LTV A-7 Corsair II: Aircraft profile

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The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II is a carrier-based subsonic light attack aircraft introduced to replace the United States Navy's A-4 Skyhawk, initially entering service during the Vietnam War.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side of an A-7D Corsair II aircraft from the Arizona National Guard. The aircraft, in a camouflage paint scheme, is being tested over desert and forest background for visibility. In the background are two other A-7s.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side of an A-7D Corsair II aircraft from the Arizona National Guard. The aircraft, in a camouflage paint scheme, is being tested over desert and forest background for visibility. In the background are two other A-7s.

The Corsair was adopted by the United States Air Force, as well as the Air National Guard, to replace A-1 Skyraiders. It was exported to Greece in the 1970s, and Portugal and Thailand in the late 1980s. The A-7 airframe design was based on the successful supersonic F-8 Crusader produced by Chance Vought. It was one of the first combat aircraft to feature a head-up display (HUD), an inertial navigation system (INS), and a turbofan engine.

Design and development

In 1962, the United States Navy began preliminary work on VAX (Heavier-than-air, Attack, Experimental), a replacement for the A-4 Skyhawk with greater range and payload. A particular emphasis was placed on accurate delivery of weapons to reduce the cost per target. The requirements were finalized in 1963 and in 1964, the Navy announced the VAL (Heavier-than-air, Attack, Light) competition. Contrary to USAF philosophy, which was to employ only supersonic fighter bombers such as the F-105 Thunderchief and F-100 Super Sabre, the Navy felt that a subsonic design could carry the most payload the farthest distance. One story illustrated that a "slow fat duck" could fly nearly as fast as a supersonic one, since carrying dozens of iron bombs also restricted its entry speed, but a fast aircraft with small wings and an afterburner would burn up a lot more fuel.

To minimize costs, all proposals had to be based on existing designs. Vought, Douglas Aircraft, Grumman and North American Aviation responded. The Vought proposal was based on the successful F-8 Crusader fighter, having a similar configuration, but shorter and more stubby, with a rounded nose. It was selected as the winner on 11 February 1964, and on 19 March the company received a contract for the initial batch of aircraft, designated A-7. In 1965, the aircraft received the popular name Corsair II, after Vought's highly successful F4U Corsair of World War II. (There was also a Vought O2U Corsair biplane scout and observation aircraft in 1920s.)

Compared to the F-8 fighter, the A-7 had a shorter, broader fuselage. The wing was made larger, and the unique variable incidence wing of the F-8 was deleted. To achieve the required range, the A-7 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-6 turbofan producing 11,345 lbf (50.5 kN) of thrust, the same innovative combat turbofan produced for the F-111, but without the afterburner needed for supersonic speeds. Turbofans achieve greater efficiency by moving a larger mass of air at a lower velocity.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of three A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of three A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

The aircraft was fitted with an AN/APQ-116 radar, later followed by the AN/APQ-126, which was integrated into the ILAAS digital navigation system. The radar also fed a digital weapons computer which made possible accurate delivery of bombs from a greater stand-off distance, greatly improving survivability compared with faster platforms such as the F-4 Phantom II. It was the first U.S. aircraft to have a modern head-up display, now a standard instrument, which displayed information such as dive angle, airspeed, altitude, drift and aiming reticle. The integrated navigation system allowed for another innovation – the projected map display system (PMDS) which accurately showed aircraft position on two different map scales.

The A-7 enjoyed the fastest and most trouble free development period of any American combat aircraft since World War II. The YA-7A made its first flight on 27 September 1965, and began to enter Navy squadron service late in 1966. The first Navy A-7 squadrons reached operation status on 1 February 1967, and began combat operations over Vietnam in December of that year.

Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara prodded the Air Force to adopt not only the hugely successful F-4 Phantom II, but also the Navy's A-7 Corsair as a low-cost follow-on to F-105s until the troubled F-111 came online, and as a close-air support replacement for A-1 Skyraider. On 5 November 1965, the USAF announced that it would purchase a version of the A-7, designated the A-7D, for Tactical Air Command. The Air Force ordered the A-7D with a fixed high speed refueling receptacle behind the pilot optimized for the KC-135's flying boom rather than the folding long probe of Navy aircraft. The most important difference from the preceding Navy versions was the adoption of the Allison TF41-A-1 turbofan, a license-built version of British Rolls-Royce Spey. With 14,500 lbf (64.5 kN) of thrust, the engine offered a considerable boost in performance. The M61 Vulcan cannon was selected in place of the twin single-barrel 20 mm cannon. In addition, avionics were upgraded. The YA-7D prototype with TF30 flew on 6 April 1968, with the first TF41 aircraft taking to the air on 26 September 1968. The aircraft were later updated to carry the Pave Penny laser spot tracker to add the capability to drop guided bombs. A total of 459 were built.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft starts down the starboard catapult during a takeoff from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft starts down the starboard catapult during a takeoff from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64).

The Navy was so impressed with the performance gain of USAF A-7D that they ordered their own version with the TF41 engine and M61 cannon, the A-7E, to go along with the new continuous solution weapon systems and sophisticated avionics that was developed in the A-7C model that was highly advanced for that era. The first prototype flew on 25 November 1968. A-7Es were turned out in 1970s with outstanding mission success in the fleet. In 1979 the first around-the-clock night-attack FLIR-capable aircraft were delivered to VA-81 at NAS Cecil Field, FL. During the 1980s when defense budgets finally allowed funding for upgrades various system upgrades and engineering change proposal mods were incorporated to increase reliability, safety and mission effectiveness. In 1986, 231 A-7Es were equipped to carry the LANA (Low-Altitude Night Attack) pod which projected amplified light image on the HUD and, in conjunction with radar, provided terrain following down to 460 mph (740 km/h) at 200 ft (60 m). A total of 529 examples were built (not counting 67 A-7Cs).

In 1985, the USAF requested proposals for a fast strike aircraft because of concerns that A-10 Thunderbolt II was too slow for interdiction. The design called for a new engine, either the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 or General Electric F110-GE 100. LTV responded with the YA-7F, a supersonic version of A-7 powered by an F100-PW-220 with 26,000 lbf (116 kN) thrust. To accommodate the new engine, the fuselage was lengthened about 4 ft (1.22 m). New fuselage sections were inserted in both the forward and aft fuselage - a 30 in (76 cm) section in front of the wing and an 18 in (46 cm) section behind the wing. The wing was strengthened and fitted with new augmented flaps, leading edge extensions and automatic maneuvering flaps. The vertical stabilizer height was increased about 10 in (25 cm)the unit horizontal tail was flipped from dihedral to anhedral, and control surfaces were flattened. Unsurprisingly, the end result resembled the supersonic F-8 Crusader from which the original subsonic A-7 was derived.

The new supersonic A-7 could accelerate with a 17,380-lb bomb load from 400 to 550 knots in under 15 seconds and could sustain Mach 1.6 for longer times with the extra fuel. The YA-7F modifications allowed 7-g turn and burn capability that permitted high-speed sustained evasive maneuvers plus great improvements in high angle of attack performance. As a CAS/BAI platform to penetrate into enemy territory and return safely, the "Strikefighter" moniker was most fitting. Two A-7Ds were extensively modified, the first one flying on 29 November 1989 and breaking the sound barrier on its second flight. The second prototype flew on 3 April 1990. The project was canceled due to improved relations with former adversaries, lower defense budgets, and the ANG generally favored the in-production F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Production

Production of Corsairs continued through 1984, yielding a total of 1,569 aircraft built. The A-7 Corsair has the distinction of being the only United States single seat jet fighter-bomber of the 1960s that was designed, built, and deployed directly into the Vietnam War.

Operational history

Initial operational basing/homeporting for U.S. Navy A-7 squadrons was at NAS Cecil Field, Florida for Atlantic Fleet units and NAS Lemoore, California for Pacific Fleet units. This was in keeping with the role of these bases in already hosting the A-4 Skyhawk squadrons that would transition to the A-7. From 1967 - 1971 a total of 27 Navy squadrons took delivery of four different A-7A/B/C/E models. The Vought plant in Dallas, TX employed up to 35,000 workers turned out one aircraft a day for several years to support the Navy carrier-based needs for Vietnam and SE Asia and commitments to NATO in Europe. In 1974, when the USS Midway (CV 41) became the first Forward Deployed Naval Force (FDNF) aircraft carrier to be homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, two A-7A squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5) were concurrently homeported at NAF Atsugi, Japan. In 1978, these squadrons (VA-93 and VA-56) finally transitioned to the much more advanced A-7E model.

