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A-4 Skyhawk

Definition/Scope: The A4D-1 was a single seat aircraft designed as a light weight, carrier-based, turbo-jet plane whose primary mission was the destruction of enemy ground and surface targets. The Skyhawk was initially designed as a lightweight, daylight-only nuclear capable strike aircraft for use in large numbers from aircraft carriers. Skyhawks provided the U.S. Navy and Marines and friendly nations with a maneuverable yet powerful attack bomber which had great altitude and range capabilities, plus an unusual flexibility in armament capacity. The A-4C (initially designated the A4D-2N) differed from earlier versions by incorporating night operations (thus the ’N’ suffix). First flying in 1959, this version’s terrain clearance radar was housed in an enlarged nose [later E models had an even longer nose]. It also had an auto pilot, angle of attack indicator system, Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS), and an improved ejection seat. The A-4C was later fitted with a more powerful engine, and was subsequently refurbished as the A-4L with upgraded avionics and an upper fuselage dorsal hump. Initially the A-4C bore the brunt of light attack duties in Vietnam until supplanted by the later A-4E/F versions. The A-4E and F saw considerable action in the early years of the Vietnam war. The Scooter saw extensive service with various US Marine units doing short range bombing in support of troops in country, while the Navy versions took the war to the North. The Skyhawk served well in the front lines in Vietnam until replaced in the late 1960s by the A-7 Corsair II. Even after being replaced, the A-4E/F went on for dozens of years as aggressor aircraft, as the mount of the Blue Angels, and with the reserves. The Blue Angel Squadron donned a new aircraft in 1974, the McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II. The new aircraft transformed the display team. The nimble Skyhawk was the opposite of the powerful Phantom. The Skyhawk was more aerobatic, and allowed tighter display in front of the audience. Newer versions were developed for the Marine Corps who used them until retired in the mid 1990s. The A-4M was the last of a line of Douglas Skyhawks. Specifically built for the Marine Corps, it offered an improved engine and avionics to help increase survivability in battlefield conditions. The A-4M Skyhawk has a payload of 8,000 pounds of ordnance, including, a 20mm cannon and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The A-4M uses a heads-up display and computer aided delivery of its bomb load with the angle rate bombing system. Recognizable by its larger canopy and various ECM antennas, approximately 120 A-4Ms were built. The OA-4M, a two-seat Skyhawk, provided tactical air control services as well as many other utility missions. The A-4M [and the TA-4F] were last used by Marine Corps Reserve squadrons. The Marine Reserve had two squadrons of A-4s with 12 aircraft each. Additionally, each squadron had two TA-4 aircraft.



Used For:

Movement and Maneuver WFF
Skyhawk (aircraft)

Broader Terms:

attack aircraft
Close Air Support
counterinsurgency

Related Terms:

A-37 Dragonfly
A-5 aircraft
A-6 Intruder
attack aircraft
Fantan Q-5 / A-5


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