other, more colorful, names such as:

  • Draisine --- named for German Baron Kari Christian Ludwig Drais von Sauerbronn who is credited for inventing the first human powered vehicle
  • Gandy Dancer Car --- railroad maintenance crews were know as Gandy Dancers, a term derived from maintenance crews heaving against long steel poles, known as “Gandy Poles”, to pry misaligned tracks back into position. This had to be done in unison, often to the rhythm of a chant, and it appeared as if the crews were dancing. One legend has it that the steel poles where manufactured by a Gandy Mfg. Co in Chicago, IL --- and thus the term “Gandy Pole”. But there other theories as to the where the term originated, but nobody seems to know for sure!
  • Jigger --- the term for mechanical devices that have a jerky or jolting motion, like a railroad crew car
  • Kalamazoo --- named for the Kalamazoo Railway Supply Co., Kalamazoo, MI one of many manufacture of railroad crew cars
  • Putt-Putt --- the sound of the single engine that powered many of the smaller lighter crew cars. Some say it sounded more like putt-putt, putty-putty, putt-putt?
  • Pop Car --- so called because of the “putt-putt” of the single cylinder motors.
  • Quad --- 4-wheel version of the Trike
  • Trike --- 3-wheel crew car
  • Speeders --- (described later in this article)
  • Trolley --- a small car operated on a track

These railroad crew cars were manufactured by many companies including Beaver, Buda, Casey Jones, Commonwealth, Fairbanks-Morse, Gemco, Gibson, Kalamazoo, Northwestern Motor (Eau Claire, WI), Pacific Ace, Portec, Railway Works Shops, Sheffield, Sylvester, Tamper, Wickman, Woodings and the Fairmont Railway Motors, Inc. of Fairmont, MN, the subject of this article. Fairmont, considered the most successful, was founded in 1909, acquired by Harsco Corp. in 1979 and the last of the Fairmont railroad crew cars was manufactured in 1991.

Unusual Speeder with FC courtesy of Bob K Feb 2012

When internal combustion engines came along, Fairmont began using them to propel their railway crew cars. At first they used the single cylinder, putt-putt, engines. The motor-powered crew cars were much faster (40 MPH max) than the “Pumpers” (15 MPH max) --- and thus they were termed “Speeders”. The “Speeders” were a God-send to railroad crews who were often exhausted after pumping the “pumpers” to the section of track they were to work on that day.

Beginning in 1930’s Fairmont began using several of Waukesha’s 4-cylinder engines in their larger heavy duty “Speeders”. (A trackman in Montana told of the winter of 1953/54 when they had to borrow a heavy duty Waukesha powered Speeder because the Speeder they had couldn’t haul the equipment in the hilly and windy area!)

Fairmont A3 Speeder with ICK courtesy of Ken C November 2010

By the 1980’s, cars and trucks were being fitted with attachments with flanged rail wheels that could be lowered down onto the tracks so that the vehicle could run on both the highway and on rails and were thus known as “Hy-Rail”, or ”Hi-Rail”. In the early 1990’s, Fairmont and other manufacturers discontinued building “Speeders” and, like the “Pumpers” before them, have become part of railroad’s colorful history.

“Speeder” clubs, governed by the North American Railcar Operators Association (NORCOA), established in 1980, encourages the restoration and the safe operation of these railway “Speeders”. The Association schedules railroad company approved “Speeder” excursion trips on remote and seldom used rail lines in scenic areas around the country.

Some of the Fairmont “Speeders” that used Waukesha’s: (Ref. Glenn Butcher’s Railroading/Motorcar Types and Wayne Parson’s Guide to Fairmont Cars.)

History of Anaglyphs

The formal study of three dimensional imaging and depth perception started in the 16th century, with Leonardo Da Vinci, a true master in the art of perspective and depth. Da Vinci was aware that each of our eyes perceives a slightly different image - seeing things from a slightly different angle - than the other eye. It is the combination of these two views that gives humans the ability of depth perception. The idea of taking photographs at slightly different angles (as our eyes would function) and using a device to combine the pictures was the basis of stereoscope and stereographic graphics. In the late 19th century, Joseph D'Almeida came upon a new way to view 3D based on the same principles. In this system, the two images would be created using two different lights, red and green/blue. By looking through light filters, one could achieve the 3D effect. The technical term for this technique was 'anaglyph,' Greek for 'again' and 'sculpture.'

Anaglyphs' first mass medium was the movie theater. William Friese-Greene was the first to make a 3D anaglyphic film in 1889. The early forms of anaglyphic film were called 'plasticons' or 'plastigrams.' One innovative filmmaker created a film in which the view could choose the ending which they wanted to see. By looking through the red filter, the viewer could enjoy the happy ending, or if the viewer preferred the tragic ending, they could simply look through the green filter.

One of the popular movies to use anaglyphic imaging was "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" (1954)

In the 1950's, magazines and comic books took over the anaglyph industry. Joe Kubert and Norman Maurer were the create the 3D comic book, using transparent acetates to manipulate the red and green images. These comic books, starring Danger Mouse, came with a pair of red/green "space goggles" that allowed you to view the anaglyph images.

Today, we still see anaglyph 3D in magazine and movie theaters, including Disney's extremely popular 3D movie, "Captain E-O" starring Michael Jackson. The August 1998 issue of the National Geographic used 3D anaglyphs to present photographs of taken of Mars as well as the remain of the Titanic.

Pathfinder touched down on July 4, 1997, and recorded images and data that astounded the world. Newcott. Images by NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory. -- National Geographic, August 1998


* The Savage didn't remain in frontline service long because it was seen as an interim solution from the day it performed its first flight, the Navy having already put the wheels in motion for a much better successor.

In 1947, the US Navy, issued a request for a carrier-based strategic nuclear bomber, capable of carrying a 4,500-kilogram (10,000-pound) nuclear weapon to an operational radius of 3,700 kilometers (2,000 NMI), with the aircraft featuring a loaded weight of no more than 45,000 kilograms (100,000 pounds). A number of companies submitted proposals. The Douglas company's proposal was designed by a team under the well-known Ed Heinemann and defined a sleek swept-wing aircraft powered by two Westinghouse J40 engines, one in a nacelle on a pylon under each wing. The Navy had been lobbying for a "supercarrier", the USS UNITED STATES, to support nuclear strike aircraft, but the Navy and Air Force were engaged in a bitter struggle at the time over who had the strategic nuclear mission. Heinemann wisely felt it unsafe to assume that the UNITED STATES would actually be built he insisted that the gross weight of the aircraft be no more than 31,750 kilograms (70,000 pounds), so it could operate off of existing carriers.

