Skyfire77 last edited by
Two A-7D from the 146th TFS, located at Greater Pittsburgh Airport
In 1963 the US Navy issues an RFP (request for proposals) from contractors for a new aircraft to replace the A-4 Skyhawk. The VA(L) (heavier-than-air, attack (light) was to be a subsonic strike fighter, cheap to produce and maintain, would incorporate the P&W TF30 turbofan, and preferably based on an existing design. Four companies responded:
Douglas proposed an enlarged version of the A-4, which could carry a heavier payload further than the existing Skyhawk.
Grumman's design was a simplified, single-seat variant of the A-6 Intruder
North American Aviation NA-295
NAA advanced a modified FJ-4 Fury
Ling-Temco-Vought (successor of the famous Vought nameplate) developed an attack variant of the F-8 Crusader, which eliminated the variable-incidence wing
Evaluation of the designs began in November of 1963, with LTV's V-463 being declared the winner on 11 February 1964. A contract was issued on 19 March for initial production of the new aircraft, designated the A-7, and on 22 June 1964 a review of the mock-up took place.
Mockup of the YA-7A at LTV's factory
The A-7 differed extensively from the F-8. Aside from deleting the variable-incidence mechanism, the wing itself was enlarged, with the sweep being reduced and now sporting 6 pylons for weapons. The fuselage was shorter and broader, resulting in 0% commonality between the F-8 and A-7, despite the visual similarity.
Comparison of the A-7 and F-8
The A-7 was capable of aerial refueling, with a navy-style extending probe fixed to the right side of the fuselage, below the cockpit. Early models were armed with two 20mm Colt Mk.12 autocannons, and like the F-8, there were rails on either side of the fuselage to mount AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles for self-defense. The Corsairs were fitted with terrain following radar, which was tied into a digital navigation system an advanced weapons delivery computer, which gave the A-7 the ability to accurate deliver bombs from farther away than faster airplanes like the F-4, improving survivability. The aircraft also featured a projected map display, an advanced navigation system which could fly the plane, hands-off, through 9 waypoints, and a heads-up display (HUD), the first American aircraft to do so.
In 1965, the A-7 received the name Corsair II, calling back to the WWII-era F7U Corsair manufactured by Vought. First flight of the YA-7A took place on 27 September 1965, and a public demonstration of the type took place on 2 November 1965. The development of the A-7 was rapid, with no major issues uncovered during the testing phase, and on 14 October 1966 VA-147 Argonauts, the first Navy A-7 squadron, was stood up.
Two U.S. Navy LTV A-7A Corsair IIs of Attack Squadron VA-147 Argonauts taking off from NAS Lemoore, California on 15 April 1967.
A-7s were deployed to Vietnam, were pilots found them stable, easy-to-fly aircraft, but the early TF-30 engines were underpowered, even under normal conditions, and the hot and humid Southeast Asian air robbed the A-7A of more power, resulting in sorties being flown at up to 4,000lbs below maximum bomb load. Carrier-launched aircraft lost as much as 20kts after being catapulted, and land-based Corsairs were forced to execute "low transition" departures, with the aircraft being held in ground effect for up to ten miles before they were able to raise flaps. This experience led to LTV developing the A-7B, which was equipped with an uprated TF30-P-8 engine (later refitted further with the -P-408 engine), as well as upgrades to the avionics. Even upgraded, the A-7 were slow, and pilots dubbed them 'SLUF's: Short Little Ugly Fuckers.
Two A-7Bs and an A-4C on the USS Ticonderoga in 1969
A-7Ds in flight over Southeast Asia in 1971
In 1965, under pressure from the Army and SecDef McNamara to acquire a subsonic aircraft to better meet the close air support (CAS) mission, the USAF announced that they would be ordering their own version of the Corsair II, designated the A-7D. The A-7D differed from the Navy's version in that it was powered by the more powerful Allison TF41 (a license-built version of the Rolls Royce Spey), as well as provisions for the USAF-style boom aerial-refueling receptacle, a M61A1 20mm Vulcan being substituted for the Mk12 cannon, and changes to the radios and other avionics. Delays in procuring the Allison engine resulted in the first 67 aircraft being delivered with the TF30 engine instead; these aircraft were designated A-7Cs.
