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A-4 Skyhawk

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Douglas A-4F Skyhawk
Missing image
A-4_Skyhawk.jpg
Image:A-4_Skyhawk.jpg


image depicts later A-4M version
Description
RoleAttack aircraft
Crewone, pilot
Dimensions
Length12.22 m40 ft 3 in
Wingspan8.38 m27 ft 6 in
Height4.57 m14 ft 11 in
Wing area24.15 m²259 ft²
Weights
Empty4,750 kg10,450 lb
Loaded8,318 kg18,300 lb
Maximum take-off11,136 kg24,500 lb
Powerplant
Engines1x Pratt & Whitney J52-P8A turbojet
Thrust41 kN9,300 lbf
Performance
Maximum speed1,077 km/h673 mph
Combat range3,220 km2,000 mi
Ferry range3,408 km2,130 mi
Service ceiling12,880 m42,250 ft
Rate of Climb2,572 m/min8,440 ft/min
Armament
Guns2 x 20 mm Colt Mk 12 cannon, 100 rpg
Missiles4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder
Fuselage centreline station1,590 kg3,500 lb
Inboard wing stations1,000 kg each2,200 lb each
Outboard wing stations454 kg each1,000 lb each

The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk (formerly A4D Skyhawk, Douglas later McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing) is an attack aircraft originally designed to operate from United States Navy aircraft carriers. Fifty years after the type's first flight, some of the nearly 3,000 Skyhawks produced remain in service with smaller air arms around the world.

Contents

History

The Skyhawk was designed by Douglas' Ed Heinemann in response to a U.S. Navy call for a jet-powered attack aircraft to replace the A-1 Skyraider. Heinemann opted for a design that would minimize size, weight, and complexity. The result was an aircraft that weighed only half of the Navy's specification and had a wing so compact that it did not need to be folded for carrier stowage. The diminutive Skyhawk soon received the nicknames "Scooter," "Bantam Bomber," and, on account of its nimble performance, "Heinemann's Hot-Rod."

The aircraft is of conventional design, with a low-mounted delta-like wing, tricycle undercarriage, and a single turbojet engine in the rear fuselage, with intakes on the fuselage sides. The tail is of cruciform design, with the horizontal stabilizer mounted above the fuselage. Armament consisted of two 20 mm Colt Mk 12 cannon, one in each wing root with 200 rounds per gun, and large variety of bombs, rockets, and missiles carried on a centreline hardpoint under the fuselage and two hardpoints under each wing (early versions had only one hardpoint under each wing).

The Navy issued a contract for the type on June 12 1952, and the first prototype first flew on June 22, 1954. Deliveries to Navy and U.S. Marine Corps squadrons commenced in late 1956.

The Skyhawk remained in production until 1975, with a total of 2,960 aircraft built, including 555 two-seat trainers. The US Navy began removing the aircraft from its front-line squadrons in 1967, with the last retiring in 1975. The last Marine Skyhawk was delivered in 1979, and were used until the mid-1990s. Trainer versions of the Skyhawk remained in Navy service, however, found a new lease on life with the advent of adversary training, where the nimble A-4 was used as a stand-in for the MiG-17 in dissimilar air combat training (DACT). It served in that role until 1999, when the last were replaced with the T-45 Goshawk. The last US Navy Skyhawks, TA-4J models belonging to composite squadron VC-8, remained in military use for target-towing and as adversary aircraft for combat training at Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads. They were officially retired on May 3, 2003.

In combat

Skyhawks received much use in the early years of the Vietnam War until being supplanted by the A-7 Corsair II in the light bomber role. Skyhawks carried out some of the first air strikes by the US during the conflict and a Marine Skyhawk is believed to have dropped the last US bombs on the country. Notable pilots like Lt. (Jg) Everett Alvarez, John McCain, and Vice Admiral James Stockdale flew the Skyhawk. On one occasion, an A-4C Skyhawk, piloted by LCDR Ted Swartz from from attack squadron VA-76, shot down a MiG-17 with an unguided rocket.

Shortly afterwards, Israeli Air Force Skyhawks would prove their worth in the Yom Kippur War. Argentine Navy Skyhawks played a role in the Falklands War, and more recently, Kuwait Air Force Skyhawks fought in the first Gulf War.

