The Douglas A-3D Skywarrior

                            A-3 Skywarrior


The A-3D Skywarrior was designed as a strategic bomber for the United States Navy (USN). However, it was used as a utility aircraft in the roles of an electronic recon aircraft and as aerial in-flight refueling tanker. It was the longest servicing and the heaviest aircraft used on an aircraft carrier.

The A-3D Skywarrior was one of three to be intended as an aircraft carrier strategic attack bomber. The other two were the North American AJ Savage and the North American A-5 Vigilante. the Douglas B-66 Destroyer was developed from the A-3D for the United States Air Force (USAF) as a tactical bomber, electronic warfare and recon aircraft in the early 1970s

Design and Development

In the final stages of World War II USN started looking into the possibility of using a jet-powered aircraft operating from an aircraft carrier.

The jet-powered aircraft would have to be long range and deliver a 10,000-pound load or a nuclear device. In January 1948 the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) issued a requirement for this type of aircraft with a weight of 100,000 pounds and be able to take-off and land on not yet built but proposed “Supercarrier United States-class” aircraft carrier.

Ed Heinemann Chief Designer at Douglas Aircraft was concerned that the proposal for the United States Class Supercarrier could be canceled. so he proposed a much smaller aircraft of 68,000 lbs which still could operate off of existing carriers.

The USN accepted Douglas Aircraft’s proposal and issued a contract for that design on 29 September 1949. Thus the A-3D Skywarrior came about and made it’s first st flight 28 October 1952.

The first prototypes used Westinghouse J40 turbojet engines. They proved to be totally unreliable and the contract with Westinghouse was canceled. Douglas Aircraft then turned to Prat & Whitney and contracted for their J57 turbojet engines which provided to be somewhat better but the initial development of these engines took a while to straighten out.

The introduction of the Skywarrior to the USN came about in the Spring of 1956. The Douglas proposal (and production) was the smallest of all proposals of aviation companies. But it remained on active duty until 27 September 1991.

The engines hung on wing nacelles, it had hydraulic flight controls, internal fuel tanks for long range, the wings folded outboard of the engines and the vertical stabilizer folded starboard this for below deck storage. The early design was for the Skywarrior to be used as an attack bomber so only 3 crew members were planned; pilot, bombardier/navigator and tail gunner.

When the A3D was redesigned as an electronic recon aircraft 7 crew member positions were made; pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and 4 electronic systems operators.  The bomb bay in this configuration had been done away thus allowing stations for the 4 4 electronic operators.

As a weight-saving measure, the ejection seats were eliminated but had an escape tunnel as it was assumed most flights would be at high altitude.  This didn’t help much if you had to get out at low altitudes.

The USAF B-66 version of the A3D had ejection seats for all crew members. You had to remember that the B-66 had no weight restrictions like the Skywarrior as it flew from land bases.

The A3D was originally designed as an attack bomber but found to have greater use as electronic recon aircraft and that made its long service life possible. There were 282 A3D Skywarriors built, the last in 1961.

Operational History

Prior to the development of the Polaris Nuclear Submarines, the A-3 was USN chief nuclear deliver. A-3 squadrons were established into two Heavy Attack Wings (HATWINGS), one wing based in NAS North Island San Diego CA the other in NAS Jacksonville FL.

They were relocated from NAS North Island to NAS Whidbey Island WA, the other was relocated from NAS Jacksonville FL to NAS Sanford FL After 1964 the Skywarrior’s role as a heavy strategic bomber role was abandoned as the Polaris nuclear missile fired from submarines became the primary USN nuclear response.

During the Vietnam War era, the Skywarrior was used for some conventional bombing such as dropping the Mk84, a 2,000-pound bomb and mine laying from 1964-1967.

Later the A-3 was used as an ariel tanker, photographic recon and electronic recon with various models of the A-3 Skywarrior.

For most of the War, the EA-3B flew from Da Nang Air Base providing electronic recon capability over the contested area including the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the north to Haiphong harbor.