Both Douglas and Curtiss were awarded preliminary contracts to refine their designs. The two submissions were examined, with the result that the Navy awarded Douglas a contract for two prototypes of the "XA3D-1", as it was designated, on 31 March 1949. The UNITED STATES was canceled in April, validating Heinemann's judgement. The XA3D-1s were fitted with Westinghouse XJ40-WE-3 engines with 31.1 kN (3,175 kgp / 7,000 lbf) thrust each. The first prototype made its initial flight on 28 October 1952.

Although the Navy had been banking heavily on the Westinghouse J40 for the service's new generation of jet aircraft, the J40 program was terminally "snakebitten", the engine would never go into full production, and in fact Westinghouse would soon drop out of the jet engine business. The J40-WE-12 being proposed for the production machine wasn't powerful enough anyway, having only 33.4 kN (3,400 kgp / 7,500 lbf) thrust after discussions with the Navy, Douglas engineers modified the design for the P&W J57 turbojet, with both prototypes refitted with J57-P-1 engines.

The single "YA3D-1" production prototype was fitted from the outset with J57-P-1 engines. The first production "A3D-1 Skywarrior" performed its initial flight on 16 February 1953, with the type going into service with Navy squadron VAH-1 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville in Florida in March 1956, the Skywarrior performing its first sea cruise later in the year.


The piston-engined Skyraider was designed during World War II to meet United States Navy requirements for a carrier-based, single-seat, long-range, high performance dive/torpedo bomber, to follow-on from earlier types such as the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver and Grumman TBF Avenger. [3] Designed by Ed Heinemann of the Douglas Aircraft Company, prototypes were ordered on 6 July 1944 as the XBT2D-1. The XBT2D-1 made its first flight on 18 March 1945 and in April 1945, the USN began evaluation of the aircraft at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC). [4] In December 1946, after a designation change to AD-1, delivery of the first production aircraft to a fleet squadron was made to VA-19A. [5]

The AD-1 was built at Douglas' El Segundo plant in Southern California. In his memoir The Lonely Sky, test pilot Bill Bridgeman describes the routine yet sometimes hazardous work of certifying AD-1s fresh off the assembly line at a rate of two aircraft per day for delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1949 and 1950. [6]

The low-wing monoplane design started with a Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone radial engine which was later upgraded several times. Its distinctive feature was large straight wings with seven hard points apiece. The Skyraider possessed excellent low-speed maneuverability and carried a large amount of ordnance over a considerable combat radius. Further, it had a long loiter time for its size, compared to much heavier subsonic or supersonic jets. The aircraft was optimized for the ground-attack mission and was armored against ground fire in key locations, unlike faster fighters adapted to carry bombs, such as the Vought F4U Corsair or North American P-51 Mustang, which were retired by U.S. forces before the 1960s.

Shortly after Heinemann began designing the XBT2D-1, a study was issued that showed for every 100 lb (45 kg) of weight reduction, the takeoff run was decreased by 8 ft (2.4 m), the combat radius increased by 22 mi (35 km) and the rate-of-climb increased by 18 ft/min (0.091 m/s). Heinemann immediately had his design engineers begin a program for finding weight-saving on the XBT2D-1 design, no matter how small. Simplifying the fuel system resulted in a reduction of 270 lb (120 kg) 200 lb (91 kg) by eliminating an internal bomb bay and hanging external stores from the wings or fuselage 70 lb (32 kg) by using a fuselage dive brake and 100 lb (45 kg) by using an older tailwheel design. In the end, Heinemann and his design engineers achieved more than 1,800 lb (820 kg) of weight reduction on the original XBT2D-1 design. [7]

The Navy AD series was initially painted in ANA 623 Glossy Sea Blue, but during the 1950s following the Korean War, the color scheme was changed to light gull grey (Fed Std 595 26440) and white (Fed Std 595 27875). Initially using the gray and white Navy scheme, by 1967 the USAF began to paint its Skyraiders in a camouflaged pattern using two shades of green, and one of tan.

Used by the US Navy over Korea and Vietnam, the A-1 was a primary close air support aircraft for the USAF and RVNAF during the Vietnam War. The A-1 was famous for being able to take hits and keep flying thanks to armor plating around the cockpit area for pilot protection. It was replaced beginning in the mid-1960s by the Grumman A-6 Intruder as the Navy's primary medium-attack plane in supercarrier-based air wings however Skyraiders continued to operate from the smaller Essex-class aircraft carriers.

The Skyraider went through seven versions, starting with the AD-1, then AD-2 and AD-3 with various minor improvements, then the AD-4 with a more powerful R-3350-26WA engine. The AD-5 was significantly widened, allowing two crew to sit side-by-side (this was not the first multiple-crew variant, the AD-1Q being a two-seater and the AD-3N a three-seater) it also came in a four-seat night-attack version, the AD-5N. The AD-6 was an improved AD-4B with improved low-level bombing equipment, and the final production version AD-7 was upgraded to a R-3350-26WB engine.

For service in Vietnam, USAF Skyraiders were fitted with the Stanley Yankee extraction system, [8] which acted in a similar manner to an ejection seat, though with twin rockets extracting the pilot from the cockpit.

In addition to serving during Korea and Vietnam as an attack aircraft, the Skyraider was modified to serve as a carrier-based airborne early warning aircraft, replacing the Grumman TBM-3W Avenger. It fulfilled this function in the USN and Royal Navy, being replaced by the Grumman E-1 Tracer and Fairey Gannet, respectively, in those services. [9]

Skyraider production ended in 1957 with a total of 3,180 having been built. In 1962, the existing Skyraiders were redesignated A-1D through A-1J and later used by both the USAF and the Navy in the Vietnam War.

