A-3 Skywarrior Units of the Vietnam War

Published: February 19th, 2015     
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Author: Rick Morgan, Illustrations by Jim Laurier, Gareth Hector
Reviewed by: Bill Kluge - IPMS# 45849
ISBN #: 9781472805645
Other Publication Information: Paperback, March 2015; 96 pages
Price: $22.95
Product / Stock #: COM108
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

Developed in the years following World War 2 to fulfill Naval Aviation's "Heavy Attack" capability, the Douglas Aircraft design team under the legendary Ed Heinemann created the jet powered, swept winged A-3 (originally designated A3D-1) Skywarrior to carry nuclear destruction to the Soviet Union from the decks of the Navy's new Midway class carriers. Replacing the little loved North American AJ Savage, what started out as a single purpose "heavy" bomber soon became one of the Navy's most "multi-purpose" aircraft in its inventory. When its nuclear delivery mission was taken over by the A-5 Vigilante, the A-3 found itself with a new mission list that eventually included, "iron" bombing, aerial refueling, photo reconnaissance, electronic jamming and counter-measurers, electronic surveillance, high speed COD and VIP transport, and navigation training. It was an inspired design that led to the heaviest operational aircraft flown regularly for over 35 years from the largest and smallest flight decks in the US fleet.

Author Rick Davis, a former Naval Aviator and A-3 driver, as done a superb job of dividing the text of this Osprey narrative between developmental origins, operational history and personal narratives. The maze of various functional capabilities and airframe differences, both field modified and factory designed, is well defined and explained. Each of the different operational units, from heavy attack/tanker VAH squadrons to electronic warfare VAW and VAQ units is described. And not to be outdone by their fighter and attack community brothers, the A-3 family had its share of "characters" and notable events, the most notorious being one Commander John Wunch, who reportedly "fuel bombed" a Soviet intelligence trawler that had been shadowing the USS Bon Homme Richard in 1967. When the Russian cut in front of the Bonney Dick as she was recovering aircraft, forcing the carrier to quickly turn to avoid a collision, and Wunch's Skywarrior to take a sudden wave-off (that placed it 100 feet over the offending vessel), Wunch released the fuel dumps and bathed the trawler with JP-5 as he proceeded to another go-around in the landing pattern.

Morgan's informative text, along with two of Osprey's best illustrators - Jim Laurier's excellent profiles and Gareth Hector's beautiful cover - will make this a Naval Aviation enthusiast's favorite and a very welcome addition to the reference library.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS for providing the sample for review.

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