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The A3D Skywarrior was the predominate aircraft for the Enlisted Bombardier Navigator.

Some of the Enlisted B/Ns started out first as the "Third Crewman" in the A3D.

Our Aircraft

P2V "Neptune"

A3D Skywarrior

After close-contact with Navy patrol squadrons, Lockheed concluded that a new, shore-based, ASW long-range airplane with a greater ordnance load capacity was needed, and began designing a prototype in 1941 as a private venture. World War II delayed the first flight of a prototype until 1945 following an order from the Navy for two of them. Delivery of production models began in 1947. Designated the P2V "Neptune", it grossed out at 61,000 lbs, was powered by two 2,300 hp Wright engines with a maximum speed of 303 mph, possessed three .50 caliber machine gun turrets (later converted to 20 mm cannons), an enclosed bomb-bay capable of carrying two torpedoes or twelve depth charges, and provisions for sixteen underwing rockets. Later versions were equipped with more powerful engines as well as one, the P2V-7, with a 2,300 lb thrust jet engine under each wing. Various submarine detection devices such as MAD and Julie/Jezebel were incorporated as state-of-the-art electronic development progressed.

It was not in the patrol-bomber role that the P2V became famous, but rather as a record setter. In 1946 a P2V named the "Truculent Turtle" flew non-stop from Perth, Australia (with a kangaroo on board) to Columbus, Ohio, a distance of 11,235 miles in 55 hours 17 minutes - a record for the longest flight without refueling that stood for 16 years. This was followed in 1949 by a flight from an aircraft carrier off the Virginia coast with 10,000 lbs of dummy bombs onboard, across the continent to the west coast, dropped its bombs, and returned non-stop to NAS Patuxent, Md. In addition to the distance traveled, the aircraft held the distinction of being the heaviest plane (74,668 lbs) to ever take-off from a carrier up to that time.

The 1950s brought even more records for the P2V. In 1951, a P2V accompanied five AJ-1 "Savages" in completing the first transatlantic flight by carrier type aircraft on a trip from Norfolk, Virginia to Port Lyautey, Morocco. Then in 1955, a P2V patrol squadron was the first to fly around the world as a squadron.

The P2Vs were the mainstay of Navy land-based patrol squadrons until replaced by the Lockheed P-3 "Orion". The last Anti-Submarine Warfare P2V (a P2V-7) made its final flight in February, 1970. Co-pilot of the aircraft (RADM Davies) had been the pilot of the record setting "Truculent Turtle". Thereafter, it joined others in service as utility aircraft in Naval Reserve Squadrons.

AJ2 "Savage"

A3D Skywarrior

Ordered by the Navy in 1946 as a high-performance carrier-based nuclear strike aircraft, the AJ "Savage" was destined to replace the P2V "Neptune" in this role. Equipped with two 2,400 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines as well as a 4,600 lb thrust Allison J33 auxiliary jet in the tail, the first AJs were delivered to the Navy in 1949. With the completion of carrier suitability tests in 1950, the AJ was introduced into operational service with the fleet as the largest (at the time) nuclear strike aircraft to fly from an aircraft carrier.

The "Savage" displayed its great range capability in the first trans-Atlantic flight by carrier type aircraft when five AJ-1s in company with three P2V-3Cs flew from Norfolk to Port Lyautey, French Morocco. A sixth AJ-1 failed to complete the trip when it was grounded at Lajes, Azores, one of the scheduled en route stops.

In addition to the nuclear strike role, the "Savage" was also modified for use as a carrier-based flight-refueling tanker. Some were fitted with five cameras in a redesigned nose and employed as photo-reconnaissance aircraft. These modifications were in response to the arrival of a new nuclear-strike aircraft, the Douglas A3D, which had beaten out a turbine powered variant of the "Savage" (A2J) in a design competition. AJs remained in service as tankers until the mid-1960s.

