Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

TypeGround-attack aircraft, fighter, aggressor aircraft
Country of originUnited States
ManufacturerDouglas Aircraft Company
First flight22 June 1954
IntroducedOctober 1956
Numbers built2,960
Unit costsUS$860,000 each for the first 500 units
Max speed585 kn (673 mph, 1,077 km/h)
Max rangeRange: 1,700 nmi (2,000 mi, 3,220 km)
Combat radius: 625 nmi, 1,158 km/h ()
Service ceiling: 42,250 ft (12,880 m)
DimensionsLength: 40 ft 3 in (12.22 m)
Wingspan: 26 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Height: 15 ft (4.57 m)
Wing area: 259 ft² (24.15 m²)
WeightEmpty weight: 10,450 lb (4,750 kg)
Loaded weight: 18,300 lb (8,318 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 24,500 lb (11,136 kg)
Powerplant1 x Pratt & Whitney J52-P8A turbojet, 9,300 lbf (41 kN)
2x 20 mm (0.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannon, 100 rounds/gun
Hardpoints: 4x under-wing & 1x under-fuselage pylon stations holding up to 9,900 lb (4,490 kg) of payload

4x LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4x 127 mm Mk 32 Zuni rockets)
Air-to-air missiles:
4x AIM-9 Sidewinder
Air-to-surface missiles:
2x AGM-12 Bullpup
2x AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile
2x AGM-62 Walleye TV-guided glide bomb
2x AGM-65 Maverick

6x Rockeye-II Mark 20 Cluster Bomb Unit (CBU)
6x Rockeye Mark 7/APAM-59 CBU
Mark 80 series of unguided bombs (including 3 kg and 14 kg practice bombs)
B57 nuclear bomb
B61 nuclear bomb

up to 3x 370 US gallons (1,400 L) Sargent Fletcher drop tanks (pylon stations 2, 3, 4 are wet plumbed) for ferry flight/extended range/loitering time
OperatorsFormer Operators:
Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, United States

Current Operators:
Brazil, Israel

The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a compact carrier-capable ground-attack aircraft which was designed and developed by Douglas Aircraft Company, and later McDonnell Douglas to serve with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Skyhawaks saw combats in the Falklands War, Vietnam War, Yom Kippur War, 1991 Gulf War and some other conflicts in the world.

The delta-winged and single-engined attack aircraft had been massively produced with 2,960 units and some of them remain in service with several air forces round the world.

The Design and Development of Skyhawk

Responding the U.S. Navy requirement for a jet-powered attack aircraft, Ed Heinemann, a notable military aircraft designer from Douglas Aircraft Company started to design a replacement for the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. The new design was a compact aircraft and carrier-capable, which featured conventional post-World War II design with tricycle undercarriage, low-mounted delta wing. The aircraft was powered by a single turbojet engine with two air intakes on the fuselage sides.

The aircraft, designated A-4, was armed with two 20 mm (.79 in caliber) Colt Mk 12 cannons, one in each wing root, with 200 rounds per gun, along with a number of bombs, missiles and rockets, carried on a hardpoint under the fuselage centerline and hardpoints under each wing.

Above all, the A-4 was the pioneer of the buddy air- to-air refueling concept allowing the aircraft to dispense fuel to other aircraft during flight instead of using a large tanker aircraft. Definitely, the concept is very helpful for operational flexibility and more effective.

The A-4 was also created to perform an emergency landing to reduce damage and the best of all, the damage can be repaired within only less than an hour.

The Douglas Aircraft Company won the contract on 12 June 1952. The first prototype took its first flight on 22 June 1954. Two years later, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps squadrons received their first Skyhawks squadron.

The Variants of A-4 Skyhawk

There were several variants of the A-4 Skyhawk, as we can see below:

  • XA4D-1: Prototype
  • YA4D-1 (YA-4A, later A-4A): Flight test prototypes and pre-production aircraft.
  • A4D-1 (A-4A): Initial production version.
  • A4D-2 (A-4B): Bolstered aircraft and supplemented with buddy air-to-air refueling capabilities, better navigation and flight control systems.
  • A-4P: Remanufactured A-4Bs which sold to Argentine Air Force known as A-4B by the Argentines.
  • A-4Q: Remanufactured A-4Bs which sold to Argentine Navy.
  • A-4S: 50 A-4Bs remanufactured for Republic of Singapore Air Force.
  • TA-4S: seven trainer versions of the A-4S.
  • TA-4S-1: eight trainer versions of the A-4S. These were designated as TA-4S-1 to set it apart from the earlier batch of seven airframes.
  • A4D-2N (A-4C): Enhanced with night/adverse weather version of A4D-2, with AN/APG-53A radar, autopilot, LABS low-altitude bombing system. Powered by Wright J65-W-20.
  • A-4L:  Remanufactured A-4C for Marine Corps Reserves and Navy Reserve squadrons. Equipped with A-4F avionics (including the fuselage “hump”) but keeping on using J-65 engine and three-pylon wing.
  • A-4S-1: Remanufactured A-4C for Republic of Singapore Air Force.
  • ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawk: extensively modified and updated version of the A-4S, exclusively for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), powered by a General Electric F404 non-afterburning turbofan engine, and upgraded electronics.
  • TA-4SU Super Skyhawk: broadly modified and upgraded version of the TA-4S & TA-4S-1 to TA-4SU standard.
  • A-4PTM (Peculiar to Malaysia):  Refurbished A-4Cs and A-4Ls for Royal Malaysian Air Force.
  • TA-4PTM (Peculiar to Malaysia): Small number of trainer versions of above.
  • A4D-4: Long-range version.
  •  A4D-5 (A-4E): With major upgrade, including new Pratt & Whitney J52-P-6A engine t, strengthened airframe with two more weapon pylons (for a total of five), and enhanced avionics. Most of them were later upgraded with J52-P-8 engine.
  • TA-4E: Modified A-4Es as prototypes of a trainer version.
  • A-4F: Refinement of A-4E with extra avionics put in a hump on the fuselage spine and powered by more powerful J52-P-8A. Some served with Blue Angels acrobatic team from 1973 to 1986.
  • TA-4F: Conversion trainer – standard A-4F with extra seat for an instructor.
  • OA-4M: Modified TA-4Fs for Forward Air Control duties for the USMC.
  • EA-4F: Converted TA-4Fs for ECM training.
  • TA-4J: Trainer version based on A-4F.
  • A-4G: Developed for the Royal Australian Navy with minor variations from the A-4F.
  • TA-4G: two trainer versions of the A-4G built new, and two more modified from TA-4Fs.
  • A-4H: Built for the Israeli Air Force based on the A-4F. The variants were armed with 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA cannon with 150 rpg in place of US 20 mm (.79 in) guns. The aircrafts were also 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: Built for Royal New Zealand Air Force.
  • TA-4K: four trainer versions of the A-4K.
  • A-4M: Marine version with improved avionics and more powerful J52-P-408a engine.
  • A-4N: Modified A-4Ms for the Israeli Air Force.
  • A-4KU: Modified A-4Ms for the Kuwaiti Air Force. Brazil then bought 20 of these second-hand and redesignated them AF-1.
  • TA-4KU: Trainer versions of the A4-KU. Brazil then bought some of these second-hand and redesignated them AF-1A.
  • A-4AR Fightinghawk: Refurbished A-4Ms for Argentina.
  • OA-4AR: Refurbished two-seat training version for Argentina.

Douglas A-4 Skyhawk videos

2011 NAS Oceana Airshow – McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk


Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

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