Military Review

"All three are dead." Dangerous "Whales" by Ed Heinemann

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"All three are dead." Dangerous "Whales" by Ed Heinemann
Advertising in Collier's magazine: buy our bombers - carriers of the atomic weapons!


In 1955, in the combat strength of the marine (deck) aviation The US Navy began to arrive legendary in a sense aircraft - carrier-based bombers Douglas A3D Skywarrior (sky warrior). True, in everyday life they were not called that.

But this plane for its huge size (we will return to this later) received the nickname "whale". So they entered historylike "Whales".

There was, however, another nickname. But more about her later.

There is no point in retelling well-known facts and information about this aircraft, which is easy to find in any open source.

For example, publicly available data about this car can be obtained from the article by Kirill Ryabov The heaviest and longest-lived: the Douglas A3D Skywarrior carrier-based bomber and modifications.

However, in the history of these aircraft there are facts that are not only unknown to the domestic reader, but in the West are already slowly beginning to be forgotten. It makes sense to pay attention to them. After all, you can find out which radar station was on board the aircraft in five minutes of search. We will focus on something else.

Without pretending to fully disclose the topic, let us recall some little-known moments from the history of this car.

Ed Heinemann, his planes and the birth of Keith


"Kit" was created in those years when the plane was inseparable from the personality of the one who directed its creation.

The jet era was on. Nuclear weapons and computers came into widespread use. The war was becoming high-tech and complex. But not so much that personalities are blurred and lost inside a large-scale process. As is the case in the creation of today's ultra-complex technology.

Edward Henry Heinemann was just such a person. You have to understand that for Americans this is a person of the same level as Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev is for Russia.

There were many such personalities there. You can, for example, remember the same Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, the creator of the U-2 and SR-71. But Heinemann stood out strongly even against the American background.


Edward Heinemann

Below is a list of his works.

The SBD Dontless was the primary US Navy dive bomber during World War II.

The A-26 Invader is a medium bomber. He fought until the end of the 60s in different places, mainly in Asia.

A-1 Skyrader - piston attack aircraft. Legend of Korea and Vietnam.

D-558-1 Skystreak is an experimental aircraft. Set a world speed record.

D-558-2 Skyrocket is the first aircraft to double the speed of sound.

F3D Skynight - night interceptor.

F4D Skyray fighter. The first supersonic aircraft of the US Navy.

The F5D Skylanser is a non-serial fighter.

A-3 Skywarrior is a carrier-based bomber.

A-4 Skyhawk - attack aircraft.

All Heinemann's planes had something special.

This was shown very clearly by the Skyhawk attack aircraft - an ultralight and ultra-small combat aircraft, which, at the behest of Heinemann, was created twice easier than the customer required. It was made as simple as possible. And as a result, he lived a very long life full of wars.

Initially, this machine was supposed to carry only one nuclear bomb. And its design was sharpened exactly for this.

"Skyhawk" and everything else has forever proved to be the standard of compatibility between aircraft and aircraft carrier.

But there was also a downside.

This aircraft (with all its advantages and maneuverability, which allowed the attack aircraft to conduct an air battle even against the MiG-17) turned out to be very fragile, knocked down by a vehicle with low survivability.

The desire to make a simple, massive and cheap aircraft for a single nuclear strike let down, without duplicating the main systems and without measures to ensure survivability. It's just that for the war for which Skyhawk was conceived, all this was not so necessary. But, however, he had to fight in other wars. And not only from the decks. With all the ensuing consequences.

This dark side, like the imprint of the complex and contradictory personality of his chief designer (and he had an extremely harsh and difficult character), was not only in Skyhawk or, for example, in the equally controversial Invader.

The "Whales" - A3D (which Heinemann also directed) also had such dark sides. And the whales also participated in many events, served for a long time, earned themselves fame and honor, but ...

In the second half of the forties, the US Navy was in a kind of identity crisis.

In a world where the American fleet was stronger than all, without exception, the military fleets combined, and at times, the Navy could not find a purpose.

It even came to the point of simply cutting them down to the convoy forces. Such an attempt was made under President Harry Truman.

Added fuel to the fire and a new type of the Armed Forces - the Air Force, separated from the army and rapidly creating a huge fleet of intercontinental bombers.

Today it is little known that the generals of the Air Force (in order to squeeze out budgetary flows) even tried to create a geopolitical theory of "Air Power". By analogy with the ideas once sung by Mahan for sea power. I must say, they almost succeeded - not with theory, but with budgetary flows. Although amusing echoes of those theorizing, even today are available on the Internet as a monument to the era.

The fleet fought back.

Before the war in Korea, which saved the US Navy, where they proved their vital importance, there were still several years. And the admirals put forward a new mission for their kind of armed forces: nuclear strikes from the sea. Fortunately for them, nuclear bombs that could be raised by a carrier-based aircraft appeared quite quickly (Mark 4 weighing 4900 kg). But there was a problem with the planes themselves.

Since 1950, the AJ Savage piston machines began to enter service, which, even with an additional jet engine, were nothing more than ersatz. They could pick up a nuclear bomb and carry it to the target. But the progress of jet aviation made it clear that this was all for a few years.


The AJ-1 Savaje bomber on the deck of the Essex-class aircraft carrier Oriskani. August 29, 1952

In a real war, the fulfillment of their combat mission was questionable. I had to do something. And urgently.