A3D "Skywarrior"

A3D Skywarrior

Designed in 1947 to fit the role of a heavy bomber capable of operating from carriers, the "Skywarrior" was intended to maximize the combination of jet-engine power and nuclear weapons delivery capability. The initial designed gross weight of 60,000 lbs (later increased to 82,000 lbs) made it the largest and heaviest plane ever projected for use from carriers then in service. The A-3 incorporated a 36 degree swept-wing design, podded engines, and an internal weapons storage bay capable of carrying 12,000 lbs of ordnance. First flown on October 28, 1952, the first of fifty production models were delivered to the Navy on March 31, 1956. It was these aircraft (manned by three crewmen) that were instrumental in evaluating the total concept of carrier-based strategic bombers, and experimenting with their use aboard aircraft carriers. Because of its size, the A3D was known as the "Whale". Unlike most jet aircraft, the A3D was not equipped with an ejection seat. Instead, the crew exited the A3D through a chute under the fuselage.

Two hundred and thirty variants of this first version of the A3D would see service in a wide array of missions. The A3D-2 incorporated a change in the weapons bay in order to accommodate a wider range of weapons stores (including mines), as well as a 1,082 gallon in-flight refueling pack. The YA3D-1P photo-reconnaissance version and the A3D-2Q (EA-3B) radar countermeasures and electronic reconnaissance aircraft were also developed. The A3D-2T with a pressurized fuselage was employed as a trainer for radar/navigation crewmen and could accommodate six pupils plus an instructor and the pilot.

During the Vietnam War, the "Skywarrior" served in the tanker and countermeasures capacity. Navy squadrons operated the EA-3B as a radar countermeasures and electronic jamming aircraft while the KA-3B tanker was utilized to top up the fuel for carrier-based strike aircraft on their way to missions into Vietnam. About thirty aircraft became EKA-3Bs with the dual role of countermeasures as well as tanker aircraft.

A5A or RA5C "Vigilante"

A3D Skywarrior

Development of the North American A3J "Vigilante" began in 1952. Design criteria specified a two-seat, Mach 2 all-weather carrier-based bomber for delivery of nuclear weapons. Fitted with the new low-altitude bombing system (LABS) and an inertial navigation system (INS), the A3J was capable of carrying a 3,020 lb Mk-27 nuclear store or a 1,885 lb configuration of the Mk-28 weapon. Utilizing such methods as the loft bombing technique, the weapon would be ejected rearward from its internal linear bomb bay. Attached to the weapon were two empty fuel tanks to improve weapon aerodynamics and whose contents had been used en route to the target (a system fraught with problems that were never completely corrected). A high wing layout with a swept wing design, the "Vigilante" was the first production aircraft to use variable geometry intakes for its two side-by-side engines.

On 13 December 1960, Navy Commander Leroy Heath (Pilot) and Lieutenant Larry Monroe (Bombardier/Navigator) established a world altitude record of 91,450.8 feet (27,874.2 metres) in an A3J Vigilante carrying a 1,000 kilogram payload, besting the previous record by over four miles. This new record held for over 13 years..

The first squadron deployment occurred in August 1962 aboard the USS Enterprise on its first cruise. Shortly thereafter the Navy's strategic bombing mission was assumed by nuclear powered submarine Polaris missiles. The A3J's mission then reverted to that of photo reconnaissance with the introduction in 1963 of the RA-5C "Vigilante" incorporating a sophisticated electronic reconnaissance pod in its bomb-bay that included a side-looking airborne radar in a fairing under the fuselage, vertical, oblique and split-image cameras as well as active and passive ECM equipment. Production deliveries began in mid-1964 and shortly thereafter began flying reconnaissance missions over Vietnam from carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin in which nineteen of them were lost to enemy fire.

The INS combined with an automatic flight control system enabled the RA-5C to fly precise courses on mission altitudes ranging from high to tree-top levels. Each photo taken carried a marginal notation that displayed latitude and longitude of the plane at the time it was taken, thus pinpointing target locations. The information obtained was then incorporated into a shipboard data bank and used for mission planning. Several RA-5Cs were also outfitted with a probe-and-drogue refueling package to serve as "buddy tankers" for compatible aircraft. Despite its Mach 2 capability, several "Vigilantes" were lost to surface-to-air missiles and/or anti-aircraft fire.

Gradual disestablishment of the "Vigilante" force occurred during 1979-1980 with the deactivation of the last RA-5C squadron, and phasing out of the last of the 156 RA-5/A-3Js produced.