Korean War Edit

The Skyraider was produced too late to take part in World War II, but became the backbone of United States Navy aircraft carrier and United States Marine Corps strike aircraft sorties in the Korean War (1950–1953), with the first ADs going into action from Valley Forge with VA-55 on 3 July 1950. [10] Its weapons load and 10-hour flying time far surpassed the jets that were available at the time. [9] On 2 May 1951, Skyraiders made the only aerial torpedo attack of the war, hitting the Hwacheon Dam, then controlled by North Korea. [11]

On 16 June 1953, a USMC AD-4 from VMC-1 piloted by Major George H. Linnemeier and CWO Vernon S. Kramer shot down a Soviet-built Polikarpov Po-2 biplane, the only documented Skyraider air victory of the war. [12] AD-3N and -4N aircraft carrying bombs and flares flew night-attack sorties, and radar-equipped ADs carried out radar-jamming missions from carriers and land bases. [9]

During the Korean War, AD Skyraiders were flown by only the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, and were normally painted in dark navy blue. It was called the "Blue Plane" by enemy troops. [13] Marine Corps Skyraiders suffered heavy losses when used in low-level close-support missions. To allow low-level operations to continue without unacceptable losses, a package of additional armor was fitted, consisting of 0.25–0.5 inches (6.4–12.7 mm) thick external aluminum armor plates fitted to the underside and sides of the aircraft's fuselage. The armor package weighed a total of 618 pounds (280 kg) and had little effect on performance or handling. [14] A total of 128 Navy and Marine AD Skyraiders were lost in the Korean War – 101 in combat and 27 to operational causes. Most operational losses were due to the tremendous power of the AD. ADs that were "waved-off" during carrier recovery operations were prone to performing a fatal torque roll into the sea or the deck of the aircraft carrier if the pilot mistakenly gave the AD too much throttle. The torque of the engine was so great that it would cause the aircraft to rotate about the propeller and slam into the sea or the carrier.

Cathay Pacific VR-HEU incident Edit

On 26 July 1954, two Douglas Skyraiders from the aircraft carriers USS Philippine Sea and Hornet shot down two Chinese PLAAF Lavochkin fighters off the coast of Hainan Island while searching for survivors after the shooting down of a Cathay Pacific Douglas DC-4 Skymaster airliner three days previously. [15] [16] [17]

Vietnam War Edit

As American involvement in the Vietnam War began, the A-1 Skyraider was still the medium attack aircraft in many carrier air wings, although it was planned to be replaced by the A-6A Intruder as part of the general switch to jet aircraft. Skyraiders from Constellation and Ticonderoga participated in the first U.S. Navy strikes against North Vietnam on 5 August 1964 as part of Operation Pierce Arrow in response to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, striking against fuel depots at Vinh, with one Skyraider from Ticonderoga damaged by anti-aircraft fire, and a second from Constellation shot down, killing its pilot, Lieutenant Richard Sather. [18] [19]

Shoot-downs Edit

During the war, U.S. Navy Skyraiders shot down two Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 jet fighters: the first on 20 June 1965 by Lieutenant Clinton B. Johnson and LTJG Charles W. Hartman III of VA-25. [20] Using their cannons, this was the first gun kill of the Vietnam War. The other was on 9 October 1966 by LTJG William T. Patton of VA-176. [12]

Tactical Operators Edit

As they were released from U.S. Navy service, Skyraiders were introduced into the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF). Skyraiders were also used by Air Force Special Operations Command for search and rescue air cover. They were also used by the USAF to perform one of the Skyraider's most famous roles — the "Sandy" helicopter escort on combat rescues. [21] [22] On 10 March 1966, USAF Major Bernard F. Fisher flew an A-1E mission and was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing Major "Jump" Myers at A Shau Special Forces Camp. [23] USAF Colonel William A. Jones III piloted an A-1H on 1 September 1968 mission for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In that mission, despite damage to his aircraft and suffering serious burns, he returned to his base and reported the position of a downed U.S. airman. [23]

After November 1972, all A-1s in U.S. service in Southeast Asia were transferred to the RVNAF. The Skyraider in Vietnam pioneered the concept of tough, survivable aircraft with long loiter times and large ordnance loads. The USAF lost 201 Skyraiders to all causes in Southeast Asia, while the Navy lost 65 to all causes. Of the 266 lost A-1s, five were shot down by surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and three were shot down in air-to-air combat two by VPAF MiG-17s. [24]

Losses Edit

On 5 August 1964, the first A-1E Skyraider was shot down during Operation Pierce Arrow. The pilot, Lt. (jg) Richard Sather, was the first Navy pilot killed in the war. On the night of 29 August 1964, the second A-1E Skyraider was shot down and the pilot killed near Bien Hoa Air Base it was flown by Capt. Richard D. Goss from the 1st Air Commando Squadron, 34th Tactical Group. The third A-1 was shot down on 31 March 1965 piloted by Lt. (jg) Gerald W. McKinley from the USS Hancock on a bombing run over North Vietnam. He was reported missing, presumed dead.

While on his very first mission, Navy pilot Lt. (jg) Dieter Dengler took damage to his A-1H over Vietnam on 1 February 1966, and crash-landed in Laos. [25] The next A-1 was shot down on 29 April 1966, and Pilot Capt. Grant N. Tabor, was lost on 19 April 1967 both were from the 602 Air Commando Squadron. A Skyraider from Navy Squadron VA-25 on a ferry flight from Naval Air Station Cubi Point (Philippines) to USS Coral Sea was lost to two Chinese MiG-17 on 14 February 1968: Lieutenant (j.g.) Joseph P. Dunn, USN flew too close to the Chinese island of Hainan and was intercepted. Lieutenant Dunn's A-1H Skyraider 134499 (Canasta 404) was the last Navy A-1 lost in the war. He was observed to survive the ejection and deploy his raft, but was never found. Initially listed as missing in action, he is now listed as killed in action and posthumously promoted to the rank of Commander. Shortly thereafter, A-1 Skyraider naval squadrons transitioned to the A-6 Intruder, A-7 Corsair II or Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. [ citation needed ]

In contrast to the Korean War, fought a decade earlier, the U.S. Air Force used the naval A-1 Skyraider for the first time in Vietnam. As the Vietnam War progressed, USAF A-1s were painted in camouflage, while USN A-1 Skyraiders were gray/white in color again, in contrast to the Korean War, when A-1s were painted dark blue.

In October 1965, to highlight the dropping of the six millionth pound of ordnance, Commander Clarence J. Stoddard of VA-25, flying an A-1H, dropped a special, one-time-only object in addition to his other munitions – a toilet. [26]

Republic of Vietnam Air Force Edit

The A-1 Skyraider was the close air support workhorse of the RVNAF for much of the Vietnam War. The U.S. Navy began to transfer some of its Skyraiders to the RVNAF in September 1960, replacing the RVNAF's older Grumman F8F Bearcats. By 1962 the RVNAF had 22 of the aircraft in its inventory, [27] and by 1968 an additional 131 aircraft had been received. Initially Navy aviators and crews were responsible for training their South Vietnamese counterparts on the aircraft, but over time responsibility was gradually transferred to the USAF.

