Douglas A3D-2 (A-3B) Skywarrior - The Whale

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Introduction: The Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior gave the US Navy significant striking power, representing the pinnacle of its airborne attack capability, giving carrier strike groups the ability to deliver both conventional and nuclear destruction deep into enemy territory, anywhere in the world. Apart from this role however, it served much of its career as a support aircraft, operating in various missions not initially set out in its design requirement, but which would give the aircraft a long service life.

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Background: The Skywarrior story began in 1948, when the Navy issued a requirement for a new bomber aircraft, powered by jet engines. The Navy realised that the strategic bomber force of the newly-created USAF could not yet reach all areas of the globe, and found that the niche for a flexible force, able to rapidly deploy to anywhere in globe (obviously flown off of their carriers) was needed. At this point, they were in the process of procuring the USS United States, their largest flattop to be designed up to that point, which allowed for a large aircraft to be constructed. Various companies submitted to the requirement, including Douglas, whose design was the smallest. This was due to the fact that they wished for their design to be able to be operated from the smaller Midway-class carriers, in the hopes that it would make their design more flexible, but also because there were worries that the USS United States would get cancelled. This latter event did indeed eventuate; politics (and the USAF) got in the way of its construction, which left the USN with the Midway-class, until larger carriers would arrive later. Due to this, the Douglas design was chosen, and it was given the designation of the A3D, and christened Skywarrior.

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Description: The initial production variants would be given the designation of A3D-1, with the main production modification being the A3D-2. The prototype first flew in October 1952, entering service in 1956 as the largest carrier aircraft of the time, being given the nickname of “The Whale”. Between that year and 1961, 282 aircraft would be produced. As mentioned, the Skywarrior was intended to fill out the role as a strategic carrier-based nuclear bomber, and it was the Navy’s main nuclear strike asset. The Skywarrior was also chosen as the basis for a medium jet bomber for the USAF, which eventually became the B-66 Destroyer. By the 1960’s, it was clear that a new generation of aircraft superseded the A3D, and therefore, a supersonic replacement was needed, which emerged as the A-5 Vigilante. However, it soon became apparent that the Polaris-armed nuclear submarines would become the main form f naval-based nuclear deterrence, as they provided a more persistent and survivable form of deterrence.

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Thus the A3D, by now redesignated A-3B, and A-5 were forced into other roles. The A-3B, like its cousin the B-66, would serve most of its days in secondary roles. Despite this, the Skywarrior did see some action in Vietnam in the bombing role between 1964 and 1967. The aircraft would take on additional roles in electronic and photo reconnaissance as well as in the air-to-air refuelling role. These conversions would serve well into the 1970’s and 80’s, with some EA-3Bs only being retired in 1991, after taking part in Operation Desert Storm. The Skywarrior also had a prolific career as a test platform for various systems. These included various radar and missile systems, including those of the F-111B, F-14, F-15 and even the AIM-95 AGILE. Various aircraft were bough up by defence companies, including Hughes and then Raytheon, operating them throughout the 90’s and beyond. The last flyable Skywarrior bowed out in 2011.

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Performance:

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Specifications (A-3B):
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.
Performance:
Maximum Speed: 610 mph at 10,000 ft.
Cruising Speed: 520 mph
Ceiling: 41,000 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.

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Conclusion: The Skywarrior would be a great addition to the US tree, providing a capable heavy naval strike aircraft that would help bolster the naval attack line, and help expand it. The US can certainly do with a “widened” tech tree with more lines, which is something I hope to work on in the future, and the A3D will be an important part of the naval line.

Sources:

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File:Douglas A-3B Skywarrior of VAH-4 in flight in 1963.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Douglas A-3 Skywarrior: US Navy A-3B 142246 Bradley Aircra… | Flickr

File:Douglas A-3B over Capri 1958.jpg - Wikipedia

Douglas A-3 Skywarrior - Wikipedia

Douglas A-3 Skywarrior - Wikipedia

A3D (A-3) Skywarrior

https://www.a3skywarrior.com/ready-room/a-3-history.html

Warbird Alley: Douglas A-3 Skywarrior

Goleta Air & Space Museum - Douglas A-3 Skywarriors

Douglas A3D Skywarrior & B-66 Destroyer

5 Likes

Yes! This would be such a good vehicle for 9.0 as a successor to the B-57. It’s very much a bomber and not an attacker, so it fits better in that line, like other naval bombers (PBs) before it.

3 Likes

+1

Due to the fact that this aircraft not ingame is criminal, i want to see more obscure Korean and Vietnam war era aircraft and the A-3’s are no exception to this

3 Likes

It’d be especially cool if the tail gunner view got access to the radar in order to help target enemies better. +1

4 Likes

I would love the USAF version too (B-66).

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Yep, I had suggested that a while back. See the reply above ;)

A-4 minus one? Hell yea, +1

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unfortunately then it would be A-3A version. A-3B didnt have tailgunner at all. It was replaced by electronic countermeasure/ warfare systems…

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Yeah, I already give you my vote in this thread.

But do you the older brother from korea war, the B-45 C Tornado ?
I think it could be a great addition.

5 Likes

I think it would be a great addition, but it would probably go before the B-57 as it’s a relatively similar aircraft. The B-57 can then be followed by the B-66 too. I was thinking that the A3D could go in the naval strike line because I personally think it’s a lot closer doctrinally to a naval attack aircraft than as a strategic bomber, but neither would it be out of place in the bomber line alongside the B-66.

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The early production A-3s received tail gunners, which then had ECM equipment retrofitted to them

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Didnt I just told that ?
Upgraded models vere A-3B’s what this topic is about and tailgunners were on A-3A Variants

The majority of dash 1 & dash 2 (A & B) models were built with tail guns, there’s plenty of photographic evidence. The exception is the final 21 airframes that were fitted with the ECM tail and other changes on the production line but without a change in designation.

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The problem is the B-45 has poor flight performance (similar to Ar 234 for example) but it somehow can carry 22,000lb of ordinance, nearly twice that of even the A-3B and more than any aircraft in the game except the F-111.

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The similarity of the B-45 and Ar234 is superficial at best.

The B-45 was designed years later, is a significantly larger aircraft, with a lot more thrust available so it’s no surprise to find it is notably faster than the Ar234 despite its size and has a far larger bombload.

Theres no ‘somehow’ about the 22000lb bombload, it was designed for a strategic role carrying the original large and heavy nukes. Plus you will probably find that the standard load is much less and limited by bomb bay size rather than weight as with many other bombers.

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Aw dang

Early A-3Bs also had tail guns, there are photos of A-3Bs equipped with them in the suggestion (the first two). These were then replaced by ECM equipment on late production A-3Bs and were retrofitted onto older ones.

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I think that would be a nice compromise, still gets the tail guns and the better engines.

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In the second picture did the A-3B crash on the carrier deck?

1 Like