A-4 Skyhawk (Walk Around 5541)
By Lou Drendel
Publisher: Squadron/Signal Publications 2006 82 Pages
PDF 38 MB
"Scooter," "Ford," "Tinker Toy." "Bantam Bomber," "Heinemann's Hot Rod." All were nicknames for the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Bui an even more appropriate appellation, bestowed by Skyhawk pilots, is "The Ferrari Of" Airplanes."
The A-4 Skyhawk is one of the most successful modern combat aircraft ever built. The Skyhawk production run spanned 25 years, during which 2,960 were built and operated by the U.S. Navy and Marines as well as the Air Forces of Australia, New Zealand, Israel. Malaysia. Argentina, Singapore, Brazil, Indonesia, and Kuwait.
The Skyhawk was conceived during a time of burgeoning carrier jet operations. Unlike many of its contemporaries, it was designed from the outset as a lightweight attack aircraft. (The Skyhawk was developed in tandem with (he A-3 Sky warrior, a twin-engine bomber with a maximum take-off weight of 82,500 pounds compared to the A-4B's maximum of 22,500 pounds.) In the early 1950s, most of the Navy's carriers were of World War 11 vintage, and smaller, lighter, more maneuverable aircraft were an absolute operational necessity.
In January 1952, Ed Hcincmann, chief engineer of the Douglas El Segundo Division, met with Rear Admiral Apollo Soucek, representing the Chief of the Naval Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer). Heinemann proposed a new, lightweight, jet-powered attack airplane. On 12 June 1952, BuAer issued a contract for the prototype, specifying a maximum speed of 500 mph, a 460-mile operating radius, a 2,000-pound bomb capacity, and a maximum cost of $1 million per aircraft. The XA-4D-1 beat the speed requirement by a wide margin, and the first 500 production aircraft were produced at a cost of $860,000 each. Review of the basic design resulted in a further order for 19 A-4s in October 1952.
Naval aircraft designations prior lo 1962 included references to the mission and manufacturer. Thus the Skyhawk was designated A4D-1: A (attack) 4 (fourth aircraft from this manufacturer under the new designator) D (Douglas) -1 (first example of the type.) After 1962, the designators were simplified, and the A4D-1 became the A-4A, the A4D-2 became the A-4B, and the A4D-2N became the A-4C. The latter was designed with minimal all-weather equipment, including an autopilot, all-attitude gyro system, low altitude bombing system, terrain clearance radar, and angle of attack indexer. From 1969 to 1972, 100 A-4Cs were upgraded to A-4L configuration for Naval Air Reserve squadrons.