In 1948, the Navy announced a competition to create a carrier-based jet bomber capable of taking off from an aircraft carrier and operating at a combat radius of 2 nautical miles with a bomb load of over 200 tons.

Douglas Aircraft entered this competition. Initially, the Navy requested an aircraft with a takeoff weight of 100 pounds (just over 000 tons), and its carrier was supposed to be a future supercarrier of the United States class.

One can only guess what the Navy would have done when the Truman administration nailed this project if the deck bomber had been built to their specifications.

But Heinemann displayed his famous voluntarism. And he decided that a smaller aircraft would be offered, which would meet the requirements of the Navy in terms of load and range. But it will be able to fly from existing aircraft carriers smaller than the size of the United States. Heinemann's team decided to make an airplane that could fly from the Midway, and even from the modernized Essex.

At the same time, another voluntaristic decision was made - that from small aircraft carriers it would be possible to fly with three tons of combat load. Heinemann (as usual) did not do as asked, but in his own way. With confidence that victory awaits him.

Heinemann then showed extreme self-confidence - at the time of the drawing of "Whale" three-ton nuclear bombs did not yet exist. There was only a forecast (either of himself, or someone from his team) that when the future bomber was ready, such bombs would appear. This led to harsh criticism of Douglas. But in the end they were completely right.

In 1949, the Navy declared Douglas the winner. Although, in truth, they were the only ones who suggested something worthwhile. In addition, the project of a new large super-aircraft carrier was nevertheless stabbed to death as part of the course to almost eliminate the Navy. And the choice fleet not left at all.

So "Kit" got a start in life.

Douglas engineers had to try hard to make an aircraft that the customer himself defined as a "strategic bomber" (deck-based) and that would be able to fly from the decks of aircraft carriers during the Second World War (albeit modernized).

First of all, it was necessary to ensure a high thrust-to-weight ratio, which, in principle, was not easy with jet engines of the late forties and early fifties. And reliability was also needed.

The Kit started flying with Westinghouse J40 engines. He entered service with others - Pratt and Whitney J57-6. And then they were replaced by the J57-10 modification.

However, thrust is only one of the components to achieve thrust-to-weight ratio. And the second component is weight reduction.

Heinemann, faced with the objective limitations of the technology of those years, went on (many times later remembered with an unkind word) such a decision - to abandon ejection seats. Then (in the event of a defeat of the aircraft or failure of equipment) the crew would have to leave the car through one emergency hatch and in turn. Moreover, the chances of success decreased in proportion to the distance from the hatch. So, for the pilot, who occupied the front-left seat in the bomber's cockpit, they were simply ghostly.


Non-catapult chair. The photo was taken in the cockpit of a later modification of the "Kit" - an EA-3B electronic reconnaissance aircraft. Photo: Jelle Hieminga

In this, Ed Heinemann turned out to be like his colleague on the other side of the Iron Curtain - Andrei Tupolev. He (for similar reasons) left his Tu-95 bomber without ejection seats, which, however, even in the "light" version did not reach the speed desired in those years.

The escape hatch itself was well thought out. He created an "aerodynamic shadow" that allowed getting out of the plane, even though the speed was high. (Actually, ejection seats became the answer precisely to the problem of speed - the oncoming air flow did not allow the overwhelming majority of high-speed aircraft in the world to leave the car without ejection).


Everything is smooth on the video. But the same action from an airplane (shot and set on fire at an altitude of about five or six kilometers, with wounded pilots) would have looked very different.

Heinemann himself argued that the abandonment of ejection seats saved 1,5 tons of mass, which was significant for a deck vehicle.

The B-66 Destroyer bomber, created later for the Air Force on the basis of "Kit", by the way, had ejection seats (that is, the "Kit" with this additional mass would have flown quite well). But deck basing imposed its own severe restrictions.

The lack of ejection seats is associated with a gloomy part of the life of the "Whales".

All three are dead


It is known that the "heavenly warriors" had one gloomy unofficial nickname, consonant with its original name A3D - All 3 Dead - "All three are dead."

The crew of this aircraft originally consisted of a pilot, a bombardier navigator (right, facing forward) and a navigator-operator KOU (left with his back forward behind the pilot). In 1960-1961, all 20-mm aft cannons were removed and replaced with an electronic warfare antenna system in a flattened fairing, and the third crew member became a navigator-operator of electronic warfare.

Today, one can read in open sources that the plane received its gloomy name because it was impossible to get out of it after being defeated in battle, and the crew was doomed. It is even known that the widow of one Whale crew member who died in Vietnam was suing Douglas because this plane did not have ejection seats.

The manufacturer insisted that the plane was intended for high-altitude bombing, and the altitude gave a real chance to leave the plane.

In reality, everything was somewhat different.

The tactical model for using the White Whales was as follows. The aircraft was supposed to fly to the target at relatively low altitudes. All the risks associated with leaving the plane at this moment (both the command of the Navy and Heinemann) were assigned to the crews. Or, more simply, they simply ignored them - there is no war without losses.

After the target was displayed on the navigator-navigator's radar screen (a telescopic sight was not particularly needed for a nuclear bomb, a target the size of a factory, city, dam or large railway bridge could also be hit “by radar”), the plane began to climb sharply from overload 2,5g. Then, gaining altitude, dropped the bomb. He made a sharp turn (most often it was recommended to 120 degrees) and went away from the target, gaining speed in a steep dive. Only by dodging the damaging factors of a nuclear explosion could one think about climbing.