Initial USAF basing of the A-7D was at Edwards AFB, California and Eglin AFB, Florida in 1968 for prototype testing. Initial lead-in pilot training squadrons were established at Luke AFB, Arizona, and Nellis AFB, Nevada in 1969. The first operational USAF basing was at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina (354th TFW) in 1970, with subsequent basing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (355th TFW) in 1971 and England AFB, Louisiana (23d TFW) in 1972. The Luke-based A-7Ds were reassigned to Davis Monthan in 1971 along with the lead-in pilot training mission. A fourth operational A-7D wing was assigned to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand (388th TFW) in early 1973 derived from deployed Myrtle Beach aircraft.

Pilots of the early A-7s lauded the aircraft for general ease of flying (with the exceptions of poor stability on cross-wind landings and miserable stopping performance on wet runways with an inoperative anti-skid braking system) and excellent forward visibility but noted a lack of engine thrust. This was addressed with A-7B and more thoroughly with A-7D/E. The turbofan engine provided a dramatic increase in fuel efficiency compared with earlier turbojets – the A-7D was said to have specific fuel consumption one sixth that of an F-100 Super Sabre at equivalent thrust. An A-7D carrying 12 x 500 lb (227 kg) bombs at 480 mph (775 km/h) at 33,000 ft (10,000 m) used only 3,350 lb (1,500 kg) of fuel per hour. Typical fuel consumption at mission retrograde during aircraft carrier recovery was approximately 30 pounds per minute compared to 100+ pounds per minute for the Phantom F-4J/N series. The A-7 Corsair II was tagged with the nickname "SLUF" ("Short Little Ugly Fucker") by pilots.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft heading toward a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft for refueling, as seen from the boom operator's section of the tanker, during exercise Sentry Castle '81. The Corsair is from the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and the Stratotanker is from the 147th Air Refueling Squadron.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft heading toward a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft for refueling, as seen from the boom operator's section of the tanker, during exercise Sentry Castle '81. The Corsair is from the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and the Stratotanker is from the 147th Air Refueling Squadron.

The integrated weapons computer provided highly accurate bombing with CEP of 60 ft (20 m) regardless of pilot experience. When Vought technical representatives were available to "tweak" the inertial systems, the CEP was often less than five meters for experienced fleet aviators. The inertial navigation system required a mere 2.5 minutes on the ground for partial (coarse) alignment, a big improvement over 13 minutes required in F-4 Phantom II. For newly manufactured E models, the A-7 required only 11.5 man hours of maintenance per mission resulting in quick turnaround and high number of combat-ready aircraft. However, after several years of exposure to the harsh marine conditions aboard aircraft carriers, the maintenance hours per sortie were often twice this amount.

For its day, the SLUF offered a plethora of leading edge avionics. This included data link capabilities that, among other features, provided fully "hands-off" carrier landing capability when used in conjunction with its approach power compensator (APC) or auto throttle. Other notable and highly advanced equipment was a projected map display located just below the radar scope. The map display was slaved to the inertial navigation system and provided a high-resolution map image of the aircraft's position superimposed over TPC/JNC charts. Moreover, when slaved to the all-axis auto pilot, the inertial navigation system could fly the aircraft "hands off" to up to nine individual way points. Typical inertial drift was minimal for newly manufactured models and the inertial measurement system accepted fly over, radar, and TACAN updates.

Pilots quipped that the Corsair "is not very fast, but it sure is slow." For dissimilar air combat training (DACT), and aerial demonstrations by the Blue Angels, the Navy would choose the more nimble A-4 Skyhawk as a subsonic maneuvering platform, as some considered the A-7 to be inadequate in air combat, even though it was highly maneuverable and was more fitting as a highly successful attack aircraft with a stable bombing platform. The Marine Corps would also pass on the Corsair, opting instead for the V/STOL vertical landing AV-8 Harrier as their light attack aircraft to replace their A-4F/M Skyhawks. Naval Reserve and Air Guard units; however, were often forced to operate the A-7E and D models in rather challenging air-to-air duels with F-15 Eagles. Several SLUF units adopted a technique pioneered by the Puerto Rican Air National Guard: if an F-15 Eagle approaches gun range, depart the A-7 from controlled flight and deploy as much chaff and flares as possible. Departing an A-7 from controlled flight resulted in very high and simultaneous roll, yaw and pitch rates. It also caused a near instantaneous airspeed loss of 100 to 150 knots that made successful gun-tracking by an opponent nearly impossible. Deploying chaff and flares during such an event spewed these devices in all directions as the range between the two aircraft rapidly diminished and consequently posed a chaff/flare collision threat to the attacking aircraft documented by the Puerto Rican and Louisiana Air National Guard units.

