Douglas A4D-1/A-4A Skyhawk

Last revised November 14, 2001


The A4D-1 was the first production version of the Skyhawk. The first A4D-1 (BuNo 137813) took off on its first flight on August 14, 1954, only two months after the first flight of the prototype XA4D-1. A total of 165 A4D-1s were built, the last one being delivered in 1957.

The A4D-1 was much the same as the XA4D-1, but differed from the XA4D-1 in having a "sugar scoop"-shaped jet tailpipe fairing., and was fitted with an arrester hook. All three weapons pylons were fitted, one underneath the fuselage centerline and one underneath each wing just outboard of the main landing gear. Up to 5000 pounds of ordinance could be carried on the three underwing pylons. Alternatively, up to three drop tanks could be carried, with a combined capacity of 800 gallons. A large blade antenna for the UHF radio was installed immediately aft of the cockpit. The frameless windshield of the XA4D-1 was replaced by a framed windscreen. An internal armament of two 20-mm Colt Mk 12 cannon was fitted, one gun in each wing root, with 100 rounds per gun. The aircraft did not carry any radar, the nose cone being filled with avionics equipment. The A4D-1 was powered by the 7700 lb.s.t Wright J65-W-4 or W-4B turbojet.

On October 15, 1955, Lt Gordon Gray set a new 100-km closed circuit speed record of 695.163 mph in A4D-1 BuNo 137820, taking the record away from the USAF's F-86H. This was the first attack aircraft to hold this record.

The first A4D-1 went in October 1956 to Attack Squadron VA-72. The first West Coast fleet squadron to receive the A4D-1 was VA-93, and it deployed to the Western Pacific aboard the USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) in September of 1957. The first Marine Corps squadron to get the Skyhawk was VMA-224, which received the A4D-1 in January of 1957.

Eventually, 18 Navy and Marine Corps attack squadrons were issued with A4D-1s. Almost all of these squadrons were former jet fighter (VF or VMF) squadrons that were redesignated as attack (VA or VMA) squadrons. The Navy Skyhawk squadrons served aboard carriers alongside propeller-driven Skyraiders. As the A4D-1 was replaced by later versions, they were transferred to Navy and Marine Corps Reserve squadrons.

In September of 1962, the A4D-1 was redesignated A-4A. Some of these aircraft were redesignated TA-4A during the Vietnam war. There were two reasons for this. One, it reflected the fact that later versions of the Skyhawk were much more capable and that the A-4A was now considered as being relegated to training duties. The other reason was more political--the redesignation helped to reduce the effective number of aircraft in the attack inventory in an effort to procure more aircraft for the Vietnam war.

Specification of Douglas A4D-1 Skyhawk:

Engine: One Wright J65-W-4 turbojet, rated at 7700 lb.s.t. Performance: Maximum speed 677 mph at sea level, 609 mph at 35, 000 feet. Cruising speed 506 mph. Stalling speed 124 mph. Combat ceiling 46,600 feet. Initial climb rate 11,600 feet per minute. Combat range 1490 miles with a single Mk 7 nuclear weapon. Dimensions: Wingspan 27 feet 6 inches. Length 39 feet 4 inches, height 15 feet 2 inches. Wing Area 260 square feet. Weights: 8391 pounds empty, 15,093 pounds combat weight, 19,910 pounds maximum. Armament: Two 20-mm cannon with 100 rpg. plus up to 5000 pounds of ordnance on 3 underwing pylons.

Sources:


  1. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920, Vol 1, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988

  2. American Combat Planes, 3rd Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  3. United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911, GordonSwanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  4. Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Variant Briefing: Part 1, Harry S. Gann, Wings of Fame, Vol 4, 1996.

  5. The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Harry Gann, Aircraft in Profile, Doubleday.