Above & Beyond: Warner and the Whale

How we turned the A3D into a tanker

Before hose-and-reel refueling took hold, the Navy tried a system of rigid tubing. This did not end well. (US Navy)
Air & Space Magazine

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Engineering found a short circuit in the electrical system that powered the hydraulics to operate the doors. The remaining test flights went off without a hitch. But there seemed no way to get Warner back on my side. I even gave him a bottle of Black Label.

The tanker program proved quite successful. A few dozen A3s were converted to tankers, and some of those were given jamming capability. The tankers served in Vietnam and flew until they were replaced by Grumman KA-6D Intruders. In addition to carrying bombs, A3Ds were also configured as VIP transport as well as radar surveillance aircraft.

With time, Warner softened, and even bought me a drink. But I always felt some sort of disconnect. I had to remember what it must have been like, coming that close to a horrible fall and certain death.

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