Douglas A-4B Skyhawk

Few aircraft bear the designer’s imprint quite so clearly as the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. The designer, Edward H. Heinemann, is a legend in the aircraft industry; and the Skyhawk is the ultimate embodiment of his simple, no frills approach to the creation of combat aircraft.

The Skyhawk was conceived as a small, light-weight, carrier-based attack bomber able to deliver nuclear weapons. Typical of Heinemann, he developed a design perfect for the mission. Unlike most carrier-based aircraft, the A-4 did not have folding wings. This allowed a much simpler, lighter wing enabling the A-4 to carry enormous weapons loads. Dubbed “Heinemann’s Hot Rod,” it first flew on June 22, 1954. Delivery to U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps squadrons began in September 1956.

The A-4B was the second production version of the Skyhawk. The B model featured a midair refueling probe on the starboard side of the fuselage and could carry a 330-gallon “buddy” refueling tank to refuel other aircraft inflight. Originally designated A4 D-2, the aircraft was first delivered to the U.S. Navy in September 1957, and redesignated A-4B in 1962. A total of 542 A-4Bs were built.

The A-4 was widely used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and played a major combat role in the Vietnam war. It was also flown by the air forces of many nations, including in combat with Israel and Argentina. The A-4 also flew with the U.S. Navy’s Top Gun fighter school and the famous Blue Angels. When production ended in 1979, Douglas had built 2,960 Skyhawks of all variants.

The Museum’s aircraft (142905) served with Attack Squadron Fifteen (VA-15) in the early 1960s. It is depicted in the markings of an A-4F flown by CDR Frank Green, who was shot down and killed over North Vietnam in 1972. This aircraft is on indefinite loan to the Museum from the U.S. Navy.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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