Southeast Asia

In Vietnam, the hot, humid air robbed even upgraded A-7D and A-7E of power. Takeoff rolls were lengthy and fully-armed aircraft struggled to reach 800 km/h. For A-7A aircraft, high density altitude and maximum weight runway takeoffs often necessitated a "low transition," where the aircraft was intentionally held in "ground effect" a few feet off the runway during gear retraction, and as much as a 10-mile departure at treetop altitude before reaching a safe flap retraction speed.(Note: the A-7A wing flap systems were either fully extended or fully retracted. The A-7A flap handle did not have the micro switch feature of later models that permitted the flaps to be slowly raised by several degrees per tap of the flap handle as airspeed slowly increased during max-weight takeoffs.)

Carrier catapult launches at maximum weight under these performance-robbing conditions were not significantly better and were characterized by the aircraft decelerating by as much as 20 knots immediately after launch. As a result, A-7A units operated their aircraft 4 thousand pounds below the max-rated takeoff weight for the A-7E.

The first U.S. Navy A-7As were deployed to Vietnam in 1967 with VA-147 Argonauts aboard USS Ranger. The aircraft made their first combat sortie on 4 December 1967. In the following months, VA-147 flew around 1,400 sorties losing only one aircraft. In January 1968, USS Ranger participated in the incident surrounding the capture of USS Pueblo in the Sea of Japan by North Korea. The Navy's improved A-7B model arrived in Vietnam in early 1969, with the definitive A-7E following in 1971. The U.S. Navy's first A-7 loss occurred on 22 December 1967, less than three weeks after entering combat.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: DAYTON, Ohio - LTV A-7D Corsair II cockpit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)LTV A-7 Corsair II: DAYTON, Ohio - LTV A-7D Corsair II cockpit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The USAF A-7Ds were also widely used in Vietnam and Cambodia with 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, and the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying from Korat RTAFB, Thailand. A-7s from the 354th TFW entered action in October 1972 and attacked targets as far as 800 km from airbases, extensively utilizing mid-air refueling. The A-7Ds were quickly assigned the "Sandy mission" of providing air cover for Combat Search and Rescue missions of downed pilots. Taking over for A-1 Skyraiders (and adopting their call sign of "Sandy"), the A-7's higher speed was somewhat detrimental for escorting the helicopters but the aircraft's high endurance and durability were an asset and it performed admirably. On 18 November 1972, Major Colin A. Clarke led a successful CSAR mission near Thanh Hoa to rescue a downed F-105 Wild Weasel crew. The mission lasted a total of 8.8 hours during which Clarke and his wingman took a number of hits from 0.51 cal (12.7 mm) anti-aircraft fire. For his actions in coordinating the rescue, Clarke was awarded the Air Force Cross, the USAF's second-highest medal, and his A-7D (AF S/N 70-0970) was placed on display on 31 January 1992 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The USAF A-7D flew a total of 12,928 combat sorties during the war with only six losses – the lowest of any U.S. fighter in the theater. The aircraft was second only to B-52 Stratofortress in the amount of ordnance dropped on Hanoi and dropped more bombs per sortie with greater accuracy than any other U.S. attack aircraft.

A-7Ds from Korat flew combat operations over Vietnam until mid-January 1973, in Laos until 22 February 1973, and in Cambodia until 15 August 1973. The last shot fired in anger by United States military forces in Southeast Asia was fired by an A-7D of the deployed 345th TFW / 353 TFS assigned to Korat RTAFB on 15 August 1973.

