Friday, March 14, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 14 March

U.S. Navy Douglas EA-3B Skywarrior (BuNo 146452) from Fleet Reconnaissance Squadron VQ-1 Det.64 World Watchers in flight over the South China Sea.
So the other day on Facebook I was looking over my list of people to whom I had sent "Friend Requests" (not something I do lightly mind you) and noticed that fellow Lexican (and all-round good guy) Comjam had yet to respond to my request.

So knowing that 
Comjam was a former A-3 guy, I promised him a post on The Whale, if he would but respond to my humble request. He did and, as I'm a man of my word, here's the post, as promised.

This is the first time I've really taken a look at the Skywarrior, I should have looked sooner!
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.

A modified derivative also served in the U.S. Air Force until the early 1970s as the B-66 Destroyer, serving as a tactical bomber, electronic warfare aircraft (EB-66C) and RB-66 reconnaissance bomber. 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). - Wikipedia
The Whale in Air Force livery.
(RB-66 Destroyer)

Something else that's really cool about The Whale is who designed it. Ed Heinemann, that's who. And who is Mr. Heinemann? Check this out -
During his long career at Douglas, Heinemann designed more than 20 combat aircraft, primarily for the U.S. Navy, including many that became legends in aviation history. His designs included:
  • SBD Dauntless dive bomber
  • A-20 Havoc light bomber/attack aircraft
  • A-26 Invader light bomber/attack aircraft
  • A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft
  • A-3 Skywarrior bomber
  • A-4 Skyhawk light bomber
  • F3D Skyknight night fighter
  • F4D Skyray carrier-based fighter aircraft
  • Douglas Skystreak and Douglas Skyrocket research aircraft
One of the first aircraft to be designed by Heinemann was the Moreland M-1 Trainer of 1929, a braced-wing parasol wing monoplane. Due to the 1929 recession only a small number were sold before the company ceased trading in 1933. - Wikipedia
At this point I'm thinking that Mr. Heinemann is probably deserving of his very own Flyby. (I foresee a future series of Flybys honoring various aircraft designers. Highlighting the aircraft they designed, of course. And yes, I do take requests, the only proviso being that I feature military aircraft. Not saying I'd turn down the opportunity to post on a really awesome civilian bird, just stating my preferences. So to speak.)


Ladies and gentlemen, aviators and maintainers, Bubbleheads and Shoes*, I give you the Douglas A-3 Skywarrior -

Hey! I recognize that rock!

A camouflaged RA-3B Skywarrior of reconnaissance squadron VAP-61 World Recorders (BuNo 144846) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Agana, Guam. Standing beside it are PH1c R. Laurie, LTJG D. Schwikert and LCDR Chas. D. Litford. On the ground in front of them are twelve cameras. VAP-61 performed reconnaissance missions over Vietnam until it was disestablished on 1 July 1971.
A-3B Skywarrior (BuNo 138974) from Heavy Attack Squadron VAH-4 Fourrunners Det.G dropping a Mk 83 454 kg bomb in South Vietnam. VAH-4 Det.G was assigned to Attack Carrier Wing 16 (CVW-16) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34) for a deployment to Vietnam from 5 April to 16 December 1965.

EA-3B Skywarrior Ranger 16 ("Lola") of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron VQ-2 Rangers
prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) on 3 February 1987.

The only U.S. Navy Douglas VA-3B Skywarrior (BuNo 142672) VIP-transport built on the ground at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
It was used by the Chief of Naval Operations until retired on 9 April 1974. Note the Admiral's flag above the cockpit.
LCdr. Dwight I. Worrell flew this aircraft between 1968 and 1971. 

NRA-3B Skywarrior aircraft (BuNo 144834) equipped with electronic warfare (jammer) pods,
with its wings folded at the Pacific Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, California, on 5 Apr 1982.

Plan view of the A-3 Skywarrior

Skywarrior trap...

Cutaway view of the Skywarrior

Visit the A-3 Skywarrior Association here. Lots of good stuff about a pretty awesome aircraft.

* Bubbleheads and Shoes = Submariners and Professional Surface Warfare Officers. Ahem. Sorry Jim P., sorry Naviguesser and Nuke.


  1. Along with the B-58 and Mosquito, the B-66 was one of the first and favorite models I built as a kid. Wonder if it made a THUD when it came aboard the carrier?

    As always, thanks and TGIF!

    1. According to Big Time, they ALL make a thud when they hit the deck. My guess is that the A-3 made an even bigger THUD than the others.

      That was one large bird.

      Have a great Friday!

  2. First time I ever saw one of these (EB-66 version) was when one limped into Phu Cat after taking ground fire over the Plain of Jars in Laos.
    Got to do harness repair under the port wing.

    1. Man, you did get around back in the day didn't ya Russ?

    2. First assignment out of tech school.

  3. We had a few former Whale guys join the S-3 community after they went to the boneyard, transitioning to the ES-3A Shadow. I remember one tell us a story about how they dropped an AIRBOC off San Clemente Island. Chaff is one thing, AIRBOC is quite another. L.A. Center was VERY upset for some reason- something to do with some of the shiny stuff drifting into their radar coverage zones, which is pretty much all of southern California. Some Admirals got called, people's feathers got all ruffled, some COs got their asses handed to them, etc. Good stuff!

    1. AIRBOC?

    2. Ooh. Nice.

      (Do they sell these at Home Depot?)

  4. You know, I wasn't going to say anything, not wishing to step on any toes and starting my career in a jet called "Double Ugly", I think the A-3/B-66 is not a bad looking aircraft as Bombers go, But.....

    The NRA-3B would make Jimmy Durante look like Louis Jordan! Just sayin' WHAT a schnoz!

    1. Uh yeah. That's a nose only a mother could love.

  5. You think maybe the A-3 might have influenced the design of the S-3? Just wondering.

  6. Could be, but I think it was more of a follow-on to the S-2, in both mission and design.

  7. Guys, brush-up on your a/c recognition. Doesn't that NRA-38 ECM bird visually remind you of the Yak-25 Flashlight?

    1. I had to look that one up Virgil, but you're right. That Yak-25 had a very similar nose to the NRA-3B, add in the underwing engine pods and yeah, you have a close match.

  8. The RB-66, wasn't that the type of plane that Col. Icell Hambleton was on when he got shot down? (Call Sign- BAT-21)

  9. "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"

    What about the North American A-5 (A3J) Vigilante? Although it spent the majority of its service life in the recce role, it was designed as a strategic bomber to carry the Mk 28 bomb.

    1. Good point. Though the Vigilante's service as a bomber was short, it was indeed designed as a strategic bomber. So there were three, not just two.

      Thanks for the correction.


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