Four A-7E of VA-66 Waldos in 1983
The USN was sufficiently impressed with the USAF's A-7D that it decided to order its own version, cancelling the remaining order of A-7Bs. The new craft, known as the A-7E, was identical to the A-7D, aside from having a probe-style aerial refueling set-up, and USN radios. The -E model was the most produced, with 529 built. A-7Cs, Ds, and Es took part in numerous missions over Vietnam, including the destruction of the Thanh Hóa Bridge with Walleye and Mk84 bombs, the mining of Haiphong harbor in 1972, replacing A-1 Skyraiders in the vital "Sandy" role of escorting and providing air-cover for CSAR missions, and providing CAS. On 15 May 1975, A-7E aircraft operating from USS Coral Sea, in conjunction with A-7D aircraft assigned to the 3d TFS at Korat RTAFB, provided air cover in what is considered the last battle of the Vietnam War, the recovery of SS Mayagüez after it was hijacked by Khmer Rouge gunboats.
After the end of the Vietnam War, the USAF transferred its remaining A-7s to the Air National Guard, with the A-10 Thunderbolt II taking over the CAS role. The US Navy continued flying the A-7E, using the craft to support actions in Grenada, Lebanon, and Libya. Navy SLUFs fired the first AGM-88 HARM missiles used in combat against Libyan SAM sites. During the 1991 Persian Gulf Crisis, the USAF left the A-7 stateside and flew the A-10 instead, while the Navy's two remaining A-7E squadrons flew from the USS John F Kennedy, attacking targets in Kuwait and Iraq with HARMs, Walleye TV-guided bombs, and unguided bombs.
An attack squadron VA-72 Blue Hawks Vought A-7E of the commander, Carrier Air Wing (CAG), flies homeward following deployment in the Persian Gulf area during Operation Desert Storm. This particular Corsair exhibits a unique camouflage paint scheme along with the name of the war in which it played a part. Note the "Camel" symbols for missions flown during the Operation Desert Storm below the cockpit.
One of the lesser-known uses of the A-7 was as a training aircraft and as a smokescreen during the development of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth strike fighter. Approximately twenty single-seat A-7D and two-seat A-7K trainers were transferred to the 4450th Tactical Group at Nellis AFB in Nevada. The Corsair IIs were used to train pilots and keep them current while the F-117 were being built, as well as to fly chase during training missions. A-7s were also deliberately parked in full view of Soviet satellites when they flew over Nellis, or the Tonopah Test Range where the F-117s were stationed, in order to mask the stealth fighters' presence and activities. The 4450th was the last active USAF unit to operate the A-7
An A-7 of the 4451st Test Squadron / 4450th Tactical Group
A-7s were sold to overseas operators as well, with the Greek Air Force flying the A-7H, which was an A-7E without aerial-refueling capacity, and the Portuguese Air Force receiving four dozen refurbished A-7As as the A-7P, as well as 6 A-7As converted to TA-7P two-seat trainers.
Greek Air Force LTV TA-7C Corsair II departs RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, England
A Portugese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa) Ling-Temco-Vought A-7P Corsair II
The USAF and USN retired their remaining A-7s in 1991, and the ANG did the same in 1993. The Portuguese Air Force sent their A-7s to the Boneyard in 1999, but the Greek AF held on to their Corsairs until 2014.
sn4cktimes last edited by
That NA-295 seems weird being snoutless... I wonder how the aerodynamics are on that.
Skyfire77 last edited by
@sn4cktimes Being that all the further they got was a desktop model, we'll never actually know.
ttyymmnn last edited by
SLUF ALERT! The A-7 has always been a favorite of mine. I remember seeing a couple of PA ANG A-7s taxiing at PGH and thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Tyler had an interesting piece on the War Zone recently that highlighted the groundbreaking HUD targeting system that was installed on the A-7.
sn4cktimes last edited by
I read that. It was very interesting. I have a weird thing for reading about military tech and the industrial complex therein.
I had a longer post/rant written... but maybe I shouldn't post it. I copied it, but it might be "overly Canadian" to espouse some of what I wrote. It could be interpreted as maybe anti-American and that was not my intention at all.
Roundbadge last edited by
@skyfire77 Always liked the A-7...this was a good read!