Modified A-3B were used as a photo recon aircraft squadron in Vietnam These aircraft were equipped to perform cartographic mapping where no detailed maps existed. The modified RA-3B was used to monitor night traffic down roads and trails into Laos.

The real workhorse for the air wing was the modified multitasked EKA-3B which could jam enemy radar and refuel an attack aircraft on the same mission.

There were two air refueling squadrons both had EKA-3b aircraft with the electronic equipment removed thus making them strictly KA-3B aircraft for refueling This occurred in the early 1970s and lasted until the early 1990s.

The EA-3 variant was used for critical electronic intelligence against the Warsaw Pack Missions were flow from 1956 with the EP-3 and EB-47 offering unique electronic recon capabilities in numerous Cold War conflicts and the Vietnam War.

The last fleet Skywarrior saw retirement in September 1991

Where you can see the A-3 Skywarrior:

125413 Fulton County Airport, New York

135434 Edwards Air Force Flight Test Center Museum Edwards AFB,                                 California

135418 National Naval Aviation Museum NAS Pensacola, Flordia

130361 Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona

142246 New England air Museum Windsor Locks, Connecticut

146457 Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum Mount Pleasant, South                    Carolina

138944 U.S.S. Lexington Museum CorpusChristi, Texas

147666 Oakland Aviation Museum Oakland, California

142251 USS Midway Museum San Diego, California

This is Just a Partial List of the A-3 Skywarrior on Display. Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information.

Tech Specs for the A-3B/A3D-2 Skywarrior

Wingspan: 72 ft 6 in

Length: 76 ft 4 in

Height: 22 ft 10in

Weight: 39,400 lbs (empty) 82,000 Lbs MTOW

Max Speed: 610 mph

Ceiling: 41,000 ft

Range: 1,826 nmi

Engine: 2/Pratt & Whitney J57-P-10 turbojet, 10,500 lbf (Dry), 12,400 lbf                     (Wet)

Crew: 3


The Douglas A-20 Havoc


The Douglas A-20 Havoc was World War II light bomber attack and recon aircraft. Its users, besides the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), were Soviet Air Forces, Soviet Naval Aviation and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) which called the A-20, Boston.

It was also used by air forces of Australia, South Africa, France and the Netherlands.  Brazil  obtained the Havoc and after the War.  There 7,478 Havocs built for all users .

Design and Development

Donald Douglas, in March of 1937, led a design team that included Ed Heinmann and Jack Northrop that designed a new light bomber that was to be powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp-Junior radial engines rated at 450 hp each.

However another design model very similar being used in the Spanish Civil War indicated the proposed aircraft  Model 7A as Douglas named it, was extremely underpowered and could carry very little if any ordnance.

Donald Douglas, in response to a USAAF request for a attack aircraft, placed Ed Heinmann as head of the design team replaced the R-985 with Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engines and now called Model DB-7B for the USAAF proposal.  Competition for this bid was strong, with North American NA-40, Stearman X-100 and Martin 167F.  Although the DB-7B was very maneuverable and fast, the USAAF did not place any orders with Douglas.

However the French Purchasing Commission  who were in the country looking for American armament of various types, were attracted to the DB-7B.    The “Munich Crisis” was in progress and the French wanted new weapons to counter the German aggression and they  ordered 270 DB-7s.

Although DB-7 aircraft were not the fastest or as long-ranged as some other aircraft in this class (light bomber), it was rugged and dependable with good speed and maneuverability.

One of Britain’s RAF test pilots, said “The Boston has no vices, very easy to take off and land…The aeroplane represents a definite advantage in the design of flying controls, extremely pleasant to fly and maneuver.  Former Boston pilots found it their favorite aircraft of the war dut the ability to toss it around like a fighter.  The Boston bomber/night fighter was found to be extremely adaptable and found a role in every combat theater of the ar, and excelled as a true ‘ pilots aeroplane’.”