That is, all being in the risk zone was mainly planned not at a height, but vice versa. At altitude, the aircraft was supposed to be during flights closer to the airspace controlled by the enemy, at the time of the release of a nuclear bomb and then, when returning to the aircraft carrier.

Thus, the cockpit without ejection seats really became a death trap. And Douglas's assertions that a high-altitude plane supposedly leaves normally without ejection seats if necessary, to put it mildly, are dishonest.

On the other hand, the author came across a completely different legend about the origin of the dark joke about the three dead.

The Sky Warrior was a large aircraft. And heavy - its maximum take-off weight when launched from a catapult once exceeded 38 tons (84 lb). Normal takeoff weight was 000 tonnes (32,9 lb) and was often exceeded. The maximum landing weight was over 73 tons (000 lb). This imposed very stringent requirements on the performance of takeoff and landing operations by both the crew and the crew of the aircraft carrier.


Takeoff from the Forrestal-class aircraft carrier Independence. You can see how big this plane is. Photo: LIFE


Another opportunity to assess the size is people in front of the plane. Prelaunch preparation in the photo.

The video below shows how easily the overspeed on this machine could lead to an accident (in other cases, and to a disaster). This is the aircraft carrier Coral Sea, 1963.


This time it was lucky and everyone survived. The aircraft was restored and continued to fly. True, the car was unlucky - three years later, in 1966, it fell due to running out of fuel, the crew died. As usual, all the bodies could not even be lifted, only one was lifted.

Careless landing on the finisher, an attempt to catch on the cable at the wrong angle, a gust of headwind during takeoff from a catapult were a problem for this aircraft - it punished very severely for such mistakes, forgivable on other machines. So, a hard touch on the deck on the "Whales" more often led to a fracture of the landing gear than on other aircraft. A blow to the deck with the fuselage often led to the destruction of fuel tanks and instant fire, and an imminent explosion.

At the same time, an organizational problem was also superimposed on such a specific problem for a heavy deck aircraft.

The Navy planned to use these aircraft in the so-called "Heavy Strike Squadrons". The first of these VAH-1 ("Heavy One" - "Heavy-one") was deployed at Naval Air Station in Jacksnoville. In the future, the Navy deployed other "heavy" squadrons.

In an effort to get down to tasks of nuclear deterrence as soon as possible, the Navy recruited base aviation and coastal pilots into these squadrons. On the one hand, these people were not new to flying on heavy aircraft.

But there was also another side.

Flying from the deck requires more than just other skills than from a ground airfield.
They require different instincts. And this, as they say, things of a different order. Everyone knows the banal rule of "full throttle before landing", but you need to "drive it into your head." And this despite the fact that there are many other such rules there.

The Chinese have recently come across this closely during the preparation of an air group for flights from "Liaoning". Their conclusion was absolutely unambiguous - a deck boat should be at once cook like a deck boat, otherwise there will be problems later. And on the "Shandong" lieutenants they immediately trained as naval ship pilots.

The Americans, of course, were well aware of this in the mid-fifties, but they considered that the problem would not be critical. They were wrong. This would be so if it were not for the "heavenly warriors" flying at the limit of the possible.

From the very beginning, the planes began to fight. And very often. Pilots who knew how to board and take off from the deck, but who were not actually deck pilots, constantly made mistakes when choosing a descent speed, landing speed, landing altitude, sometimes they forgot to give gas at the end of the glide path. This resulted in accidents. Heavy aircraft descended from the decks into the water and went to the bottom like a stone, hit the decks, exploded. However, an experienced pilot on this plane could easily send both himself and the crew to the next world.

We look at the photo, this is a kind of typical case.


September 26, 1957, Norwegian Sea, landing in light rain. The pilot and aircraft commander, Commander Paul Wilson, had 71 landings on the aircraft carrier by this time. Presumably, rain and water suspension in the air caused an optical illusion, which created incorrect ideas for the pilot about the height of the deck above the water and its own speed at the moment preceding the touchdown.

The aircraft hooked on the deck with the main landing gear and the fuselage, the struts were fractured, detached, the fuselage destroyed, and instantly ignited. And the burning plane fell from the deck. The crew died, the rescuers managed to find only two helmets and someone's boot. The Americans call it Ramp strike. Sometimes pilots survive after this.

Those who flew the Whales had no chance in such situations. In general, they had little chance of surviving in case of accidents on takeoffs and landings. Note that the landing plane has an open escape hatch on top.



All Whales almost always took off and landed with a depressurized cockpit and an open hatch. The open hatch gave hope that someone would have time to jump out of the sinking plane if something went wrong during takeoff or landing. The hatch was battened down after takeoff, when it was already clear that the plane did not fall and picked up speed. Opened before landing.

Sometimes it helped. The photo shows the rise of the crew from the "Kit" that fell into the water. They made it, the hatch helped. Aircraft A3D-2 from the squadron VAH-8, "Midway", September 27, 1962.


Photo: Bill Torgerson

But more often the hatch did not help. Until now, sometimes divers who discovered a "heavenly warrior" plane that had died many years ago at great depths, find there the remains of the crews in the cockpit, which remained forever strapped to their uncatapulted seats.

