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History: In the 1949, a whole new class of
aircraft carrier was under development by the US Navy: the Forrestal-class
"supercarrier." To capitalize on the enormous size and launching capability of
these new ships, a huge new attack bomber was developed by Douglas Aircraft. The world's
largest and heaviest carrier-borne aircraft when it was designed, the A3D
first flew in October 1952, and entered service in 1954. Because of its size, it was
quickly christened "The Whale" by its crews. In its vast internal bomb bay it
could carry up to 12,000 lbs. of various weapons, and it carried radar for blind bombing.
In 1962 the Whale's designation was changed to A-3.
Eventually, the airplane was updated with more powerful engines and an aerial refueling
As time went on, many other uses for the aircraft were
developed, resulting in many variants, including the KA-3B
(aerial refueling), EA-3A/B (electronic
(electronic countermeasures), RA-3
(photo reconnaissance), TA-3B (radar training), EKA-3B
(combined tanker/countermeasures/strike), test work (NA-3B and NRA-3B),
and even a VIP transport model (VA-3B).
The Skywarrior saw steady action throughout the Vietnam War,
and a few even served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Today, though they have retired from
active duty, a few still serve in civilian roles with the California-based Hughes/Raytheon
company, where they are used for defense contract work.
Nicknames: Whale; Electric
Whale/Queer Whale (A3D-1Q/2Q electronic warfare models); All 3 Dead (A3D)
(Due to having no ejection seats).
Engines: Two 10,500-pound thrust Pratt & Whitney J57-P-10 turbojets.
Weight: Empty 39,409 lbs., Max
Takeoff 82,000 lbs.
Wing Span: 72ft. 6in.
Length: 76ft. 4in.
Height: 22ft. 9.5in.
610 mph at 10,000 ft.
Range: 1,050 miles
Armament: Two 20-mm radar-controlled
cannon in rear turret; up to 12,000 pounds of various weapons in internal weapons bay.
Number Built: 280.
Number Still Airworthy: ~6.
A-3 Skywarrior.com -- The definitive
site for A-3 information!
Douglas A3D Skywarrior
Part One: Design/Structures/Testing
(Naval Fighters #45)
By Bruce Cunningham and Steve Ginter
Paperback, 136 pages
Published 1998 by Naval Fighters
A detailed history of the design and testing phases of
the largest carrier-based airplane -- including photos, blueprints, drawings, and excerpts
from technical manuals.
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