The DB-7 series ended on 20 September 1944 with a total of 7,098 had been built by Douglas and another 380 by Boeing.  The Douglas ability to mas produce aircraft, when the Havoc production was over, the Santa Monica, California plant was quickly re-designed and refurbished and immediately started producing the A-20 Havoc series for the USAAF.

The plant itself was only 700 feet long but by looping back this made the assembly a mile long.  Manhours were reduced 50% for some areas of operation and production efficiency was increased.

Operational History


The French had ordered 270 DB-7s (Douglas Bomber 7) variant as they wanted to modify the aircraft with their machine guns and instruments.  They started out with the Pratt and Whitney R-1830–SC3-G radial engine,  rated at 1,000 hp.  Later tt was changed to the Pratt and Whitney R-1830-S3C-G radial engine rated at 1,100 hp.  The fuselage was narrower and deeper.

The DB-7s were shipped to Casablanca in North Africa for asembly and sent to France.  When the germans attacked France in May of 1940,the 64 available of the DB-7s were used against the Germans.

After the fall of France, the remaining DB-7s went to North africa but fell under the control of the Vichy French.  They were used against the Allied invasion of French North Africa.  After French (Vichy) forces sided with the Allies, the remaining French DB-7s were used as trainers.

Great Britian (RAF)

The RAF bought the undeliverable DB-7s as France had fallen to the Germans.  The Bostons as the RAF renamed them saw action in the Mediterranean and North Africa.  During and after the “Battle of Britain” the Boston II were used as night fighters with 8 /30 cal machine guns in the wings..

Some were used as “Turinlite aircraft where the aircraft had been fitted with a powerful searchlight in the nose of the aircraft.  The Boston would be directed by a radar operator on the ground in the proximity of an enemy on a bombing or escort run at night.  The pilot of the Boston would turn on the searchlite on the enemy aircraft and the Boston’s escorting RAF aircraft would attack the blinded enemy.  This practice discontinued in early 1943.

United States Army Air Force

In the 1930s, the United States Army Air Corp (USAAC) was reluctant to pursue any purchases of the A-20.  When they saw the improved versions and variants sold to the French and RAF, they became more interested.  The USAAC was interested in two versions, the A-20 for high altitude bombing and the A-20A for medium and low level bombing.

Over all USAAC ordered over 1,000 A-20s of different models with about 600 going to the USSR in the lease-lend deal..  The USAAC received 356 A-20s that wereorginally bought by France but could no longer be delivered because the German take over of France.


In 1942 the first operational unit that saw combat was the 89th Bombardment Squadron that served in New Guinea.    It was found that Japanese air defenses in the South Pacific were not nearly as deadly as the German air defences in Europe.

There wasn’t any need for a Bombardier in the aircraft and extra machine guns were mounted on the nose  giving them devastating fire power at low altitude.  The low level attack would wipe out ground targets  like aircraft and hangers, and supply dumps.  On the ocean the forward gun power was so devastating against the bombs could be literally skipped against supply ships an destroyers.

Europe and Mediteranean 

In July of 1942, the first USAAF “Boston” squardonron manned RAF A-20s in the first combat by American forces in theat type of aircraft.  They saw service in North Africa, Italy and Corsica France.

It was found the the German air defenses were, especially flak, caused high loses at low altitude, thus medium level bombing was adopted.  In 1944 the Havoc begin recon sorties until the end of the war, as more advanced fighter bombers took over their manin chore.

Where you can see the Douglas A-20 Havoc

#41-19393 Wings Museum Balcombe, England

#43-21709  Lewis Air Legends San Antonio,

#43-22200 National Museum if the United State air Force Dayton, Ohio

#4321627 Pima Air and Space Museum Tucson, Arizona

Tech Specs for the A-20 Havoc

Wingspan: 61 ft 4 in

Length: 47 ft 8 in

Height: 17 ft 7 in

Weight: 16,693 lbs (empty) 24,127 lbs (MGTOW)

Max Speed: 317 mph

Ceiling: 23,700 ft

Range: 945mi (combat)

Engine: 2/Wright R-2600-23  Twin Cyclone radial rated 1,600 HP

Crew: 3