It’s not just any “Whale,” but the much esteemed Douglas A-3 Skywarrior, affectionately known as a whale because of its size and the great noise it made impacting the flight deck of a carrier as she made her arrested landing onboard pitching decks at sea!
Designed by Douglas Aircraft Corporation as a nuclear attack bomber to be launched from the first super carriers, the A-3 Skywarrior first flew 28 October 1952 and was delivered to the first Navy squadron, VAH-1, on 31 March 1955 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida. The last Skywarriors flew in the United States Naval Reserve squadrons VAK-208 and VAK-308, both decommissioned on 30 September 1989.
Our Douglas A-3 Skywarrior is bureau number 146457 and was built as an EA-3B (A3D-2Q) model. This model had the improved cambered leading edge (CLE) wings incorporating inboard slats, which increased the wing area from 779 to 812 square feet. The B model also had a defensive electronic countermeasures (DECM) system mounted in the dovetail fairing (on the tail). This particularly model of the Skywarrior was built for the Tactical Signal Exploitation System (TASES) role and differed mainly by having a pressured compartment in place of the original bomb bay. She ended her service to the country in squadrons VQ-1 and VQ-2. After being decommissioned 146457 was placed on a pedestal in front of the Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ) at Naval Station Rota, Spain for display.
Eventually the aircraft was readied for shipment back to the United States in the early 2000’s and was offered to Patriots Point. Unfortunately acceptance of the aircraft was turned down, but today as a result of the A-3 Skywarrior Association‘s dedication and fund raising the aircraft is finally on its way to the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10). She is scheduled to arrive on the high tide Friday afternoon shortly after 12 noon. I know that one former crew member who actually flew in this aircraft off Vietnam, Hank Schultz from Easley, SC, is planning to attend the crane aboard tomorrow and I look forward to meeting him and learning some of his stories. I’ll try to post one on Friday.