During the war in Southeast Asia, U.S. Navy A-7 Corsairs were gray/white in color; USAF A-7s were normally painted in full camouflage paint schemes. The U.S. Navy did experiment with camouflage paint schemes for some of their aircraft during the war, but during landing operations, the flight deck crews found their duties complicated, due to the inherent changing of the weather conditions aboard a moving ship and the color coded uniforms of the flight deck crew; with the added dangers involved to an already cluttered flight deck, it was determined to keep naval aircraft readily visible for the sake of safety.

On 15 May 1975, A-7E aircraft aboard the USS Coral Sea in conjunction with A-7D aircraft assigned to the 388th TFW / 3d TFS at Korat RTAFB provided air cover in what is considered the last battle of the Vietnam war, the recovery of the SS Mayagüez after it was hijacked by Cambodian communists. By the time Operation Mayaguez was over, three U.S. helicopters had been shot down, six received severe damage, three others were heavily damaged and only one was still flyable. Of the total force of 231 Marines, Airmen, and Sailors who landed on Koh Tang Island during this operation, 18 men were KIA or unaccounted for and at least three of these were later determined to have been inadvertently left alive on the island.

Grenada

Navy A-7E squadrons VA-15 and VA-87, from the USS Independence, provided close air support during the Invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, in October 1983.

Lebanon

Navy A-7s also provided air support during the U.S. mission in Lebanon in 1983. Along with an A-6 Intruder, one A-7 was shot down by Syrian surface-to-air missiles (SAM) on 4 December 1983.

Libya

On 24 March 1986, during the Gulf of Sidra dispute with Libya, Libyan air defense operators fired SA-5 missiles at two Fighter Squadron 102 (VF-102) F-14s from USS America that were orbiting in international air space on a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) station. The next day, a Navy A-7E aircraft accompanied the fighters and responded to the SA-5 radar emissions by firing the first AGM-88 HARM missiles used in combat and destroying the Libyan radar.

In April 1986, Navy Sixth Fleet A-7Es from VA-72 and VA-46 aboard USS America (CV 66) also participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the retaliatory attack on Libya using HARM and Shrike anti-radar missiles.

Operation Earnest Will/Operation Praying Mantis

During the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s, continued Iranian and Iraqi attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf were becoming so frequent that by 1987 the Kuwaitis requested U.S. assistance and Operation Earnest Will, designed to maintain freedom of navigation within that body of water, was initiated. At the outset, 11 Kuwaiti tankers were “re-flagged,” the Middle East Force escorting the first ships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf to Kuwait, and then returning outbound, beginning on 22 July 1987.

During escort duty while steaming 55 miles (89 km) northeast of Qatar on 14 April 1988, lookouts on board guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts spotted three mines ahead. Going to general quarters, the ship soon struck a fourth mine that exploded and blew a 21-foot (6.4 m) hole in her port side near frame 276, injuring 10 sailors, and inflicting "considerable damage to the hull, deckhouse and foundation structures, essentially breaking the ship’s back." Herculean damage control efforts by the crew, however, saved the ship. Over the next 10 days, Coalition mine countermeasures vessels located eight additional mines, examination of which left little doubt as to their Iranian origins.

Operation Praying Mantis was designed as a "measured response" to this incident, as well as to repeated Iranian shipping harassment and provocations; A-7Es from VA-22 and VA-94, along with A-6E Intruders from VA-95 participated in sinking the Iranian Frigate Sahand, which had fired missiles at two American A-6Es.

Panama

The Ohio Air National Guard 180th Tactical Fighter Group was in Panama when hostilities began in late December 1989 and participated in Operation Just Cause. They were among the ANG units that rotated to Howard Air Force Base to provide a presence in Panama Cornet Cove deployment exercises.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A 185th Tactical Fighter Group (185th TFG) A-7 Corsair II aircraft from the Air National Guard lines up for refueling from a 6th Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-10A Extender aircraft during Proud Visitor, a Headquarters, Strategic Air Comand exercise. Other 185th TFG Corsairs fly in formation as they await refueling.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A 185th Tactical Fighter Group (185th TFG) A-7 Corsair II aircraft from the Air National Guard lines up for refueling from a 6th Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-10A Extender aircraft during Proud Visitor, a Headquarters, Strategic Air Comand exercise. Other 185th TFG Corsairs fly in formation as they await refueling.