So, there is an opinion that the expression "All-3-Dead" was born just then.

In addition to the testimony of some still living pilots, already very old people, this is also indicated by the fact that this aircraft was called A3D only until 1962. This means that the nickname should have appeared at the same time.

Then all military aircraft in the US Armed Forces switched to a single classification. And this plane became known as A-3.

I must say that the Americans reacted very quickly. The training was sharply intensified. And later, in order to ensure a more effective exchange of experience, all the aviation units, equipped with the "Kit", were together at the Sanford Air Force Base. In fact, it was on the Whales and the problems of their crews that the Navy created a modern flight training system.

These measures had an effect, and since 1958 the accident rate of "heavenly warriors" has sharply declined.
But they still remained one of the most dangerous planes, the tradition of taking off and landing with open hatches has not gone anywhere either. Nadezhda continued to die last.
In this video of another disaster, it can be seen that in 1960 the hatch was opened. And again no one was saved.


The cause of the accident this time is the detachment of the brake hook.

The celestial warriors production ended in 1961.

At the same time, the Navy came to the conclusion that the tasks of nuclear deterrence (and, if necessary, attack) are much better accomplished with the help of submarine ballistic missiles. And the importance of the "Whales" as a weapon of nuclear war has dropped sharply. However, they did not write them off, quite reasonably believing that a huge (for a deck) aircraft with a large payload and internal volumes will do something useful. And so it happened, and very soon.

Whales over the jungle


We will start the history of the combat use of "Whales" in the Vietnam War from the end, and from the legend.

This legend is as follows.

In 1968, the then commander of American troops in South Vietnam, General William Westmoreland, before surrendering his post, visited an aircraft carrier from which these aircraft flew to perform strike missions in the interests of army units on the ground. The general asked what sights the pilots of these aircraft use, because they were originally intended for strikes with a nuclear bomb on targets large enough not to miss, dropping the bomb according to information from the radar.

He was told that none. Since this plane has no scopes, none at all. Allegedly shocked by the fact that the thirty-ton "Whales" fly to attack in the jungle no sights at all, the general forbade them to be used for solving shock problems. And since 1968 they have ceased to perform shock missions.

It is difficult to say whether this is true or not, but the Whales really did not have sights. And they actually fought in Vietnam, and not so badly.

The Whales were one of the first American attack aircraft in Vietnam. Initially, they were used to attack North Vietnam. On previously reconnoitered large targets, dropping bombs in a volley from horizontal flight, the target was identified with the help of radar and a map. This was the case in 1965, but in the same year the growth in the effectiveness of the air defense of the DRV put the survivability of the Whales in such raids into question.

They were reoriented to strike at the forces of the People's Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam in the south and to strike at the territory of Laos. And then the problem of scopes arose in full growth. Even the defeat of some large open area with military equipment with a massive strike in a group for these aircraft was not the easiest task, albeit feasible. Their native targets began from a large railway bridge or oil storage tank with rows of huge metal tanks and more.

And pinpoint targets in the jungle were a problem. Modern sources say that aiming was carried out using

"Marks on glass".

It is worth dwelling on this in more detail.

The specificity of hitting a point target is that bombs must be placed on it precisely. At the same time, the A-3 (as these aircraft were already called by the beginning of Vietnam) had bombs located only in the bomb bay, which is logical for a "nuclear" bomber. And when leaving the bomb bay, the bomb falls into the air stream, which is why its deviation from the target can be quite large.

The Americans found a solution in dive attacks, the angle of which could reach up to 30 degrees. In this case, the accuracy of dropping bombs turned out to be more or less satisfactory. If you aim, right?


The Whale is in a steep dive.



The whale is at a low peak. Estimate the height.

Yes. And here, too, a solution was found. These were the same marks on the glass. Moreover, it was not some kind of industrial solution: the reticle was drawn on the glass with an ordinary felt-tip pen and was sometimes updated.

The apocrypha of the US Navy says that sometimes such a method of aiming as

"On the filling rod"

(how can you not recall the domestic naval expression "shoot" in the boot ").

All modifications of the A-3, starting with the second, were equipped with an in-flight refueling system. True, it is not clear how this could be done? The bar was sticking out to the left, and to aim at it, you needed a unique eye, experience and considerable luck.

However, this may not be accurate. And the boom could be used to calibrate a grid drawn on the glass using a radar or something similar.

Sometimes the Whales worked with other types of aircraft. For example, piston "Skyraders" (another creation of Ed Heinemann) could, hovering over the battlefield, mark targets for destruction with incendiary bombs, followed by a raid of "Whales" with felt-tip pens.

Usually the entry into the dive was carried out at an altitude of 2400-3000 meters, the angle reached 30 degrees, but it was not always so, the exit from the dive took place at about 900 meters in order to avoid the fire of machine guns and small arms and not to overload the aircraft.

Sometimes the Whales, on the contrary, worked as leaders of strike aviation groups, using their radars to detect targets and issue target designations (in radio communication words) to the radar-deprived Skyhawks (another Heinemann creation).

One way or another, but as the Navy and Air Force received aircraft more adequate to the conditions of a non-nuclear war, the value of the A-3 as a strike weapon was continuously decreasing. But their role in other tasks, in which they gained their fame, never diminished.

Geographically, Vietnam is a strip of land along the sea, crossing it across can be many times faster than flying along. The territory of Vietnam begins to expand only north of Hanoi.

