by Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, September 25, 2017

Douglas A3D-2P/RA-3B/ERA-3B Skywarrior

27 October 2017: Added configuration comments by Joe Hawkins

Douglas built less than 300 A3D Skywarriors but its family tree had many branches. For a summary, click HERE

Phil Clayton is building the Trumpeter ERA-3B kit with the Steel Beach update set and asked for clarification on the location of some of the details. That led me down the usual rabbit hole of research in the process of resolving some issues that I uncovered in the process of answering his questions.

I hadn't spent much time on the ERA-3B (not to be confused with the EKA-3B, which was a derivative of the bomber) because it was restricted from carrier operations and fulfilled a vital but peripheral Navy mission, training the crews of Navy ships and aircraft to operate in a hostile electronic-warfare environment.

All eight ERA-3Bs were originally delivered as A3D-2Ps, a photo-reconnaissance "Version" of the A3D-2 bomber. Like the other Versions, the interior had been permanently rearranged to provide a cabin aft of the cockpit.
In the case of the A3D-2P, the cabin was divided into two compartments, one for cameras and the other for photo-flash cartridges and bombs, separated by a bulkhead.

Another distinctive feature was the addition of a periscope sighting system providing a downward view through windows on the underside of the radome.

The view ports dominated the instrument panel (also see

The long narrow fairing on the lower side of the fuselage housed the doors that could cover the camera ports as did similar ones on the belly.

When the RA-3Bs began to be supplanted by the supersonic RA-5Cs for reconnaissance, four were repurposed in the early 1970s to be ERA-3B electronic-warfare aggressors, BuNos 144827, 144832, 146446, and 146447. Note that the last two were delivered with the Cambered Leading Edge (CLE) wing, readily identified by the addition of a leading edge slat between the wing and the fuselage.
The major external modifications were the addition of a "canoe" on the belly like the EA-3B's; four ram-air turbines, two on each side of the fuselage, for additional electrical power; a extended aft fuselage for chaff dispensing; flare/chaff dispensers on the lower sides of the aft fuselage; and several antennas.

Side-facing crew seats were added for two equipment operators in the cabin.

 From the illustration above, it appears that the bulkhead that separated the camera compartment and the truncated bomb bay was removed. However, per Joe Hawkins: "The bulkhead was never removed from the photo compartment and the flash bomb bay. The flash bomb bay is still there. It was full of equipment for the ALR-40 and ALR-75.

The starboard flash bomb-bay doors were secured. The door actuators were unpinned from the doors and door locks were installed if I remember correctly.

The port doors could be actuated externally by either a selector valve when hydraulic pressure was applied or a small hand pump. They were (now) access "panels" for the removal and installation of the ALT-40 and ALR-75 systems equipment."

An escape hatch (19 above) was added above the aft compartment.
In the early 1980s, four more RA-3Bs were converted to the ERA-3B configuration, BuNos 142668. 144838, 144841, and 144846. However, these appear to have been delivered with a smaller canoe, a different aft fuselage extension, different antennas mounted on the sides of the fuselage in four locations, and a different antenna under the nose.
Rick Morgan Photo

Of the original four ERA-3Bs, at least BuNo 146446 and 7 were converted to this configuration.

An excellent walkaround of a moldering 146447 by Bill Spidle can be found HERE. Note that its RAT hubs and propellers have been replaced by conical fairings. It was not unusual to see one or even two RAT pods on operational ERA-3Bs with a fairing instead of the RAT.

The Trumpeter A-3 series continues to disappoint. A detailed build article of the ERA-3B kit (the early configuration) by Philip Cavender is provided HERE

Note that it's missing two of the four RATs and numerous antennas. Not apparent from this angle, but the radome leaves a lot to be desired as well. The kit's cabin is also taken directly from the EA-3B kit, so it has four seats instead of two, but since nothing can be seen of it, that's a moot point.

However, Steel Beach has come to the rescue with an accessory kit for the later configuration (small canoe, etc.) reviewed by Haagen Klaus HERE

The Steel Beach ECM pods appear to have the ALQ-99"s outwardly bulged lower sides rather than the flat-sided ALQ-76 pods that were carried by the ERA-3B according to Rick Morgan. Another stores option is the ALQ-167 "Bullwinkle" pod, an example of which is in the Revell F-14D kit.

The Trumpeter engine nacelles are inaccurate but might be acceptable to most given all of the other inaccuracies. However, an excellent replacement set is available from HYPERSONIC

The Trumpeter canopy is equally off-putting. Hypersonic has a replacement in work but availability is TBD.

More later after comments are provided by my subject-matter experts...


  1. Hello, how can I contact you? I saw this drawing in your blog.

    I own the production, here is my website. Now I'm collecting information on Piasecki HUP. And this is the only image on the Internet. Are there any other drawings? I'm ready to pay.


    Are there any other drawings? I'm ready to pay.

  2. i maintained 144832 while in VAQ-33. i want one of these kits regardless of the inaccuracies. never saw a ALQ-167 pod and, by 1987, i think all the birds had the larger canoe. getting that gear into and out of the equipment bay was a pain. a few of the wenches were operational before retirement so that made things a bit easier.

  3. I am currently working on a scratchbuilt 1/32nd scale ERA-3B and your site is an invaluable source of information, thank you so much for all the research you are doing. I am still looking for good photos or drawings showing the "transition" between the cockpit and the aft compartment. Are there any photos showing this area? Thanks for pointing out which aircraft had the CLE wing - this makes it even more important to chose the exact aircraft I want to build at a very early stage.

    1. I haven't seen any pictures of the transition between the cockpit and the aft compartment but the illustrations above should be of some help. I've added one and the one with four separate views of the A3D-2P cockpit.

    2. I have a photograph taken from the cockpit to the belly and one from the belly to the cockpit I woyld be happy to share with you.

  4. The only time there were two EWOs in the belly of the ERA-3B was when training a new EWO or transporting a passenger. Normal mission flights were conducted with a solo EWO.

    Michael “Mad Dog” Kelley, VAQ-33 1979-1982, ERA-3B EW Aircraft Model Manager, Squadron EW Instructor, Aircraft Commander, Mission Commander, and Event Commander

  5. The drawing is very helpful, thank you very much! The cockpit section of BuNo 144832 is currently under restoration at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky; the group taking care of the restoration is posting photos on Facebook on a regular basis and there are some useful ones for me.