The initial trainees were selected from among RVNAF Bearcat pilots who had accumulated 800 to 1200 hours flying time. They were trained at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, and then sent to NAS Lemoore, California for further training. Navy pilots and crews in Vietnam checked out the Skyraiders that were being transferred to the RVNAF, and conducted courses for RVNAF ground crews. [28]

Over the course of the war, the RVNAF acquired a total of 308 Skyraiders, and was operating six A-1 squadrons by the end of 1965. These were reduced during the period of Vietnamization from 1968 to 1972, as the U.S. began to supply the South Vietnamese with more modern close air support aircraft, such as the A-37 Dragonfly and Northrop F-5, and at the beginning of 1968, only three of its squadrons were flying A-1s. [29]

As the U.S. ended its direct involvement in the war, it transferred the remainder of its Skyraiders to the South Vietnamese, and by 1973, all remaining Skyraiders in U.S. inventories had been turned over to the RVNAF. [30] Unlike their American counterparts, whose combat tours were generally limited to 12 months, individual South Vietnamese Skyraider pilots ran up many thousands of combat hours in the A-1, and many senior RVNAF pilots were extremely skilled in the operation of the aircraft. [31]

United Kingdom Edit

The Royal Navy acquired 50 AD-4W early warning aircraft in 1951 through the Military Assistance Program. All Skyraider AEW.1s were operated by 849 Naval Air Squadron, which provided four-plane detachments for the British carriers. Flights from HMS Eagle (R05) and HMS Albion (R07) took part in the Suez Crisis in 1956. [32] [33] 778 Naval Air Squadron was responsible for the training of the Skyraider crews at RNAS Culdrose until July 1952. [34]

In 1960, the Fairey Gannet AEW.3 replaced the Skyraiders, using the AN/APS-20 radar of the Douglas aircraft. The last British Skyraiders were retired in 1962. [34] In the late 1960s, the AN/APS-20 radars from the Skyraiders were installed in Avro Shackleton AEW.2s of the Royal Air Force which were finally retired in 1991.

Sweden Edit

Fourteen ex-British AEW.1 Skyraiders were sold to Sweden to be used by Svensk Flygtjänst AB between 1962 and 1976. All military equipment was removed and the aircraft were used as target tugs supporting the Swedish Armed Forces. [34]

France Edit

The French Air Force bought 20 ex-USN AD-4s as well as 88 ex-USN AD-4Ns and five ex-USN AD-4NAs with the former three-seaters modified as single-seat aircraft with removal of the radar equipment and the two operator stations from the rear fuselage. The AD-4N/NAs were initially acquired in 1956 to replace aging Republic P-47 Thunderbolts in Algeria. [35]

The Skyraiders were first ordered in 1956 and the first was handed over to the French Air Force on 6 February 1958 after being overhauled and fitted with some French equipment by Sud-Aviation. The aircraft were used until the end of the Algerian war. The aircraft were used by the 20e Escadre de Chasse (EC 1/20 "Aures Nementcha", EC 2/20 "Ouarsenis" and EC 3/20 "Oranie") and EC 21 in the close air support role armed with rockets, bombs and napalm.

The Skyraiders had only a short career in Algeria, but they nonetheless proved to be the most successful of all the ad hoc counter-insurgency aircraft deployed by the French. The Skyraider remained in limited French service until the 1970s. [35] They were heavily involved in the civil war in Chad, at first with the Armée de l'Air, and later with a nominally independent Chadian Air Force staffed by French mercenaries. The aircraft also operated under the French flag in Djibouti and on the island of Madagascar. When France at last relinquished the Skyraiders it passed the survivors on to allied states, including Gabon, Chad, Cambodia and the Central African Republic. [36] (Several aircraft from Gabon and Chad have been recovered recently by French warbird enthusiasts and entered on the French civil register).

The French frequently used the aft station to carry maintenance personnel, spare parts and supplies to forward bases. In Chad they even used the aft station for a "bombardier" and his "special stores" – empty beer bottles – as these were considered as non-lethal weapons, thus not breaking the government-imposed rules of engagement, during operations against Libyan-supported rebels in the late 1960s and early 1970s. [ citation needed ]

Variants [ edit | edit source ]

An A3D-1 of Heavy Attack Squadron 3 (VAH-3) on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1957. VAH-3 became the A3D/A-3 Replacement Air Group (RAG) squadron for the Atlantic Fleet in 1958.

Note: under the original Navy designation scheme, the Skywarrior was designated A3D (third Attack aircraft from Douglas Aircraft). In September 1962, the new Tri-Services designation system was implemented and the aircraft was redesignated A-3. Where applicable, pre-1962 designations are listed first, post-1962 designations in parentheses.