This specificity leads to the fact that for a carrier-based aircraft, launched from somewhere in the Gulf of Tonkin or in the South China Sea (in its western part), the achievement of a goal over Vietnamese territory is much faster than for an aircraft from any available ground air base outside zones of active hostilities.

This made the carrier-based aircraft a very important factor in the war, as before in Korea. The Americans had two aircraft carrier maneuvering areas in the South China Sea - the northern Yankee station, from which airstrikes were delivered to North Vietnam, and the southern Dixie station, from which they flew to strike targets in South Vietnam.


Maneuvering schemes in the areas of Yankee and Dixie stations.

The fierce resistance of the Vietnamese required the intensive use of large aviation groups, and the often unpredictable results of combat missions in a very acute form raised the issue of refueling naval aircraft in the air.

The aircraft could strike at the limit of the combat radius and collide when returning with a delay in landing, for example, due to an accident on the deck. They could simply not calculate the remaining fuel. It happened that instead of hitting and returning to the ship, it was necessary to take a battle with Vietnamese aircraft. Damage to the fuel system and fuel leaks have occurred. The problem of refueling really turned out to be very painful - there was no need to ask the Air Force and the tankers, and the refueling system there was different - a flexible rod, and not the "hose-cone" adopted by the Navy.

In these conditions, the "Whales" became a lifesaver. And they turned out to be a lifesaver. No wonder the Navy believed that a large and roomy plane would be useful to them.

From the very beginning, the A-3 was retrofitted with filling equipment and used for refueling. Moreover, the additional equipment was sometimes carried out so that the plane could carry bombs too. Such aircraft were assigned the KA-3 refueling index, but they could still bomb.


Heinemann's Children. The largest - "Skywarrier" "feeds" the smallest "Skyhawk". With the maximum degree of probability, they took off from one aircraft carrier.

Often, the "heavenly warrior" after takeoff "stood in a circle", waiting for the rise of the strike group from other aircraft. Then, flying with them, he gave them some of the fuel. Then he flew out to strike with his bombs.

Returning, "Kit" could again give fuel either to the planes flying out to strike (and then sit on the deck), or save those who did not meet their turn for landing in fuel.

The Skywarriers have rescued many hundreds of aircraft and pilots in this way.


Gas station near.

Often, bomb-free aircraft were used as transport aircraft. "Kita"
could easily be sent to the Philippines for spare parts for aircraft and even for cash in order to give salaries to the crews of ships and deck aircraft. There have been such things.

Missions of the Whales and their crews sometimes took hundreds of days. The record is 331 days in combat, and all these days in the war, every day.

Intelligence was of particular importance - the Americans used the Whales in the EA-3 (electronic reconnaissance) and RA-3 (photo reconnaissance and infrared reconnaissance) variants. The scouts often flew not from aircraft carriers, but from ground air bases. Electronic reconnaissance flew from bases in Da Nang, Atsugi (Japan) and Guam, photo reconnaissance officers of the 61st heavy photo reconnaissance squadron - from Guam.

The EA-3B scouts searched for sources of electromagnetic radiation, operating radio equipment and radar. Photographic reconnaissance missions performed tasks of photographing and searching for warm-contrast objects (mainly trucks) on the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Sometimes they flew from aircraft carriers, sharply differing from the main mass of deck vehicles in their colors. However - not always.


The cameras are closed.


The cameras are open.

Also of great importance were jammers - ERA-3 and EKA-3. The latter, as the name implies, were created on the basis of the tanker. It was a unique machine, it not only refueled strike vehicles during the sortie, but also covered them from Vietnamese air defense systems with interference. Both that, and another meant the difference between life and death for strike aircraft.

A little later, some of these jammers - tankers were converted back into KA-3 tankers. And with such aircraft in 1970, two refueling squadrons were formed in the parts of the Navy reserve, which existed until 1990.
As these auxiliary, but such important vehicles, the Whales fought the entire war.

"Analog hackers"


Part of the "Whales" (25 units) was built as the EA-3B electronic reconnaissance aircraft. These machines were used in Vietnam. But besides this, they were intensively used for reconnaissance along the borders of the USSR, filming huge amounts of data on the operation of Soviet radars and radio networks, which was very important in the event of a hypothetical strike on the Soviet Union, and the Americans were quite going to bomb the USSR, and on a large scale.

More interesting is another episode in the career of these aircraft, but first about what kind of car it was.

The specificity of the Skywarrier, which distinguished it from the overwhelming majority of jet attack aircraft, consisted in the presence of a hole in the bomb bay. This was necessary for various manipulations with the bomb, which then could not be performed remotely. It looks exotic. But remember that they began to draw "Whale" three years after the Second World War, and then

"Go to the bomb bay"

could not be called exotic.


Something like this.

Moreover, it was a large bomb bay. Such internal volumes simply begged to carry something besides bombs there. And in the end it happened - there was a modification of the version airframe for multipurpose aircraft, in which a pressurized cabin was equipped instead of a bomb bay, a manhole for it and a fuel tank above the manhole.


Two fuselage options, fuel tanks are highlighted in dark.

It was this aircraft that became the base for the EA-3B. It was also the base for the RA-3 photo reconnaissance aircraft; cameras were in the pressurized cabin. Later, when some of these reconnaissance personnel were converted into ERA-3 jammers, two crew members were registered in the pressurized cabin.