Variants

Prototypes

  • XA4D-1 Prototype
  • YA4D-1 Flight-test prototypes

A-4A

  • A4D-1 (A-4A) Initial production version, 166 built

A-4B

  • A4D-2 (A-4B) Strengthened aircraft and added air-to-air refueling capabilities, improved navigation and flight control systems, provision for AGM-12 Bullpup missile. 542 built.
    • A-4P Remanufactured A-4Bs sold to Argentine Air Force.
    • A-4Q Remanufactured A-4Bs sold to Argentine Navy.
  • A4D-3 Proposed advanced avionics version, none built.

A-4C

  • A4D-2N (A-4C) Night/adverse weather version of A4D-2, with AN/APG-53A radar, autopilot, LABS low-altitude bombing system. J65-W-20 engine with 8,200 lbf (36.5 kN) take-off thrust. 638 built.
    • A-4L 100 A-4Cs remanufactured for Navy Reserve squadrons.
    • A-4S 40 A-4Cs remanufactured for Republic of Singapore Air Force.
      • TA-4S 7 trainer versions of the above. Different from most Skyhawk trainers in that they have a second canopy for the instruction, rather than seating student and instructor under one long canopy.
      • TA-4SU ("Super Skyhawk") extensively modified and updated A-4S with General Electric F404 non-afterburning turbofan engine and modernised electronics.
    • A-4PTM 40 A-4Cs and A-4Ls refurbished for Royal Malaysian Air Force, incorporating many A-4M features.
      • TA-4PTM Small number of trainer versions of above.
  • A4D-4 long-range version with new wings cancelled; A-4D designation skipped to prevent confusion with A4D

A-4E

  • A4D-5 (A-4E) major upgrade, including new Pratt & Whitney J52-P-6A engine with 8,400 lbf (37 kN) thrust, strengthened airframe with two more weapon pylons (for a total of five), improved avionics, with TACAN, Doppler navigation radar, radar altimeter, toss-bombing computer, and AJB-3A low-altitude bombing system. Many later upgraded with J52-P-8 engine with 9,300 lbf (41 kN) thrust. 499 built.
    • TA-4E two A-4Es modified as prototypes of a trainer version.

A-4F

  • A-4F Refinement of A-4E with extra avionics housed in a hump on the fuselage spine (this feature later retrofitted to A-4Es and some A-4Cs) and more powerful J52-P-8A engine with 9,300 lbf (41 kN) thrust, later upgraded in service to J52-P-408 with 11,200 lbf (50 kN). 147 built. Some served with Blue Angels acrobatic team from 1973 to 1986.
    • TA-4F Conversion trainer - standard A-4F with extra seat for an instructor. 241 built.
      • OA-4M Twenty-three TA-4Fs modified for Forward Air Control duties for the USMC.
      • EA-4F Four TA-4Fs converted for ECM training.
    • TA-4J Dedicated trainer version based on A-4F, but lacking weapons systems, and with down-rated engine. 277 built new, and most TA-4Fs were later converted to this configuration.
    • A-4G Eight aircraft built new for the Royal Australian Navy with minor variations from the A-4F. Subsequently, eight more A-4Fs were modified to this standard for the RAN.
      • TA-4G two trainer versions of the A-4G built new, and two more modified from TA-4Fs.
    • A-4H 90 aircraft for the Israeli Air Force based on the A-4F. Used 30 mm DEFA cannon with 150 rounds per gun in place of U.S. 20 mm guns. Later, some A-4Es later locally modified to this standard. Subsequently modified with extended jetpipes as protection against heat-seeking missiles.
      • TA-4H 25 trainer versions of the above. These remain in service, and are being refurbished with new avionics and systems for service till at least 2010.
    • A-4K Ten aircraft for Royal New Zealand Air Force. In the 1990s these were upgraded with new radar and avionics, provision for AGM-65 Maverick, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and GBU-16 Paveway II laser-guided bomb.
      • TA-4K Four trainer versions of the above.

A-4M

  • A-4M dedicated Marine version with improved avionics and more powerful J52-P-408 engine with 11,200 lbf (50 kN) thrust, enlarged cockpit, IFF system. Later fitted with Hughes AN/ASB-19 Angle Rate Bombing System (ARBS) with TV and laser spot tracker. 158 built.
    • A-4N 117 modified A-4Ms for the Israeli Air Force.
    • A-4KU 30 modified A-4Ms for the Kuwaiti Air Force. Brazil purchased some of these second-hand and redesignated them AF-1.
      • TA-4KU 6 trainer versions of the above. Brazil purchased some of these second-hand and redesignated them AF-1A.
    • A-4AR 36 A-4Ms refurbished for Argentina.

