Douglas A-4G/TA-4G Skyhawk for Australia

Last revised November 16, 2001


On October 26, 1965, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) announced that it would procure 10 Skyhawks (8 single-seaters and two 2-seaters) for service aboard the HMAS Melbourne (ex HMS Majestic), in response to a perceived threat from Indonesia .  They were designated A-4G and TA-4G respectively

Douglas was authorized to proceed with the order on April 15, 1966. The first A-4G took off on its maiden flight on July 19, 1967, test pilot Jim Stegman being at the control. 

The A-4G was based on the A-4F, but was optimized for the air defense role. It could mount Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the four wing-mounted pylons. The A-4G did retain a limited ground attack capability, but could not carry or deliver nuclear weapons. The pilot was provided with an Escapac 1C-3 zero-zero rocket ejector seat. Wing lift spoilers were installed above the flaps in the upper wing trailing edge, which were designed to improve crosswind landing performance. Nosewheel steering was provided to allow for better control during crosswind taxiing and during ramp or carrier deck maneuvering. The A-4G was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J52-P-8A engine, rated at 9300 lb.s.t. The aircraft could be equipped with an inflight refueling external buddy tank.

The two-seat Australian Skyhawk was designated TA-4G. The first TA-4G took off on its maiden flight on July 21, 1967, test pilot Jim Stegman again being at the controls. It retained all of the weapons capabilities of the single-seat A-4G. The two crew members were provided with Escapac 1C-3 zero-zero rocket ejector seats. Wing lift spoilers were installed above the flaps in the upper wing trailing edge, which were designed to improve crosswind landing performance. Nosewheel steering was provided to allow for better control during crosswind taxiing. The TA-4G was also powered by the Pratt & Whitney J52-P-8A engine, rated at 9300 lb.st. The aircraft could be equipped with an inflight refueling external buddy tank.

The eight A-4Gs were allocated Bureau Numbers of 154903/154910 during construction, and retained these numbers during RAN service but had the added prefix of N13--e.g. 154903 became N13-154903. The two TA-4Gs were N13-154911 and N13-154912.  The first A-4G was officially turned over to the RAN in a ceremony at the Douglas Long Beach plant on July 26, 1967. The balance of the order was delivered to NAS North Island, California to be stored awaiting the arrival of the Melbourne for transportation back to Australia. While they waited for the delivery of the rest of their planes, RAN pilots trained at NAS Leemore in California on US Navy Skyhawks in order to provide crews with experience on the Skyhawk and to provide a cadre of instructors.

The Australian Skyhawks were assigned to two different squadrons. Number 805 Squadron (later VF-805) was the primary combat squadron, permanently based at Nowra but deployed on the deck of the Melbourne during operational cruises. Number 724 Squadron was the operational flying training school squadron for the A-4, and was shore-based at Nowra.

Because of the different center of gravity of the TA-4G, the two-seaters could not safely operate from the short deck of the Melbourne. They were assigned to the shore-based unit Number 724 Squadron at Nowra.

In 1970, an additional eight A-4Gs were obtained from US Navy A-4F fleet stocks, reconfigured, and delivered to the RAN. In 1971, an additional two TA-4Gs were obtained from US Navy TA-4F fleet stocks, reconfigured, and delivered to the RAN. They were N13-154647 and N13-154648. The two A-4Gs were allocated Bureau Numbers of 154911/154912 during construction, and retained these numbers during RAN service but had the added prefix of N13--e.g. 154911 became N13-154911.

Attrition of Skyhawks was heavy in RAN service, and no less than eleven were lost in accidents.  In 1982, it was decided that the HMAS Melbourne would be taken out of service. When the Melbourne's operations were ended, VF-805's surviving aircraft were transferred to VC-724, which used them primarily for target towing.

Since the RAN Skyhawks no longer had a mission, surviving A-4Gs were sold to the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1984, where they were reconfigured and redesignated as A-4Ks. There were seven such planes, and they were assigned RNZAF serials of NZ6212 through NZ6218. The two surviving TA-4Gs were also sold to the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1984, where they were reconfigured and redesignated as TA-4Ks. They were assigned RNZAF serials of NZ6255 and NZ6256.

Serials of Douglas A-4G Skyhawk

154903/154910	Douglas A-4G Skyhawk
				To Australia as N13-154903/154910 (RAN codes 882/889) November 1967.
					N13-154903 (RAN code 882) to RNZAF July 1984 as NZ6211.  				
					N13-154904 (RAN code 883) to RNZAF July 1984 as NZ6212.  Now A-4K
					N13-154905 (RAN code 884) to RNZAF July 1984 as NZ6213.  Now A-4K
					N13-154908 (RAN code 887) to RNZAF July 1984 as NZ6214.  Now A-4K.
154911/154912	Douglas TA-4G Skyhawk
				To Australia as N13-154911/54912 (RAN code 880/881) November 1967.  
					Both to RNZAF as NZ6255 and NZ6256.  Now TA-4K
154614/154657	Douglas TA-4F Skyhawk
				154647 to Australia as N13-154647 (RAN code 878) August 1971.  
				154648 to Australia as N13-154648 (RAM code 879) August 1971. 
154970/155069	Douglas A-4F Skyhawk
				155051 (A-4G) to Australia as N13-155051 (RAN code 870) 
					Aug 1971. 
				155052 (A-4G) to Australia as N13-155052 (RAN code 871) 
					Aug 1971.  To RNZAF Jul 1984 as NZ6215.  Now A-4K
				155055 (A-4G) to Australia as N13-155055 (RAN code 872) 
					Aug 1971.  
				155060 (A-4G) to Australia as N13-155060 (RAN code 873) 
					Aug 1971.  
				155061 (A-4G) to Australia as N13-155061 (RAN code 874) 
					Aug 1971.  To RNZAF Jul 1984 as NZ6216.  Now A-4K
				155062 (A-4G) to Australia as N13-155062 (RAN code 875) 
					Aug 1971.  
				155063 (A-4G) to Australia as N13-155063 (RAN code 876) 
					Aug 1971.  To RNZAF Jul 1984 as NZ6217.  Now A-4K
				155069 (c/n 13885, RAN code 877) to Australia as N13-155069 in Aug 1971.
					To RNZAF as NZ6218 Jul 1984. 

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, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  4. Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Variant Briefing: Part 2, Harry S. Gann, Wings of Fame, Vol 5, 1996.