There was a photo reconnaissance officer - he became a jammer.

With the EA-3B there was a different story - this aircraft was not re-equipped, but was immediately built with an additional pressurized cabin of the maximum size and with more comfortable conditions, as far as it was, of course, in the bowels of the aircraft, which was created as a carrier-based bomber.


EA-3B in flight over the South China Sea, 1974. From the outside, small square windows are visible on the side.


And this is inside. The state is so-so. But on the whole it is clear what was there. Photo: Jelle Hieminga

About why in principle It is widely known that the USA used such aircraft.
But there is also one little-known page in this story, including for the Americans themselves (although it is not secret there).

We are talking about electronic reconnaissance of the equipment of Soviet aircraft. The essence of the project was as follows.

When cathode ray tubes (CRT) operate, so-called side electromagnetic radiation - TEMI is formed. Technically it is possible to register them if the receiver is quite sensitive and located close enough.

Somewhere in the 60s, someone in the USA came up with the idea to shoot PEMI from the CRT of Soviet aircraft: just sit next to it and write radiation. Then it had to be decoded, as a result of which the Americans planned to be able to see what the radar indicators (and, if they were there, then other indicators with a CRT) of our aircraft. And how many are there.

EA-3B was chosen as the executor of this work. And as a target - Soviet intelligence officers (mainly Tu-95RTs), who were convenient because they themselves went to the Americans. The US Navy and their intelligence knew in advance about the takeoff of the Tupolev (or its flight to a theater of operations), a two-hour warning was common, which made it possible to prepare well for departure.

Then the EA-3B with other aircraft (usually with a pair) flew towards the Tu-95, with the task of ensuring the receipt of intelligence.

When Tu-95 was discovered, a pair of aircraft, one of which was a reconnaissance aircraft, clamped its wing from below and from above, in order to deprive our aircraft of the ability to maneuver. The whale was large enough that a collision with it would be either extremely dangerous or fatal even for the Tu-95RTs, and this gave the Americans the opportunity to take long-term data of interest to them.


In the photo - the Mediterranean Sea. 1966 year. "Phantom" and "Sky Warrior" squeezed our "Tu" in a "sandwich". Now "Kit" writes a picture from the radar screen and reads the screens on board. And just above the F-8, with a pendant unit for refueling in the air and a camera at the pilot. This photo was taken from him, and the man who first exposed the fact of such operations to the world is piloting the Phantom at the time of the shooting.

It is reliably known that the Americans completed the tasks in the framework of these operations in full - they recorded PEMIs. To what extent they were able to decipher them and how much intelligence information they managed to "extract" by such methods, history is silent - without making secrets from their approaches and concepts, they very seriously secret technical information, in fact it is simply not in the public domain (which distinguishes them from us and not in our favor).

End of story


"Whales" after Vietnam slowly began to leave the scene, but they served for a long time. The last EA-3 machines took part in the "Desert Storm" in 1991. In the same year (September 27, 1991), an order was issued to withdraw the last Skywarriers from service.

Only a few of them flew as flying laboratories a little more. Ed Heinemann's creation was destined for a long life - from October 28, 1952, when the first prototype took off, and until the end of the Cold War.


All serial numbers. Source: Tommy H. Thomason

These vehicles have made a very significant contribution to the military power of the US Navy and the military operations of the American naval aviation. They took a rather big price for this contribution, leaving not only a good memory of themselves.

The history of this aircraft is as controversial as its creator. She had both good and bad. And yes, it was an enemy plane, and the pilots who flew on it brought a lot of evil into this world, which is still well remembered in Vietnam and Laos.

But still, this story is quite worthy of being remembered at least.
Author:
Photos used:
US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation, US Navy, Skywarrior association, airvectors.net
58 comments
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  1. Ruslan
    Ruslan 11 January 2021 05: 44
    +6
    I wonder how our pilots acted when they were taken into such a "trap"? Or did they just have to meekly fly?
    1. Vladimir_2U
      Vladimir_2U 11 January 2021 08: 27
      -1
      You do not understand anything! laughing This is not a trap but the "professional actions" of the valiant democratic American pilots and cannot be answered, it will be "unprofessional and totalitarian"!
      1. Dread
        Dread 14 March 2021 22: 37
        -2
        Quote: The author of the article Timokhin
        Somewhere in the 60s, someone in the USA came up with the idea to shoot PEMI from the CRT of Soviet aircraft: just sit next to it and write radiation. Then it had to be decoded, as a result of which the Americans planned to be able to see what the radar indicators (and, if they were there, then other indicators with a CRT) of our aircraft. And how many are there.

        Author! And when several ICOs are working, you cannot distinguish one from the other. Don't write fairy tales! I am a PEMIN specialist!
    2. tima_ga
      tima_ga 12 January 2021 21: 28
      0
      As an option, release the mechanization, the chassis and slow down almost to a stall ... The phantom's stall speed is probably lower ... These are my fantasies :) It would be interesting to read the memoirs of our pilots on this score.
  2. tlauicol
    tlauicol 11 January 2021 06: 20
    +35
    Hmm, there is no smell of diapers here, much to the displeasure of the public. Did you forget to tell the cowardly American pilots that they were cowards?
    And the article is very detailed and interesting. Easy to read
    1. The leader of the Redskins
      The leader of the Redskins 11 January 2021 09: 07
      +8
      I subscribe to your words. I read it with pleasure. And the illustrations are detailed.
    2. OgnennyiKotik
      OgnennyiKotik 11 January 2021 10: 01
      +2
      Quote: Tlauicol
      There is no smell of diapers here, much to the displeasure of the public.

