The A2F-1Q was an electronic warfare version of the A2F-1, initially designed as a replacement for the Douglas F3D-2Q Skyknight with the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps showed sufficient interest that they ordered the work to proceed in March of 1962. The aircraft was redesignated EA-6A in September of 1962.
Two A2F-1s were modified as prototypes for the A2F-1Q. BuNo 147865 was used as an aerodynamic prototype, and A2F-1 BuNo 148618 was used as the electronic prototype. 148618 flew for the first time on April 26, 1963, by which time it had been redesignated EA-6A. The most significant external change was the presence of a canoe-shaped fin-tip fairing to accommodate a set of antennae for a Bunker-Ramo ALQ-86 receiver/surveillance system. This system included AN/ALQ-41, AN/ALQ-51, and AN/ALQ-55 jamming systems. Their primary mission was to suppress enemy electronic activity during air strikes. In addition, the aircraft could carry up to five jammer pods on the underwing pylons and on the centerline. The pods that could be carried included AN/ALQ-31B, AN/ALQ-54, or AN/ALQ-76. Chaff dispensers (either AN/ALE-32 or AN/ALE-41) could be substituted for the underwing jammer pods. The aircraft retained a limited all-weather attack capability, although EA-6As were very seldom used for offensive operations. The aircraft could carry and launch the AGM-45 Shrike antiradiation missile, but this was very rarely used operationally.
Only 27 EA-6As were built, (2 prototypes, 10 modified from A-6A airframes, plus 15 production aircraft built from scratch as EA-6As). The planes served with the US Marine Corps in Vietnam as supplements and later replacements for the EF-10B (F3D-2Q) Skyknights. The first operational aircraft were delivered to VMCJ-1 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina on December 1, 1965.
The EA-6As were first deployed to Southeast Asia in October of 1966. The first twelve planes were equipped with the AN/ALQ-53 ECM system, plus an AN/ALR-15 radar warning receiver. Electronic jammers that could be carried included AN/ALQ-41, AN/ALQ-51, and AN/ALQ-55. AN/ALE-15 chaff dispensers could also be carried. On the 15 purpose-built EA-6As, the AN/ALQ-86 surveillance receiver system and the AN/ALQ-76 jamming systems replaced the earlier systems.
The purpose-built EA-6As were distributed to three operational Marine Corps squadrons VMCJ-1, -2, and -3. The EA-6A served along RF-4B Phantoms in VMCJ-1, -2 , -3 until 1975, when a decision was made to separate the two types of aircraft into different squadrons. All of the EA-6As were moved into VMA-1, and some were later given to the Reserve squadron VMAQ-4. These units later transitioned to the EA-6B, and their EA-6A were issued to Navy squadrons--VAQ-33, VAQ-209, and VAQ-309. In 1985, the EA-6As were upgraded by replacing the ALQ-41 with the ALQ-126B, the addition of a new radar warning receiver, and the improvement of several systems.
In later years, the EA-6As remaining in service were used primarily for training and for testing of friendly air defenses. The Marine Corps finally retired their last EA-6A in 1985. Although the Navy never used the EA-6A in active-duty squadrons, several Marine Corps detachments did deploy aboard Navy carriers in the Mediterranean sea and the Western Pacific in the early 1970s. The Navy added the EA-6A to its inventory in 1979, when examples were assigned to the Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group and to reserve squadrons VAQ-209 and VAQ-309. In 1981, a Marine Corps reserve squadron was activated with EA-6As. The last EA-6A left Navy service in October 1993, when VAQ-33 was disestablished.
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J52-P-6A non-afterburning turbojets, 8500 lb.s.t. each. Performance: Maximum speed 646 mph at sea level, 555 mph at 35, 900 feet. Cruising speed 481 mph. Stalling speed 133 mph. Combat ceiling 40,250 feet. Initial climb rate 6950 feet/min. Normal range 1350 miles. Maximum ferry range 3225 miles. Weights: 27,770 pounds empty, 41,700 pounds loaded, 54,600 pounds maximum. Dimensions: Wingspan 53 feet 0 inches, length 55 feet 5.8 inches, height 15 feet 5.9 inches, wing area 529 square feet. Armament: No cannon armament. A maximum load of 15,000 pounds could be carried on four underwing hardpoints and one centerline hardpoint.
147864/147867 Grumman YA2F-1 Intruder Redesignated A-6A in 1962. 147865 converted as EA-6A testbed. (1) 148615/148618 Grumman YA2F-1 Intruder Redesignated A-6A in 1962. 148618 converted as EA-6A prototype. (1) 149475/149486 Grumman A-6A Intruder 149475, 149477, 149478 converted to EA-6A (3) 149935/149958 Grumman A-6A Intruder 149935 modified to YEA-6A prototype, later converted to NEA-6A (1) 151558/151612 Grumman A2F-1 Intruder Redesignated A-6A in 1962 151595/151600 converted to EA-6A (6) 156979/156993 Grumman EA-6A Intruder (15)