  • XA3D-1: Two prototypes with Westinghouse J40 turbojets, no cannon in tail turret.
  • YA3D-1 (YA-3A): One pre-production prototype with Pratt & Whitney J57 engines. Later used for tests at the Pacific Missile Test Center.
  • A3D-1 (A-3A): 49 initial production versions, serving largely in developmental role in carrier service.
  • A3D-1P (RA-3A): One A3D-1 converted as a prototype for the A3D-2P with camera pack in the weapon bay.
  • A3D-1Q (EA-3A): Five A3D-1s converted for the electronic reconnaissance (ELINT) role, with ECM equipment and four operators in weapons bay.
  • A3D-2 (A-3B): Definitive production bomber version, with stronger airframe, more powerful engines, slightly larger wing area (812 ft²/75 m² versus 779 ft²/72 m²), provision for in-flight refueling reel for tanker role. Final 21 built had new AN/ASB-7 bombing system, reshaped nose deleted tail turret in favor of electronic warfare installation.
  • A3D-2P (RA-3B): 30 photo-reconnaissance aircraft with weapons bay package for up to 12 cameras plus photoflash bombs. Increased pressurization allowed camera operator to enter the bay to check the cameras. Some retained tail guns, but most were later converted to ECM tail of late A-3Bs.
  • A3D-2Q (EA-3B): 24 electronic warfare versions with pressurized compartment in former weapon bay for one Electronic Warfare Officer and three ESM operators, various sensors. This was the longest serving version of the "Whale" and the most widely known throughout the fleet. Some early models had tail guns, but these were replaced with the ECM tail. The EA-3B was assigned to fleet reconnaissance squadrons VQ-1 (Japan and later Guam) and VQ-2 (Rota. Spain) where they flew alongside the Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star and the EP-3B and EP-3E. It served in the fleet for almost 40 years, and was replaced by the ES-3A Shadow flown by two Fleet Air Reconnaissance (VQ) squadrons: VQ-5 at NAS North Island, California and VQ-6 at NAS Cecil Field, Florida. They were decommissioned less than 10 years after their commissioning due to budget constraints.
  • A3D-2T (TA-3B): 12 bomber-trainer versions. Five later converted as VIP transports (two redesignated UTA-3B).
  • KA-3B: 85 A-3B bombers refitted in 1967 for the tanker role with probe-and-drogue system in place of bombing equipment.
  • EKA-3B: 34 KA-3B tankers refitted for dual Electronic countermeasures (ECM)/tanker role, with electronic warfare equipment and tail fairing in place of rear turret. Most were converted back to KA-3B configuration (with no ECM gear) after 1975.
  • ERA-3B: Eight RA-3Bs converted as electronic aggressor aircraft (primarily for war-at sea exercises) with ECM in new extended tail cone, ventral "canoe" fairing, cylindrical fairing atop vertical fin, and two detachable ram-air turbine powered ALQ-76 countermeasures pods (one under each wing). Added chaff (radar countermeasure) dispensers (streaming chaff from the tail cone and two self-protection chaff dispensers on the aft fuselage) and four ram-air turbines (two per side) to power the equipment located in the former bomb bay. Crew increased to four: pilot, navigator, crew chief, and Electronic Countermeasures Officer (ECMO) with one generally unused "jumpseat" in the aft crew compartment (formerly the weapon bay). There was no equipment position for a second Electronic Countermeasures Officer or enlisted crewman in the converted weapon bay. The "jump seat" was used for qualified instructor ECMOs training new ECMOs, for guest observers on operational flights, or for passengers during operational deployment transits. While the ERA-3B could withstand the stresses of a cable arrested landing, the ALT-40 and ALR-75 equipment in the former bomb bay was not stressed to withstand a catapult launch and the ERA-3B was never deployed aboard carriers. The ERA-3B served with VAQ-33 and later with VAQ-34.
  • NRA-3B: Six RA-3Bs converted for various non-combat test purposes.
  • VA-3B: Two EA-3B converted as VIP transports. Both aircraft were assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations flying from Andrews AFB in Washington, DC. [citation needed]
  • NTA-3B: One aircraft converted by Hughes/Raytheon used to test radar for the F-14D Tomcat.

B-66 Destroyer [ edit | edit source ]

The U.S. Air Force ordered 294 examples of the derivative B-66 Destroyer, most of which were used in the reconnaissance and electronic warfare roles. The Destroyer was fitted with ejection seats.

How 3-D Bioprinting Works

To make his eponymous monster, Victor Frankenstein needed body parts, but organ donation, as we know it, wouldn't emerge for another 135 years or so. And so the fictional doctor "dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave" and visited dissecting rooms and slaughterhouses, where he collected parts and pieces like some sort of ghoul.

Future Victor Frankensteins won't have to become grave robbers to obtain body parts. They won't even need bodies. Instead, we're betting they'll take advantage of a rapidly developing technology known as bioprinting. This offshoot of 3-D printing aims to allow scientists and medical researchers to build an organ, layer by layer, using scanners and printers traditionally reserved for auto design, model building and product prototyping.

To make a toy using this technique, a manufacturer loads a substance, usually plastic, into a mini-fridge-sized machine. He also loads a 3-D design of the toy he wants to make. When he tells the machine to print, it heats up and, using the design as a set of instructions, extrudes a layer of melted plastic through a nozzle onto a platform. As the plastic cools, it begins to solidify, although by itself, it's nothing more than a single slice of the desired object. The platform then moves downward so a second layer can be deposited on the first. The printer repeats this process until it forms a solid object in the shape of the toy.

In industrial circles, this is known as additive manufacturing because the finished product is made by adding material to build up a three-dimensional shape. It differs from traditional manufacturing, which often involves subtracting a material, by way of machining, to achieve a certain shape. Additive manufacturers aren't limited to using plastic as their starting material. Some use powders, which are held together by glue or heated to fuse the powder together. Others prefer food materials, such as cheese or chocolate, to create edible sculptures. And still others -- modern versions of Victor Frankenstein -- are experimenting with biomaterials to print living tissue and, when layered properly in biotic environments, fully functioning organs.

That's right, the same technology that can produce Star Wars action figures also can produce human livers, kidneys, ears, blood vessels, skin and bones. But printing a 3-D version of R2-D2 isn't exactly the same as printing a heart that expands and contracts like real cardiac muscle. Cut through an action figure, and you'll find plastic through and through. Cut through a human heart, and you'll find a complex matrix of cells and tissues, all of which must be arranged properly for the organ to function. For this reason, bioprinting is developing more slowly than other additive manufacturing techniques, but it is advancing. Researchers have already built modified 3-D printers and are now perfecting the processes that will allow them to print tissues and organs for pharmaceutical testing and, ultimately, for transplantation.

The 3-D History of Bioprinting

The promise of printing human organs began in 1983 when Charles Hull invented stereolithography. This special type of printing relied on a laser to solidify a polymer material extruded from a nozzle. The instructions for the design came from an engineer, who would define the 3-D shape of an object in computer-aided design (CAD) software and then send the file to the printer. Hull and his colleagues developed the file format, known as .stl, that carried information about the object's surface geometry, represented as a set of triangular faces.

At first, the materials used in stereolithography weren't sturdy enough to create long-lasting objects. As a result, engineers in the early days used the process strictly as a way to model an end product -- a car part, for example -- that would eventually be manufactured using traditional techniques. An entire industry, known as rapid prototyping, grew up around the technology, and in 1986, Hull founded 3D Systems to manufacture 3-D printers and the materials to go in them.

By the early 1990s, 3D Systems had begun to introduce the next generation of materials -- nanocomposites, blended plastics and powdered metals. These materials were more durable, which meant they could produce strong, sturdy objects that could function as finished products, not mere stepping-stones to finished products.

It didn't take long for medical researchers to notice. What's an organ but an object possessing a width, height and depth? Couldn't such a structure be mapped in three dimensions? And couldn't a 3-D printer receive such a map and then render the organ the same way it might render a hood ornament or piece of jewelry? Such a feat could be easily accomplished if the printer cartridges sprayed out biomaterials instead of plastics.