    3. businessv
      businessv 12 January 2021 19: 16
      0
      Quote: Tlauicol
      Did you forget to tell the cowardly American pilots that they were cowards?
      There are few cowards among pilots by definition, but the point is that the courage to sandwich the wing of a turboprop strategist, and even without his escort by our fighters, who could deliver a lot of problems to these daredevils, is not a very difficult and dangerous task. !
      1. timokhin-aa
        12 January 2021 23: 49
        +2
        Very dangerous, who on one plane got into the wake of the second will not let you lie.
        1. businessv
          businessv 13 January 2021 21: 28
          0
          Quote: timokhin-aa
          Very dangerous, who on one plane got into the wake of the second will not let you lie.

          This is exactly what he meant! Thanks again! good
        2. Starover_Z
          Starover_Z 14 January 2021 01: 46
          0
          Quote: timokhin-aa
          Very dangerous, who on one plane got into the wake of the second will not let you lie.

          I recalled an episode from the movie "Case in square 36-80", how it was necessary to prevent the Orion reconnaissance aircraft from refueling:

          Well shown good
          1. timokhin-aa
            14 January 2021 10: 45
            0
            And I remembered how I was shaking in a similar situation.
            A passenger, of course.
            Moreover, there was more distance to another plane than in the video. And much more.
  3. Toucan
    Toucan 11 January 2021 06: 37
    +6
    An interesting article about an interesting plane!
    However, the author missed one point from the EA-3 biography. At the end of their careers, these aircraft flew in aggressor squadrons with red stars on the keel.
    Also, this passage is not clear:
    Until now, sometimes divers who discovered a "heavenly warrior" plane that had died many years ago at great depths, find the remains of the crews in the cockpit, which remained forever fastened to their uncatapulted seats.
    request
    Dear author, so why?
    Or do you know reliable cases of drowning A-3s being found by divers? The depths at which these aircraft lie are not available without special deep-sea equipment.
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 10: 44
      +12
      I know the case of the discovery, I probably should have written not the divers, but otherwise, although the plane was examined. Not all of them fell where it was deep.
      1. Toucan
        Toucan 11 January 2021 11: 11
        +2
        With all due respect, but from what you have written it seems that there were many such cases.
        I still have such a question, at what depth, and who discovered the plane?
        1. timokhin-aa
          11 January 2021 13: 48
          +3
          I wrote from memory, for example, on the plane that in the video falls off the hook, it was found in our time, a depth of 230 feet.
          1. Toucan
            Toucan 11 January 2021 16: 56
            0
            Quote: timokhin-aa
            I wrote from memory, for example, on the plane that in the video falls off the hook, it was found in our time, a depth of 230 feet.

            Those. the plane was at a depth of more than 70 m. Which divers dive to this depth? Besides, you wrote as if you found a lot of such planes. These are the little things that spoil a very good article in general and give rise to mistrust of you personally as an author. I can also recall the dispute with Bongo over the CA-75M in Vietnam. I'm sure you know what reputation is, and you don't need the glory of Damantsev and the Operator. No.
            1. timokhin-aa
              11 January 2021 17: 30
              +9
              I'm just too lazy to pull up links now. The video with the detached brake hook is taken from an article about how a group of researchers found this plane, went down there, the word divers was quite there, before that I had met similar stories on the Internet, incl. about the findings of such aircraft.

              What else to tell you?
  4. Revolver
    Revolver 11 January 2021 07: 04
    +8
    45 000 tons
    This is more like the displacement of a Midway class aircraft carrier than the weight of a carrier-based aircraft, even a "whale".
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 10: 44
      +7
      Error, 45000 kg
  5. K-50
    K-50 11 January 2021 07: 37
    +6
    Initially, the Navy requested an aircraft with a takeoff weight of 100 pounds (just over 000 tons)

    Maybe 45 tons, or the plane weighing the size of an aircraft carrier looks too thick. lol
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 10: 44
      +4
      Of course, I was just wrong.
  6. certero
    certero 11 January 2021 07: 59
    +27
    For one photo taken in a box, you should put a couple of pluses. Never knew about such things
    1. FIN
      FIN 11 January 2021 20: 19
      0
      laughing ..............
      1. timokhin-aa
        11 January 2021 21: 19
        +1
        There were times.
  7. garri-lin
    garri-lin 11 January 2021 08: 24
    +7
    Read out. Thank you for your work. Very interesting.
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 10: 45
      +8
      Please, glad you like it
  8. mr.ZinGer
    mr.ZinGer 11 January 2021 08: 45
    +7
    Good article, for completeness the picture lacks performance characteristics.
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 10: 45
      +7
      https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_A-3_Skywarrior
  9. victor50
    victor50 11 January 2021 10: 50
    0
    Correct "just over 45 tons"
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 13: 47
      +5
      In general, a little over 45000 kg.
      Now with the edits it has become very difficult. Let it hang like a monument, once overlooked
  10. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 11 January 2021 11: 05
    +8
    The A-26 Invader is a medium bomber.

