The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was a giant among the airplanes deployed on aircraft carriers. It was the largest airplane ever designed to operate from an aircraft carrier. After being retired from their primary role of nuclear bomber, the large airframes lent themselves to a variety of missions. Both the Pacific Missile Test Center and VAQ-34 operated fleets of Skywarriors at Pt. Mugu in California. When the U. S. Navy retired the Skywarrior fleet, a number of the surviving airframes were bailed to Hughes and Thunderbird Aviation. All airworthy Skywarriors are now operated by Raytheon.
A commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Douglas XA3D-1 Skywarrior was held at the Van Nuys Airport in October 2002. Four of Raytheon's Skywarriors were on static display. The morning was capped by a flight of one of the Skywarriors.
Check out the announcement of the 50th anniversary event on the A-3 Skywarrior Association web site.
NTA-3B, N879RS is durrently being used to test radar for future generations of stealthy combat aircraft.
NTA-3B, N879RS formerly carried BuNo 144856.
NTA-3B, N879RS used to fly for Hughes Aviation as N579HA.
TA-3B, N870RS formerly carried BuNo 144856. It used to fly as N160TB for Thunderbird Aviation at Deer Valley Airport in Arizona.
NRA-3B, N878RS formerly carried BuNo 144825. This is the same Pacific Missile Test Center Skywarrior seen below with the large Grumman radome at Pt Mugu in the 1980s. It used to fly for Hughes Aviation as N578HA.
NRA-3B, N876RS formerly carried BuNo 143667. It used to fly for Hughes Aviation as N576HA.
Ron Woltman on the left piloted NRA-3B, N876RS for a flight display.
NRA-3B, N876RS was towed out to a taxiway. The engine start cart was hooked up to the Skywarrior.
NRA-3B, N876RS taxis to the take-off end of the runway.
The main landing gear doors haven't quite closed as NRA-3B, N876RS takes off.
NRA-3B, N876RS made a couple of figure-8 passes over the airport. The port wing tip has been replaced with one from an all gray Skywarrior.
It retracted its landing gear for the second pass.
NRA-3B, N876RS deployed a drag chute as it landed.
The wings folded at the conclusion of its performance.
Joe Baugher has page describing Skywarriors on the civil register.
NRA-3B 144833 BH73 of the Pacific Missile Test Center on October 17, 1982. The RA-3B featured a pressurized reconnaissance module in the area occupied by the bomb bay of the standard A-3B.
Pacific Missile Test Center trio: NRA-3B 144833 is joined by NRA-3B 144825 BH75 and NA-3B 138938 BH74 at the Pt. Mugu airshow on October 17, 1982. The modified nose of 144825 was later replaced with the standard RA-3B nose from 144833.
NRA-3B 144825 BH75 of the Pacific Missile Test Center on October 17, 1982. The large nose radome was installed by Grumman. The nose was subsequently restored to stock configuration by grafting on the nose of 144833. It used to fly for Hughes Aviation as N578HA. It is still operational with Raytheon at Van Nuys, registered as N878RS.
KA-3B 138944 GD220 of VAQ-34 refuels a Grumman F-14A of VX-4 on October 19, 1986.
138944 is now displayed on the U.S.S. Lexington at Corpus Christi, Texas.
ERA-3B 144838 GD213 of VAQ-34 on December 9, 1986. It was last operational at Hanscomb Air Force Base, MA. Now it is stored at Mojave with several other Skywarriors.
VAQ-34s primary mission is to play an adversary role in fleet exercises, employing equipment and tactics which simulate those of potential enemies.
Tanker KA-3B 138944 GD220 of VAQ-34 on November 3, 1987.
VAQ-34 also operated EA-7L 156743 GD202, seen here on approach to Point Mugu on February of 1988. The EA-7L served to simulate a Soviet anti-shipping missile attack in fleet exercises. This airplane later crashed in the mountains north of Santa Barbara when the pilots were mysteriously ejected. Yeah, I know, it's not a Skywarrior.
NRA-3B 144825 BH75 of the Pacific Missile Test Center on December 8, 1987.
ERA-3B 144841 GD212 of VAQ-34 on December 8, 1987. The small propellors are Ram Air Turbines (RAT) to generate the power for the jamming transmitters housed in the large canoe radome under the fuselage. It is currently in storage at the Mojave Airport.
TA-3B 144867 BH77 wearing a Hughes Radar badge on the tail on January 13, 1989. It tested the APG-61 radar used on the F-14D. It is now based at Van Nuys and carries civil registration N577HA. While it was bailed to Hughes, it was registered N577HA. It is now operated by Raytheon at Van Nuys and carries civil registration N877RS.