Units using the A-4

USN

  • VA-12
  • VA-15
  • VA-22
  • VA-23
  • VA-34
  • VA-36
  • VA-44
  • VA-46
  • VA-55
  • VA-56
  • VA-64
  • VA-65
  • VA-72
  • VA-76
  • VA-81
  • VA-83
  • VA-86
  • VA-93
  • VA-94
  • VA-95
  • VA-106
  • VA-112
  • VA-113
  • VA-125
  • VA-127
  • VA-144
  • VA-146
  • VA-152
  • VA-153
  • VA-155
  • VA-161
  • VA-163
  • VA-164
  • VA-165
  • VA-176
  • VA-192
  • VA-195
  • VA-203
  • VA-204
  • VA-205
  • VA-209
  • VA-210
  • VA-212
  • VA-216
  • VA-303
  • VA-304
  • VA-305
  • VA-776
  • VA-831
  • VA-873
  • VC-7
  • VC-8
  • VC(VFC)-12
  • VC(VFC)-13
  • VF-126
  • VT-7

USMC

  • VMA-211
  • VAM-214
  • VAM-223
  • VMA-311
  • VMA-331
  • VMA-225
  • VMA-133

Brazilian Navy

Argentinean Air Force

  • 4th Air Brigade (A-4C, withdrawn from use)
  • 5th Air Brigade (36 A/OA-4AR, replaced older A-4B)

Argentinean Navy

  • 3rd Fighter/Attack Flight (A-4Q, withdrawn from use in 1986)

Royal Australian Navy

  • VF-805 Squadron (10 A-4G, followed by 10 ex USN A-4F modified to G standard. Withdrawn from use 1983)
  • VC-724 Squadron (4 TA-4G/F, withdrawn from use 1982)
  • 8 Surviving A-4G and 2 TA-4G sold to New Zealand, and subsequently upgraded to A-4K level with the "Kahu" program

Royal New Zealand Air Force

10 A4K and 4 TA4K were purchased by the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1969 as English Electric Canberra replacements, and shipped to New Zealand aboard an aircraft carrier in 1970. The A4K is broadly comparable to the A4F & G, although featuring extra avionics in a dorsal 'hump', as adopted by later A4Fs, bent probe and drogue refuelling and other minor changes. In 1984 10 ex-Australian A4Gs were purchased, and all aircraft updated to a A4K Kahu standard, essentially by adopting the avionics of an F-16 Falcon, giving them the ability to use laser designated bombs, as well as Maverick and AIM9L missiles. Kahu is Maori for falcon. Minuturisation enabled the hump to be removed from the older New Zealand aircraft at the same time. The A4Ks equipped 2 and 75 Squadron RNZAF, as well as (breifly) 14 Squadron RNZAF, (which operated the TA4Ks prior to the delivery of BAC Strikemasters. The survivors were retired in 2001, and placed up for sale. 2 additional A4Ks exist - one an ex US early model brought up to A4K standard circa mid 1970s, solely for museum display; it is preserved at Wigram. In 2001 another TA4K Kahu was assembled in New Zealand entirely from spare parts , again for museum display; it is preserved at Ohakea. This is presumably the last 'production' A4.

Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU)

Indonesia has used 37 A-4E/TA-4E Skyhawk II by ex Israeli Air Force until 2003. In 2003 replaced by 2 Russian Su-27 SK and 2 Su-30 MK.

Israeli Air Force

Kuwaiti Air Force

Royal Malaysian Air Force

Republic of Singapore Air Force

  • Modernised A-4SU and TA-4SU versions.

Replaced original powerplant with that of a F/A 18 Hornet's Resulting in 30% less take-off time and overall increased thrust. Max Speed at sea level: 610kts Max Cruise Speed at 30,000 ft: 446 kts

Related content
Related Development
Similar Aircraft
Designation Series

A-1 - A-2 - A-3 - A-4 - A-5 - A-6 - A-7

Related Lists

List of military aircraft of the United States


Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

External link

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