Scientists went on the hunt for such materials and by the late 1990s, they had devised viable techniques and processes to make organ-building a reality. In 1999, scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine used a 3-D printer to build a synthetic scaffold of a human bladder. They then coated the scaffold with cells taken from their patients and successfully grew working organs. This set the stage for true bioprinting. In 2002, scientists printed a miniature functional kidney capable of filtering blood and producing urine in an animal model. And in 2010, Organovo -- a bioprinting company headquartered in San Diego -- printed the first blood vessel.

Today, the revolution continues. Taking center stage are the printers themselves, as well as the special blend of living inks they contain. We'll cover both next.

Just Like an Inkjet Printer, Sort Of

The idea of 3-D printing evolved directly from a technology everyone knows: the inkjet printer. Watch your HP or Epson machine churn out a printed page, and you'll notice that the print head, driven by a motor, moves in horizontal strips across a sheet of paper. As it moves, ink stored in a cartridge sprays through tiny nozzles and falls on the page in a series of fine drops. The drops build up to create an image, with higher-resolution settings depositing more ink than lower-resolution settings. To achieve full top-to-bottom coverage, the paper sheet, located beneath the print head, rolls up vertically.

The limitation of inkjet printers is that they only print in two dimensions -- along the x- and y-axes. A 3-D printer overcomes this by adding a mechanism to print along an additional axis, usually labeled the z-axis in mathematical applications. This mechanism is an elevator that moves a platform up and down. With such an arrangement, the ink head can lay down material from side to side, but it can also deposit layers vertically as the elevator draws the platform down and away from the print head. Fill the cartridge with plastic, and the printer will output a three-dimensional plastic widget. Fill it with cells, and it will output a mass of cells.

Conceptually, bioprinting is really that simple. In reality, it's a bit more challenging because an organ contains more than one type of material. And because the material is living tissue, it needs to receive nutrients and oxygen. To accommodate this, bioprinting companies have modified their 3-D printers to better serve the medical community.

As you can imagine, bioprinting technology isn't at the point where you can order one on Amazon, but you can find, for instance, Organovo's NovoGen MMX bioprinter at institutions like the Harvard Medical School, Wake Forest University, and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. If you're not really an institutional type, you might want to check out the Instructable for a DIY bioprinter from the folks at BioCurious.

If you were to pull apart a bioprinter, as we'd love to do, you'd encounter these basic parts:

Print head mount -- On a bioprinter, the print heads are attached to a metal plate running along a horizontal track. The x-axis motor propels the metal plate (and the print heads) from side to side, allowing material to be deposited in either horizontal direction.

Elevator -- A metal track running vertically at the back of the machine, the elevator, driven by the z-axis motor, moves the print heads up and down. This makes it possible to stack successive layers of material, one on top of the next.

Platform -- A shelf at the bottom of the machine provides a platform for the organ to rest on during the production process. The platform may support a scaffold, a petri dish or a well plate, which could contain up to 24 small depressions to hold organ tissue samples for pharmaceutical testing. A third motor moves the platform front to back along the y-axis.

Reservoirs -- The reservoirs attach to the print heads and hold the biomaterial to be deposited during the printing process. These are equivalent to the cartridges in your inkjet printer.

Print heads/syringes -- A pump forces material from the reservoirs down through a small nozzle or syringe, which is positioned just above the platform. As the material is extruded, it forms a layer on the platform.

Triangulation sensor -- A small sensor tracks the tip of each print head as it moves along the x-, y- and z-axes. Software communicates with the machine so the precise location of the print heads is known throughout the process.

Microgel -- Unlike the ink you load into your printer at home, bioink is alive, so it needs food, water and oxygen to survive. This nurturing environment is provided by a microgel -- think gelatin enriched with vitamins, proteins and other life-sustaining compounds. Researchers either mix cells with the gel before printing or extrude the cells from one print head, microgel from the other. Either way, the gel helps the cells stay suspended and prevents them from settling and clumping.

Bioink -- Organs are made of tissues, and tissues are made of cells. To print an organ, a scientist must be able to deposit cells specific to the organ she hopes to build. For example, to create a liver, she would start with hepatocytes -- the essential cells of a liver -- as well as other supporting cells. These cells form a special material known as bioink, which is placed in the reservoir of the printer and then extruded through the print head. As the cells accumulate on the platform and become embedded in the microgel, they assume a three-dimensional shape that resembles a human organ.

Alternatively, the scientist could start with a bioink consisting of stem cells, which, after the printing process, have the potential to differentiate into the desired target cells. Either way, bioink is simply a medium, and a bioprinter is an output device. Up next, we'll review the steps required to print an organ designed specifically for a single patient.

The A-3 community in action!

Ed Heinemann, always weight conscious, strove even harder to keep the aircraft weight well below the 100,000 lb. limit as he was convinced that construction of the super carrier would be canceled as a result of the power struggle between the USAF and USN. The result was soon evident as in mid-1948 Douglas submitted a proposal for a 68,000 lb. (30,844 kg) aircraft capable of operating from Midway-class carriers whilst the Curtiss proposed design weighed close to 100,000 lb. The third competitor, North American, had already dropped out of contention as it did not believe that the Navy's requirements could be met by an aircraft weighing less than 100,000 lb. Although doubting that Douglas could build an aircraft two thirds the weight of its rival, the Navy gave Curtiss and Douglas a three month preliminary design contract to enable them to refine their proposals. Soon it became evident that indeed Ed Heinemann and his team would be able to realize their promise, and on 31 March,1949, Douglas was awarded a contract for two XA3D-ls and a static test airframe.

Detailed design proceeded apace during the next two years under the watchful eyes of Ed Heinemann who continued his fight against excess weight. In the process, the decision was made to install a crew escape chute similar to that fitted on the F3D Skyknight as the use of ejector seats would have resulted in a 3,500 lb. (1,589 kg) increase in gross weight (although this decision was wise at the time, the lack of ejector seats later led to the filing against Douglas of a $2.5 million damage suit by the widow of Lt-Cdr Charles Parker who had been unable to abandon his crippled EKA-3B during a mission over Vietnam on 21 January, 1973). Much attention was also paid to the problems of wing flutter and of interference between the engine pod, pylon and wing and, as a result of computer calculations and wind-tunnel testing, the wing structure was strengthened whilst the pylons were extended and cambered. Meanwhile, the Navy was considering the fitting of the British-devised angled deck and steam catapult to its Essex and Midway-class carriers. The adoption of these carrier improvements and Heinemann's success in the fight against increases in aircraft weight paid off handsomely as, before the first flight of the XA3D-1, it became evident that the new carrier bomber would be able to operate from the smaller carriers at a weight exceeding its design gross weight and would thus have a substantial growth potential.

