The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II was the result of a May 17, 1963 Navy design competition named VAL, which stood for Light Attack Aircraft. The VAL aircraft was to replace the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, and was to have as its primary mission the delivery of conventional ordnance as opposed to nuclear weapons. The aircraft was to have a single seat, and the requirement specified that the aircraft would have to be in service no later than 1967. The Navy was interested in low cost, and specified that the aircraft would have to be based on an existing design. In addition, in order to save even more money, the requirement did not call for supersonic performance. A maximum bombload of 15,000 pounds was called for.
Only four aircraft companies entered the competition. Douglas offered a derivative of the A-4 Skyhawk with a larger airframe and powered by a TF30 turbofan. Grumman offered a single-seat variant of the A-6 Intruder (Model 128G-12). North American Aviation proposed a TF30-powered veresion of the AF-1E Fury. Ling-Temco-Vought (into which the Vought Corporation had merged in 1961) proposed the Model V-463, which was a shortened version of the F-8 Crusader fighter. Since the aircraft did not have to be capable of supersonic performance, the aircraft was shorter, had a wing with less sweepback, had no provision for varying the wing incidence, and was powered by a turbofan engine with no afterburner. Outboard ailerons, which were not used on the F-8, were introduced on the wing of the V-463. The structure was strengthened to allow the aircraft to carry the required weapons load of up to 15,000 pounds.
One of the more important features of the V-463 was the presence of no less than eight external stores positions. Two of the hardpoints were on the fuselage sides just ahead of the wing leading edge, and were each capable of carrying 500 pounds. There were two inner underwing pylons, each capable of carrying 2500 pounds, and four outer underwing pylons each capable of carrying 3500 pounds. The aircraft could carry virtually any of the offensive weapons in the Navy's armoury. The aircraft was also armed with a pair of 20-mm Mk 12 cannon with 600 rpg, one gun on each side of the air intake.
The engine used was a non-afterburning 11,350 lb.s.t Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-6 turbofan. No afterburner was needed, since supersonic performance was not called for in the requirement.
The high-mounted wing was similar to that of the Corsair, but had a somewhat smaller sweep. The outer leading edge had a "dogtooth" extension, and there were a full set of leading edge slats which extended during landing or takeoff for additional lift. The inner wing trailing edge had a set of flaps, and the outer wing trailing edge had a set of conventional ailerons. In addition, the upper trailing edge of the wing had a spoiler just ahead of the flap hinge. The wings folded for storage aboard carriers, the hinge being located at the edge of the dogtooth, at the position of the outermost underwing pylon.
The aircraft was capable of being refueled in midair via the Navy probe-and-drogue technique. The probe was housed on the starboard side of the aircraft, just adjacent to the cockpit, and retracted into an external housing.
The aircraft was equipped with an AN/APN-153 Doppler radar set, an AN/APQ-116 attitude heading reference set, and an AN/APN-141 radar altimeter. An AN/ASN-41 air navigation computer was also provided.
On February 11, 1964, it was announced that the Vought entry had won the competition. Although the award decision was certainly justified on its merits, some critics carped that the real reason why the V-463 won the contest was because the aircraft would be built in President Lyndon Johnson's home state. The designation assigned was A-7, in the new post 1962 attack series. Since the aircraft competition was established entirely after the introduction of the new unified designation scheme, it never had a designation under the old system, which would presumably have been A3U. On March 19, 1964, Ling-Temco-Vought received a contract for 7 A-7A flight test articles and 35 A-7A production aircraft. 140 more were ordered on November 10, 1965.
Progress in the A-7 program was extremely rapid, and the first YA-7A (BuNo 152580) was rolled out of the factory on August 13, 1965. It took off on its maiden flight on September 27, 1965, with LTV test pilot John Konrad at the controls. The name Corsair II was chosen for the aircraft on November 10, 1965, in honor of Vought's famous World War II product. The remaining six test aircraft were in the air by mid-1966.
According to the original contract, the first A-7s were to be in service by no later than 1967. Two fleet readiness squadrons (VA-174 and VA-122) received their first A-7As in September and October of 1966 respectively. Initial A-7A carrier qualifications were performed by November 15, 1966 aboard the USS America. The first operational A-7A squadron was VA-147, which was commissioned on February 1, 1967, meeting the commitment of the contract with several months to spare, but their Corsair IIs were not yet cleared for combat. On June 1, 1967, The A-7A completed its BIS and FIP trials, demonstrating full compliance with the guaranteed performance. VA-147 received its first combat-ready A-7As in the autumn of 1967. VA-147 embarked upon its first combat cruise aboard the USS Ranger on November 4, 1967. It flew the first combat missions on December 4, 1967, an attack on communication lines near Vinh, North Vietnam.
In comparison with the A-4 Skyhawk, which it was designed to replace, the A-7A was easier to maintain and was much more likely to survive combat damage. In addition, the A-7A had considerably longer range, making it possible to fly missions that the A-4 could not support. However, there were problems with ingestion of steam into the intake during catapult launch which caused loss of thrust, and the CP-781 weapons release system was not very reliable. The steam ingestion problem was solved by modifying the 12th compressor stage of the engine, but the CP-781 problem proved more difficult to solve.
A total of 193 A-7As were built, before production switched over to the A-7B version.
Engine: One Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-6 non-afterburning turbofan, 11,350 lb.s.t. Performance: Maximum speed 680 mph at sea level, 585 mph at 13,000 feet, cruising speed 580 mph, landing speed 139 mph. Service ceiling 49,200 feet, initial climb rate 5000 feet per minute, maximum ferry range 4100 miles. Dimensions: Wingspan 38 feet 9 inches, 46 feet 1.5. inches long, 16 feet 2 inches, wingspan 375 square feet. Weights: 15,105 pounds empty, 31,950 pounds gross, 34,500 pounds maximum. Armament: Two 20-mm Mk 12 cannon with 600 rpg. Up to 15,000 pounds of ordnance could be carried on 8 hardpoints.
152580/152582 Ling-Temco-Vought YA-7A-1-CV Corsair II (3) 152581 became NA-7A 152647/152650 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A-2-CV Corsair II (4) 152651/152660 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A-3a-CV Corsair II (4) 152661/152685 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A-3b-CV Corsair II (25) 153134/153181 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A-4a-CV Corsair II (48) 153182/153233 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A-4b-CV Corsair II (52) 153234/153273 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A-4c-CV Corsair II (40) 154344/154360 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A-4c-CV Corsair II (17)