Operation Desert Shield/Storm

While USAF A-7s stayed home in favor of A-10s, the US Navy deployed two of their last A-7E squadrons to Operation Desert Shield in August 1990 aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), the only carrier of six deployed to Desert Storm to operate the A-7. VA-46 and VA-72 made the last combat sorties of the A-7 in Operation Desert Storm flying from the Red Sea to targets throughout Iraq. The A-7 was used both day and night to attack a wide range of heavily defended deep interdiction targets in Iraq as well as "kill boxes" (geographically defined kill zones) in Kuwait, employing a variety of weapons including precision-guided munitions (PGM's), such as the TV-guided Walleye glide bomb, unguided general purpose bombs, and High Speed Anti-Radiation missiles (HARM). The A-7 was also used as a tanker in numerous in-flight refueling missions.

Use in F-117 development

The 4450th Tactical Group stationed at Nellis AFB, Nevada had the distinction of being the last active USAF unit to operate the A-7 Corsair II. The mission of the 4450th TG was the operational development of the F-117 Nighthawk, and the unit needed a surrogate aircraft for pilot training and practice. A-7Ds and A-7Ks were obtained from various active duty and air national guard squadrons and were assigned initially to the "(P)" or "Provisional" unit of the 4450th TG, redesignated the 4451st Tactical Squadron in January 1983.

The A-7s were used as a deception and training aircraft by the group between 1981 and 1989. It was selected because it demanded about the correct amount of pilot workload expected in the F-117A, was single seat, and many of the F-117A pilots had F-4 or F-111 backgrounds. A-7s were used for pilot training before any F-117As had been delivered to bring all pilots to a common flight training base line. Later, the A-7s were used to chase F-117A tests and other weapon tests at the Nellis Range.

A-7 flight operations began in June 1981 concurrent with the very first YF-117A flights. The A-7s wore a unique "LV" tailcode (for Las Vegas) and had a dark purple/black paint motif. The A-7s were based officially at Nellis Air Force Base and were maintained by the 4450th Maintenance Squadron.

In addition to providing an excuse for the 4450th's existence and activities, the A-7s were also used to maintain pilot currency, particularly in the early stages when very few production F-117As were available. The pilots learned to fly chase on F-117A test and training flights, perform practice covert deployments, and practice any other purpose that could not be accomplished using F-117As, given the tight restrictions imposed on all F-117A operations.

Some A-7s operated from the Tonopah Test Range Airport, about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Tonopah, Nevada where the F-117s were being operationally tested and care was taken to leave them outside the aircraft hangars during the daytime. The existence of A-7s on the Tonopah flight line would not interest Soviet intelligence agencies when examining spy satellite imagery of the base. That way the Soviets would see that Tonopah operated nothing more exciting than some Corsairs.

As part of the deception and to develop deployment procedures, the 4451st TS deployed A-7s to Kunsan AB, South Korea in 1984 to participate in Team Spirit 1984. The word was purposely leaked that the 4450th TG A-7Ds were carrying "super secret" atomic anti-radar devices that would render the aircraft invisible. To maintain the deception, each A-7D was outfitted with old napalm canisters painted black with a flashing red danger light in the rear. The canisters carried a radiation warning tag over an ominous-looking slot on which was printed: "Reactor Cooling Fill Port." When the 4450th TG deployed carrying these bogus devices, the USAF Security Police closed down the base and ringed the field with machine gun toting vehicles. They forced all the runway personnel to turn their backs to the A-7s as they taxied past, and actually had them spreadeagled on the deck with their eyes closed until the 4450th TG A-7s took off.

There were approximately 20 A-7D aircraft used in developing the F-117, including several two-seat TA-7K trainers. In January 1989, just three months after the USAF admitted the F-117A existed, the A-7s were retired to AMARC and were replaced by AT-38B Talons as training aircraft and the 4451st TS was deactivated.

Retirement

Beginning in 1974, active duty U.S. Air Force wings began transferring A-7Ds to Air National Guard (ANG) units. New 1975 and 1976 built aircraft, along with new twin seat A-7Ks trainers in 1979 were assigned directly to the Air National Guard. In March 1976, the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II began taking over the Air Force close air support (CAS) role from the A-7Ds with active duty squadrons.