When ordering the XA3D-1 the Navy had specified that the aircraft should be powered by Westinghouse J40s. Accordingly, Douglas fitted two 7,000 lb. (3,175 kg) thrust XJ40-WE-3 engines to the XA3D-1 and proposed using 7,500 lb. (3,402 kg) J40-WE-12s on the production A3D-1 Skywarriors. Powered by two of the ill-starred Westinghouse engines, the first XA3D-1 (s/n 7588, BuNo 125412) was trucked to Edwards AFB, where on 28 October, 1952, George Jansen took it up for its maiden flight. During the following months, as the higher portion of the speed envelope was progressively explored, the XA3D-1 ran into flutter problems. Fortunately for Douglas, as the use of J40s would also have resulted in the production A3D-ls being markedly underpowered, that engine's development had by then run into serious teething troubles and a proposal to fit the more powerful Pratt & Whitney J57 two-spool turbojet on the A3D- 1s was endorsed by the Navy. Initially mounted on the first of fifty A3D-1s (BuNos 130352/130363 and 135407/135444), which was redesignated YA3D-1 and first flew at El Segundo on 16 September, 1953, the 9,700 lb. (4,400 kg) thrust dry (11,600 lb. (5,262 kg) thrust with water injection) J57-P-6 turbojets were housed in modified pods located further forward. The revised powerplant installation solved the flutter problem, and the increased thrust and reduced fuel consumption enabled the YA3D-1 to live up to expectations. Company and Service trials continued for the next two and a half years whilst additional orders were placed for the bomber version, as well as for trainer, electronic reconnaissance and counter measures, and photographic reconnaissance models.

Deliveries to a fleet squadron began on 31 March, 1956, when five A3D-1s were ferried from NAS Patuxent, Maryland, to NAS Jacksonville, Florida, for assignment to Heavy Attack Squadron One (VAH-1) and soon the new carrier-borne bomber showed its might. The first public demonstration of the Skywarrior's performance was given exactly four months after its entry into service when Lt-Cdrs P. Harwood and A. Henson and Lt. R. Miears flew 3,200 miles (5,150 km) nonstop and without inflight refueling from Honolulu to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 5 hr 40 min at an average speed of 565 mph (909 km/h). The range capability of the A3D-1 was further exhibited during the first three days of September 1956 when aircraft of VAH-1 were launched from the USSShangri-la whilst the carrier was steaming the Pacific from Mexico to Oregon and flew without refueling to their Florida home base at NAS Jacksonville.

The following year saw the service debut of the A3D-2, the main production variant of the Skywarrior which was first delivered to VAH-2, and as more A3D squadrons were formed the US Navy acquired a new role as part of the overall strategic deterrent concept. The year was also marked by a number of spectacular Skywarrior flights including that made by Cdr. Dale Cox and his crew who during a single flight on 21 March, 1957, broke the westbound US transcontinental record with a time of 5 hr 12 min 39.24 sec and the Los Angeles-New York-Los Angeles record with a time of 9 hr 31 min 35.4 sec. Two and half months later, on 6 June, two Skywarriors landed aboard the USS Saratoga off the east coast of Florida 4 hr 1 min after having been launched from the USS Bon Homme Richard off the California coast. Record flights between the San Francisco bay area and Hawaii were made twice during 1957, two A3D-2s of VAH-2 covering the distance in 4 hr 45 min on 16 July whilst on 11 October a VAH-4 Skywarrior covered the distance in 4 hr 29 min 55 sec.

Joined in the late fifties by the specialized electronic reconnaissance (A3D-2Q), photographic reconnaissance (A3D-2P) and-trainer (A3D-2T) versions, the A3Ds grew in importance until a peak of eighteen squadrons was reached shortly after the last Skywarrior was delivered in January 1961. Twelve of the fourteen Heavy Attack Squadrons—VAH-1, VAH-2 and VAH-4 to VAH-13 -- flew A3D-2s primarily in the strategic bombing role whilst VAH-3 and VAH-123 were equipped with A3D-1s and A3D-2Ts and functioned as replacement training squadrons. Beginning in June 1961 with VAH-7, however, the A3D-2s were replaced in five squadrons by North American A-5A/RA-5C Vigilantes. Longer lived were two electronic reconnaissance/counter measures squadrons, VQ-1 and VQ-2, which operated A3D-2Qs, and two photographic reconnaissance squadrons, VAP-61 and VAP-62, which flew A3D-2Ps these four units provided detachments aboard fleet carriers as required.

Progressively the Skywarrior’s role evolved as the Navy relinquished its strategic bombing role and began emphasizing the use of carriers and their aircraft in the context of limited wars such as the new conflict then flaring up in Vietnam. Fortunately, the A-3 (the A3D-1 and -2 had been redesignated A-3A and A-3B in September 1962 in accordance with the new Tri-Service designation system) was a remarkably adaptable aircraft and most A-3Bs were modified into KA-3B tankers or EKA-3Bs with dual ECM and tanker capability. Thus, When after August 1964 the Navy took an active part in the air operations over North Vietnam, detachments of KA-3Bs and EKA-3Bs were regularly embarked aboard the carriers operating in the Gulf of Tonkin . Providing the necessary intelligence on the North Vietnamese radar system and escorting most strikes to jam enemy radar and communication networks, the EKA-3Bs proved invaluable, whilst the KA-3Bs saved scores of lives and much valuable equipment by flight refueling aircraft about to run out of fuel short of their carrier or having sustained battle damage to their fuel system.

Following the end of the Southeast Asia War and the development of ECM and tanker versions of the Grumman Intruder (EA-6A, EA-6B and KA-6D), the Skywarrior finally began to fade away. In 1976, EA-3Bs and RA-3Bs were operated only by two fleet squadrons, VQ-1 and VQ-2, whilst other versions were ending their useful life with reserve squadrons VAQ-208 and VAQ-308. As retirement day approached, the Skywarrior remained the heaviest aircraft ever to be operated from a carrier, a record take-off weight of 84,000 lbs. (38,102 kg)---still well below the original Navy limit which Ed Heinemann had succeeded in bettering by a fantastic margin---having been demonstrated on 25 August, 1959, during suitability trials preceding the commissioning of the USS Independence.

