Created to carry nuclear bombs for the Navy after WWII, the Skywarrior is the heaviest aircraft to land on a carrier and so, was called: The Whale. It was launched by catapult or JATO thrust bottles, but landing on a carrier is tricky. There were no ejection seats, so “A3D” soon stood for All 3 Dead.
The A3D became the USAF B-66 Destroyer with a strengthened structure for higher altitudes and ejection seats in 1956—the same year the A3D joined the Navy.
During 30 years of service—from Vietnam to Desert Storm—the A3D changed roles and became a star. In Vietnam, the bomb bay carried electronic surveillance equipment and fuel for other aircraft, sometimes accomplishing both on the same sortie. Skywarrior tankers extended the striking range of the air wing. Electronic Whales tracked enemy movements, intercepted radio transmissions, and jammed radar to protect aircraft in the air. Four electronic specialists, called crows or ravens joined the crew (later replaced by automation). The Skywarrior was among the longest serving carrier-based aircraft in history.
Our A3D was a bomber and navigator trainer until 1968 when it went to Hughes and Raytheon, received a bigger nose cone for conducting radar and avionics testing for the Grumman F-14 and the B-2A Spirit Stealth Bomber, and continued to serve the Navy from the air.