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EA-3B Comes to National Vigilance Park

Gen Michael V. Hayden, USAF, and RADM Joseph D. Burns, USN, Commander, Naval Security Group Command, dedicated the U.S. Navy EA-3B Skywarrior jet aircraft at National Vigilance Park on 13 July 2004. The aircraft, on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida, was dedicated to the memory of all U.S. Naval aircrews who perished while conducting secret reconnaissance missions around the world. Today's dedication was attended by family, friends, former shipmates, and distinguished guests.

The U.S. Navy's contribution to National Vigilance Park bears the markings of an EA-3B aircraft, Ranger 12, assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Two (VQ-2). The aircraft in the park is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola. The original aircraft was lost on 25 January 1987 while attempting to make a night landing on the USS Nimitz during blue water operations in the Mediterranean. The weight of the EA-3B made it extremely difficult to land on an aircraft carrier during the day. A night landing made it even more perilous. Returning from what became its final mission, the aircraft made several attempts to catch the arresting gear but was unsuccessful. Running low on fuel, attempts were made to refuel the EA-3B in air, but they, too, failed. A barricade was rigged on the flight deck, but the aircraft hit the barricade too high and it slammed onto the flight deck, skidded, and fell into the sea. The Ranger 12 sank with its seven crew aboard. The crewmen were:

  • LT Stephen H. Batchelder
  • LCDR Ronald R. Callander
  • AT2 Richard A. Herzing
  • LT Alan A. Levine
  • CTI3 Patrick R. Price
  • LT James D. Richards
  • CTI3 Craig H. Rudolf

Despite this tragic loss, the last of the Navy's Cold War fatalities in the aerial electronic reconnaissance program, the EA-3B remained in frontline service with VQ-1 and VQ-2 until October 1991, serving with distinction in one last conflict, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The marker at the National Vigilance Park reads, The EA-3B Skywarrior was in service for more than three decades in the U.S. Navy's secret reconnaissance war against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Conceived at the dawn of the Cold War as an aircraft carrier-based nuclear bomber, the A-3 Skywarrior was the largest aircraft ever designed to operate from an aircraft carrier hence its nickname, "the Whale". The aircraft was also an ideal platform for electronic reconnaissance, a mission it filled around the globe beginning in 1956. Designated the EA-3B in 1961, the aircraft and its crew of seven offered the fleet unique electronic reconnaissance capabilities that served the Navy well in numerous Cold War-era conflicts and crises, including the Vietnam War. The U.S. Navy retired its last EA-3B from service in October 1991.


Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009 | Last Modified: Nov 24, 2010 | Last Reviewed: Nov 24, 2010