Douglas A-3 Skywarrior

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 08/29/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Douglas supplied its large, twin-engine Skywarrior jet-powered bomber to both the United States Air Force (as the B-66 Destroyer) and the United States Navy (as the A-3 Skywarrior). Some 282 of the latter were produced and these managed a healthily-long operational service life spanning from 1956 to 1991. While introduced as a carrier-based bomber, the Skywarrior eventually took on the roles of reconnaissance, in-flight refueling tanker and Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) before its story was fully written. Design of the aircraft was credited to famous American aviation engineer Ed Heinemann best known for his lead in the design of the USN's fabled A-4 "Skyhawk" carrier-based fighter. When adopted by the USN in 1956, the Skywarrior became its first twin-engine nuclear-capable bomber and the largest (and heaviest) aircraft to serve on an aircraft carrier.

The USN commissioned for several design studies to test the feasibility of a carrier-based strategic bomber with the primacy concern being operating weights and size on a space-strapped aircraft carrier deck. Douglas engineers then began design work on such an aircraft in 1947, mostly operating without the benefit of all the design details the USN envisioned - such was the secrecy surrounding any new aircraft intended to deliver a nuclear-minded payload. In January of 1948, U.S. Navy authorities issued their formal requirement for a carrier-based bomb-delivery platform with this nuclear capability in mind - the aircraft intended to operate from the deck of current American carriers while also displaying inherently good operating ranges. Douglas secured the development contract and went on to produce the "XA3D-1" prototype to which this aircraft first flew on October 28th, 1952. The development phase was a protracted affair and service entry for the aircraft that would eventually become the "Skywarrior" was not until 1956. Production spanned from 1956 to 1962 and from this design the USAF's B-66 "Destroyer" platform was also realized.

As completed, the Skywarrior exhibited a wingspan of 72 feet, 6 inches, a length of 74 feet, 5 inches and a height of 22 feet, 9.5 inches - a large aircraft indeed. Maximum Take-Off Weight was in the vicinity of 82,000lbs. With its 2 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-10 turbojet engines of 10,000lbs thrust each, the aircraft could reach speeds of 620 miles per hour (520mph cruising) and a service ceiling up to 40,500 feet. Engines were held underwing in individual nacelles while an internal bomb bay allowed for 12,000lbs of ordnance to be carried. Operational range was 2,300 miles. A turret was fitted to the tail unit for some self-defense capability and was remotely-controlled from the cockpit. The aircraft's crew number three.

Externally, the aircraft featured a long, slender fuselage with an elegant fuselage spine curving to become the single vertical tail fin. Wings were shoulder-mounted and heavily-swept while displayed some dihedral. Conversely, the horizontal tailplanes were cranked slightly upwards and mid-mounted along the vertical tail fin. Since the engines were held outboard of the fuselage, this allowed for the needed internal volume for fuel stores, avionics and munitions. The undercarriage was of a tricycle arrangement with three single-wheeled legs. The crew sat under a framed canopy offering generally adequate views of the action around the aircraft - save perhaps to the rear. As a navy aircraft, the main wing assemblies were able to fold outboard of the engine installations.

Beyond the XA3D-1 prototype - of which two were built, the Skywarrior line included the YA3D-1 development prototype (single example) and the initial production-quality A3D-1 of which 49 were delivered. The A3D-1P mark was a one-off prototype form modified for the photographic reconnaissance role and A3D-1Q were five converted airframes for ELectronic INTelligence (ELINT) with additional crew for the role. The A3D-2 became the primary bomber form of the Skywarrior line and the A3D-2P was its photo-reconnaissance form, the A3D-2Q serving as the ELINT variant. Trainers became a dozen A3D-2T airframes to which five were then later revised as VIP transports, joining the two VA-3B examples in the same role. KA-3B signified some 85 airframes modified for the aerial tanker role beginning in 1967. The EKA-3B served to cover aerial tanker modified airframes and ERA-3B were electronic "aggressor" aircraft for USN training. NRA-3B was used to designated some six test airframes and a sole NTA-3B example served as an aerial testbed for the powerful Hughes-brand radar system to be eventually fitted on Grumman F-14D "Tomcat" carrier-based interceptors.

All designations were revised in the 1962 under the new Tri-Services designation scheme. This produced the A-3A (A3D-1), RA-3A (A3D-1P), EA-3A (A3D-1Q), A-3B (A3D-2), RA-3B (A3D-2P), EA-3B (A3D-2Q), TA-3B (A3D-2T) designations in turn.

The Skywarrior was one of the many American aircraft pressed into combat service during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Early in their tenure, the Skywarriors undertook their intended conventional bombing role against enemy positions in both North and South Vietnam. With the arrival of newer aircraft showcasing better performance, capabilities and technologies, the Skywarrior's intended strategic bombing role eventually faded over time. The aircraft found renewed use as an in-flight refueling tanker while other airframes were eventually outfitted with specialized equipment for the dedicated reconnaissance role. Additional mounts served as crew trainers.

Amazingly, the 1950s-era Skywarrior, in its "EA-3B" form (A3D-2Q), was around long enough to participate in the 1991 Gulf War before seeing formal retirement.

Douglas A3D/NTA-3B Skywarrior (Bomber)

Created to carry nuclear bombs for the Navy after WWII, the Skywarrior is the heaviest aircraft to land on a carrier and so, was called: The Whale. It was launched by catapult or JATO thrust bottles, but landing on a carrier is tricky. There were no ejection seats, so “A3D” soon stood for All 3 Dead.

The A3D became the USAF B-66 Destroyer with a strengthened structure for higher altitudes and ejection seats in 1956—the same year the A3D joined the Navy.

During 30 years of service—from Vietnam to Desert Storm—the A3D changed roles and became a star. In Vietnam, the bomb bay carried electronic surveillance equipment and fuel for other aircraft, sometimes accomplishing both on the same sortie. Skywarrior tankers extended the striking range of the air wing. Electronic Whales tracked enemy movements, intercepted radio transmissions, and jammed radar to protect aircraft in the air. Four electronic specialists, called crows or ravens joined the crew (later replaced by automation). The Skywarrior was among the longest serving carrier-based aircraft in history.

Our A3D was a bomber and navigator trainer until 1968 when it went to Hughes and Raytheon, received a bigger nose cone for conducting radar and avionics testing for the Grumman F-14 and the B-2A Spirit Stealth Bomber, and continued to serve the Navy from the air.

Please visit “Douglas A3D/A-3 Skywarrior” blog post for more information on this aircraft.

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