    Still, "Invader" was originally an attack aircraft - as it were, hinted at by the letter "A" in its designation.
    It was reclassified into a bomber only after the war, in 1948. Which, by the way, caused problems, because the Air Force still retained "clean" bombers with the same index - B-26 "Widowmaker" ... uh, "Marauder". smile
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 21: 21
      +1
      I confess, but it was the list of Heineman's planes that I just fiddled with, I was too lazy to re-type my hands.
      The A-26 is an attack aircraft, but in general I would not be so categorical, before the Vietnamese upgrade everything was "ambiguous" there.
  11. bandabas
    bandabas 11 January 2021 15: 29
    +1
    As in "Assa". - "Night flight, search for space.
    The weather is beautiful, the height is ten thousand five hundred.
    Our pilots are nice guys! The sky is their home.
    They are not sad looking at the world from above.
  12. iouris
    iouris 11 January 2021 15: 35
    +2
    This must be borne in mind when Soviet planes of this period are indiscriminately called "coffins".
  13. PilotS37
    PilotS37 11 January 2021 15: 59
    +1
    Thanks to the author! Great job!
  14. Bormanxnumx
    Bormanxnumx 11 January 2021 16: 02
    0
    In this video of another disaster, it can be seen that in 1960 the hatch was opened. And again no one was saved.

    Several times I watched the video with the plane crashing - the evacuation hatch is clearly closed.
    Still image with video

    And here is a photo with an open emergency hatch.
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 17: 38
      +1
      I specially cut out clear pictures with an open hatch.





      Didn't you notice her? There are TWO of them.

      But the hatch is closed



      It is seen? Or can you not upload any more photos?
      1. The comment was deleted.
      2. The comment was deleted.
      3. Bormanxnumx
        Bormanxnumx 11 January 2021 18: 27
        +1
        Quote: timokhin-aa
        It is seen? Or can you not upload any more photos?

        Alexander, don't get excited. The last photos that you have not brought
        are a stack of videos that appear in the text of the article. In the photo in your answer there is a plane with tail number 7, and on the video from YouTube, board number 10 and all its hatches are closed.

        1. timokhin-aa
          11 January 2021 18: 36
          +1
          On the top screen, a black square is clearly visible, which is not on an aircraft with a closed emergency hatch, since the escape hatches were always painted in the color of the fuselage on these aircraft.

          Here is another photo



          It is still visible. Don't argue for the sake of arguing.
          1. timokhin-aa
            11 January 2021 18: 39
            +1
            Or here's a photo

  15. bandabas
    bandabas 11 January 2021 16: 47
    +4
    Article is good !!!
  16. Scaffold
    Scaffold 11 January 2021 21: 12
    0
    A wonderful story, Alexander! Thank you!
    1. timokhin-aa
      11 January 2021 21: 20
      +6
      Thank you, this time I just wanted to tell an interesting story. I thought the editorial staff would post it for the weekend, such as such relaxation.
      Okay, that's okay too.
  17. VladGTN
    VladGTN 11 January 2021 22: 08
    0
    Very cool article! Thank you so much
  18. DLord
    DLord 11 January 2021 23: 30
    0
    Respect to the author! It is very pleasant and convenient to read, not like some "exoatmospheric" ones :-)
  19. EvilLion
    EvilLion 12 January 2021 09: 41
    +1
    American women are still giving birth.
    1. timokhin-aa
      12 January 2021 18: 15
      +1
      Have already given birth. The commander of the "Kit", whose crew died when the brake hook was detached from the video in the article, both sons became naval pilots.
  20. Dmitry V.
    Dmitry V. 12 January 2021 12: 48
    +1
    Thank you - interesting details that I did not know before.
    1. timokhin-aa
      12 January 2021 14: 16
      +2
      That is why the article. Otherwise what's the point of writing?
      1. Dmitry V.
        Dmitry V. 12 January 2021 15: 20
        +3
        Quote: timokhin-aa
        That is why the article. Otherwise what's the point of writing?


        Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous compilations of publicly available information on this resource, incompetent gag.

        Probably for the sake of such pleasant exceptions, I go to expand my knowledge - thanks for the work, to collect so many new things in one article. hi
  21. Scaffold
    Scaffold 12 January 2021 16: 53
    0
    By the way, I'm not very surprised that the landing gear struts regularly broke - they look too skinny.
    1. timokhin-aa
      12 January 2021 18: 16
      +1
      On land, they never broke. It's just that the plane is healthy. as for the ramp strike, absolutely any plane is killed this way and very often the pilot
  22. businessv
    businessv 12 January 2021 19: 09
    0
    The history of this aircraft is as controversial as its creator. She had both good and bad.
    Alexander, thanks for the interesting article! Informative! good
    1. timokhin-aa
      12 January 2021 22: 29
      +1
      Please, that means I was not trying in vain.
  23. certero
    certero 15 January 2021 11: 55
    0
    I would like to ask you to comment on the photo where our "bear" is in a box of American planes. Above there is clearly A3, but below it looks like a phantom. Is it so?
    1. timokhin-aa
      16 January 2021 18: 17
      +1
      Yes, this is it, even in the text it is written.
  24. certero
    certero 17 January 2021 05: 28
    0
    Quote: timokhin-aa
    Yes, this is it, even in the text it is written.

    Thank you so much. I have already found, I read it inattentively for the first time