By 1981, with the exception of the A-7Ds used in the F-117A program, the last active-duty Corsairs were retired by the 23d Tactical Fighter Wing at England Air Force Base, Louisiana. Many active duty pilots missed the performance and sophistication of the Corsair. The A-7Ds used by the 4450th Tactical Group in Nevada were either retired or sent to ANG units in 1989.

F-16s began replacing the USAF Air National Guard Corsairs beginning in the late 1980s and the last were retired in 1993 by the ANG units at Rickenbacker ANGB (Ohio), Des Moines International Airport (Iowa), Tulsa International Airport (Oklahoma) and Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport (Ohio).

U.S. Navy A-7 Corsairs began being phased out of the fleet during the mid-1980s with the arrival of the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet. The last Navy A-7s were retired by the last fleet operational squadrons (VA-46 and VA-72) in May 1991 shortly after their return from Desert Storm.

Some of these surplus aircraft were passed to Greece, Thailand and Portugal; however by the end of 1998, with the exception of some airframes used as static displays, all US A-7s were disposed of by AMARC.

Even with an advanced technology afterburning turbofan, some Air Force pilots still remark that the F-16 lacks the long range of the old A-7. In the Navy, the complaint that the original models of the F/A-18 Hornet lacked range reached such a level that the even larger F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was developed to carry more fuel. The Hellenic Air Force purchased new A-7H aircraft in moderate numbers. The last two squadrons that used the aircraft were the 335th and 336th. The A-7 remains still in limited operational use by the latter, as the type is gradually being retired, to be replaced by newly purchased F-16s. The Portuguese Air Force selected the A-7P (modified A-7A/B models) and flew them extensively from 1981 onward. The reliability and exceptional range allowing unrefueled routine flights to the Madera Islands and the Azores.

Specifications (A-7D)

General characteristics

* Crew: 1

* Length: 46 ft 1.5 in (14.06 m)

* Wingspan: 38 ft 9 in (11.81 m)

* Height: 16 ft 0.75 in (4.90 m)

* Wing area: 375 ft² (34.8 m²)

* Airfoil: NACA 65A007 root and tip

* Empty weight: 19,915 lb (9,033 kg)

* Loaded weight: 29,040 lb (13,200 kg)

* Max takeoff weight: 42,000 lb (19,050 kg)

* Powerplant: 1× Allison TF41-A-1 turbofan, 14,500 lbf (64.5 kN)

Performance

* Maximum speed: 606 knots (698 mph, 1,123 km/h at sea level)

* Cruise speed: 465 knots (535 mph, 860 km/h)

* Combat radius: 621 NM (715 mi, 1,150 km)

* Ferry range: 2,485 NM (2,860 mi, 4,600 km (with 4-300 gal external tanks. Internal fuel: 1,338 US gal/10,200 lbs)

* Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,800 m)

* Rate of climb: 15,000 ft/min (76 m/s)

* Wing loading: 77.4 lb/ft² (379 kg/m²)

* Thrust/weight: 0.50

Armament

* Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan gatling gun with 1,030 rounds

* Missiles: 2× AIM-9 Sidewinder, on one each side of fuselage

* Bombs: 20,000 lb (9,080 kg) on six external hardpoints, compatible with a wide range of general-purpose bombs, including:

o Up to 30× 500 lb (230 kg) Mark 82 bombs

o Rocket pods

o Paveway laser-guided bombs

o AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-62 Walleye, AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-88 HARM, and GBU-15 electro-optical glide bombs

o Up to 4× B28, B57, or B61 nuclear bomb

Source: wikipedia.org

More photos:

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A left side view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft of the 76th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, carrying four AGM-65A Maverick missiles in-flight over the Tyndall Air Force Base range.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A left side view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft of the 76th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, carrying four AGM-65A Maverick missiles in-flight over the Tyndall Air Force Base range.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft is prepared for launch aboard the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA (CV 43). The aircraft is armed with Mk-82 high drag bombs.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft is prepared for launch aboard the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA (CV 43). The aircraft is armed with Mk-82 high drag bombs.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A-7 Corsair II aircraft releasing Mark 82 hi-drag bombs.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A-7 Corsair II aircraft releasing Mark 82 hi-drag bombs.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: Right front view of two A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft parked aboard the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA (CV-43)LTV A-7 Corsair II: Right front view of two A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft parked aboard the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA (CV-43)