Douglas ERA-3B Skywarrior, N163TB stored at Mojave on July 27, 1997. Its BuNo was 142668 and it last served the U. S. Navy with VAQ-34 Agressors at NAS Pt. Mugu California. It is the only A3D-2P still configured as a photo platform.
Hap Murphy, PHCS USN(Ret) flew on BuNo 142668 back in 1959. He provided this account of some of the early tests conducted with this airplane.
In December 1958 I was part of a Navy team which went to Edwards Air Force Base for the Navy Preliminary Evaluation (NPE) on the A3D-2P. It had been planned that we would use 142668 for these tests but it hadn't been completed yet and we used 142666 instead. At that time 142666 had not been turned over to the Navy and still technically belonged to Douglas. The flight crew for these tests consisted of Commander Jules Aulich (pilot); Chief Photographer's Mate Bob Cornell (photo navigator); and myself, Photographers Mate First Class Hap Murphy (photo technician and tail gunner.)
After several weeks of testing at Edwards the NPE was completed and we returned to The Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland to await the arrival of 142668 which we would then use for the Board of Inspection and Survey Trials (BIS.)
After 142668 was delivered to Pax River we began the BIS Trials which involved operating the photographic systems with every possible combination of cameras installed, in varying speeds, altitudes, and weather and light conditions. Night photography was accomplished using both flash bombs and flash cartridges. Even the tail turret got into the act. To test for any image deterioration caused by vibration while firing the guns we flew along an isolated Atlantic shoreline, swung the turret out to sea and fired the guns. Then we would reverse course, swing the turret so sea and fire while making another photo run. Since the turrets were removed from all the A3D's soon afterward, I am probably one of the few people in the Navy who ever fired the guns in the tail turret of an A3D. The feed mechanism for the guns wasn't the best design in the world and they were subject to frequent jamming, anyway.
On our first night flash bomb test there was a malfunction in the bomb release mechanism and none of the bombs would release in their timed sequence. We were using Bloodsworth Island in Chesapeake Bay as a target for night photography, so we made another pass over the island to salvo the bomb load electrically. Well, the electric salvo didn't release any bombs either, so on the next pass over the island I got out of my seat and went to the rear bulkhead of the camera compartment where the manual salvo levers were located and operated both levers simultaneously. The manual salvo worked like a charm and out went all 16 flash bombs.
It was a dark night, and since we were within sight of the base our ground crew had been watching to see the light show we were going to put on with 16 flash bombs going off in times sequence. However, since we had salvoed the load, and since the fuses were set to go off at a particular altitude, all 16 bombs exploded simultaneously and lit up the sky over Chesapeake bay like nobody had ever seen before.
After we landed and taxied back to the hangar, one of the ground crew opened the access hatch, stuck his head inside, and said "What in the hell did you guys do?"
Douglas TA-3B Skywarrior, N870RS stored at Mojave on July 27, 1997. When this picture was taken it was still registered N160TB from its days working for Thunderbird Aviation at Deer Valley Airport in Arizona.. Its BuNo was 144856 and it last served the Navy with VAQ-33 Firebirds at NAS Key West, Florida. It has since been restored to airworthy condition and is now at the Van Nuys Airport.
Douglas ERA-3B Skywarrior, N162TB stored at Mojave on July 27, 1997. Its BuNo was 144832 and it last served with VAQ-33 Firebirds at NAS Key West, Florida.
Douglas NRA-3B Skywarrior, N256HA stored at Mojave on July 27, 1997. Its BuNo was 142256.
TA-3B, N870RS at Van Nuys Airport on June 22, 2001. It formerly carried BuNo 144856. N870RS was first operated by Raytheon at Van Nuys in 1992. It is seen farther up on the page in temporary storage at the Mojave Airport in 1997.
Douglas ERA-3B Skywarrior, N163TB in storage at Mojave on September 10, 2001. Its BuNo was 142668 and it last served with VAQ-34 Agressors at NAS Pt. Mugu California.
Douglas ERA-3B Skywarrior, N162TB in storage at Mojave on September 10, 2001. Its BuNo was 144832 and it last served with VAQ-33 Firebirds at NAS Key West, Florida.
Douglas RA-3B Skywarrior, N571HA in storage at Mojave on September 10, 2001. Its BuNo was 144843.
Douglas ERA-3B Skywarrior, N572HA in storage at Mojave on September 10, 2001. Its BuNo was 144841, and it was used in the development of the Patriot missile for the Army.
Visit the A-3 Skywarrior web site.
Go to the home page of the Goleta Air and Space Museum.
Send a message to Brian.