Douglas A3D-1/A-3A Skywarrior

Last revised August 2, 2016

The production prototype was designated YA3D-1 and had the BuNo of 130352. It was powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1 turbojets. The electronic pod that had been mounted at the top of the XA3D-1s vertical tail was eliminated. The Westinghouse tail turret was originally fitted, but was later removed after the aircraft was delivered to the Naval Missile Center for a variety of tests. It was later redesignated YA-3A.

The first production version was designated A3D-1. 49 were built. The designation was changed to A-3A when the unified designation scheme was introduced in September of 1962. The radar-controlled tail turret was fitted. The engines were a pair of 10,000 lb.s.t. Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1, P-6A, or P-6B engines. Up to six 4500 lb.s.t. Aerojet JATO bottles could be attached to each side of the rear fuselage which made it possible for the aircraft to take off from an Essex-class aircraft carrier at maximum weight without the aid of a catapult.

The deliveries of the A3D-1 began on March 31, 1956. The first Navy squadron to receive the A3D-1 was Heavy Attack Squadron One (VAH-1). The 50 A3D-1s that were built were used primarily to evaluate the concept of carrier-based strategic bombers and to explore the problems involved in operating such a large aircraft aboard an aircraft carrier.

A single A3D-1 (BuNo 130358) was fitted with a photographic reconnaissance kit in the bomb bay and was redesignated YA3D-1P. It was used as a prototype for the later A3D-2P photographic reconnaissance variant. The plane was redesignated NRA-3A after September of 1962.

Five A3D-1s were modified as electronic reconnaissance aircraft. The electronic equipment was installed in the bomb bay, in a ventral fairing, and in a cheek radome on either side of the forward fuselage. There were four seats on the A3D-1Q, three facing forward and one facing aft. On the left side, there were two seats, #1 Pilot facing forward, and immediately behind it, the #3 crewman seat that faced aft. The backs of the two seats were connected together making them one unit. The third crewman was the flight engineer and gunner, facing the Aero 21B radar console that controlled the 20 mm cannon in the tail. On the right side facing forward was the #2 navigator seat, a unit by itself. Directly behind the navigator was seat #4, the electronics evaluator facing forward and operating his SIGINT/ELINT modules. The first of these aircraft was designated YA3D-1Q, with the remainder becoming A3D-1Q. They were all redesignated EA-3A in September of 1962. One of the A-3As was redesignated NEA-3A while serving with the Naval Missile Center at NAS Point Mugu, California.

Specification of Douglas A3D-1/A-3A Skywarrior

Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-6 non-afterburning turbojets, each rated at 10,000 lb.s.t.. Performance: Maximum speed 621 mph at 1000 feet, 585 mph at 35,000 feet. Cruising speed 519 mph. Combat ceiling 40,500 feet. Combat radius 1150 with a single 7600 lb Mk.15 nuclear weapon Weights: 35,900 pounds empty, 60,250 pounds loaded, 70,000 pounds maximum takeoff.  Dimensions: Wingspan 72 feet 6 inches, length 74 feet 5 inches, height 22 feet 10 inches. Wing area 779 square feet. Weapons: Maximum offensive load of 12,000 pounds in internal bomb bay.

Serials of Douglas A3D-1 Skywarrior

130352			Douglas YA3D-1 Skywarrior
				c/n 9253
130353/130363	Douglas A3D-1 Skywarrior
				c/n 9254/9264


  1. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920, Vol 1, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988

  2. American Combat Planes, 3rd Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  3. E-mail from Charles Huber on seating arrangements in A3D-1Q