LTV A-7 Corsair II: Two A-7 Corsair II aircraft come in for landing during exercise Bright Star '80.LTV A-7 Corsair II: Two A-7 Corsair II aircraft come in for landing during exercise Bright Star '80.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A head-on view of the nose section of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN-69).LTV A-7 Corsair II: A head-on view of the nose section of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN-69).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft starts down the starboard catapult during a takeoff from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft starts down the starboard catapult during a takeoff from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An in-flight left side view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 22 (VA-22). The Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An in-flight left side view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 22 (VA-22). The Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 22 (VA-22). The Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 22 (VA-22). The Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left rear view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 22 (VA-22). The Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left rear view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 22 (VA-22). The Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of three A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of three A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A right side view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 97 (VA-97) after landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA (CV-43).LTV A-7 Corsair II: A right side view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Attack Squadron 97 (VA-97) after landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA (CV-43).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A left front view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft preparing for take-off at the conclusion of exercise Bright Star '80.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A left front view of four A-7 Corsair II aircraft preparing for take-off at the conclusion of exercise Bright Star '80.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air view of three UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and three camouflaged A-7 Corsair II aircraft over the airfield during exercose Bright Star '80.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air view of three UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and three camouflaged A-7 Corsair II aircraft over the airfield during exercose Bright Star '80.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft in flight during exercise BOLD EAGLE '82.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft in flight during exercise BOLD EAGLE '82.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft pilot from the Colorado "Tiger" guard displays his colors upon arrival during Operation Gunsmoke '81.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft pilot from the Colorado "Tiger" guard displays his colors upon arrival during Operation Gunsmoke '81.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) comes for a landing aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS NIMITZ (CVN-68) during the NATO exercise Display Determination '81.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An A-7 Corsair II aircraft from Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) comes for a landing aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS NIMITZ (CVN-68) during the NATO exercise Display Determination '81.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side of an A-7D Corsair II aircraft from the Arizona National Guard. The aircraft, in a camouflage paint scheme, is being tested over desert and forest background for visibility. In the background are two other A-7s.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side of an A-7D Corsair II aircraft from the Arizona National Guard. The aircraft, in a camouflage paint scheme, is being tested over desert and forest background for visibility. In the background are two other A-7s.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A row of parked Naval Air Reserve Attack Squadron 305 (VA-305) A-7 Corsair II aircraft. Personnel from the unit are performing maintenance on the aircraft during active duty training.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A row of parked Naval Air Reserve Attack Squadron 305 (VA-305) A-7 Corsair II aircraft. Personnel from the unit are performing maintenance on the aircraft during active duty training.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A right side view of a Naval Air Reserve Attack Squadron 305 (VA-305) A-7 Corsair II aircraft as it prepares for take-off during the unit's active duty training.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A right side view of a Naval Air Reserve Attack Squadron 305 (VA-305) A-7 Corsair II aircraft as it prepares for take-off during the unit's active duty training.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A right side view of two A-7 Corsair II aircraft taking off during exercise Sentry Castle '81. The Corsair to the right is carrying an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. Both of the aircraft are assigned to the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A right side view of two A-7 Corsair II aircraft taking off during exercise Sentry Castle '81. The Corsair to the right is carrying an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. Both of the aircraft are assigned to the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft heading toward a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft for refueling, as seen from the boom operator's section of the tanker, during exercise Sentry Castle '81. The Corsair is from the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and the Stratotanker is from the 147th Air Refueling Squadron.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft heading toward a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft for refueling, as seen from the boom operator's section of the tanker, during exercise Sentry Castle '81. The Corsair is from the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and the Stratotanker is from the 147th Air Refueling Squadron.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of an A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 46 (VA-46) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of an A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 46 (VA-46) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of an A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 46 (VA-46) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of an A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 46 (VA-46) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of three A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left side view of three A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft during exercise BOLD EAGLE '82.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air left front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft during exercise BOLD EAGLE '82.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right underside view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right underside view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A silhouetted air-to-air right side view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: A silhouetted air-to-air right side view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: Front right view of 16 aircraft flying over the aircraft carrier USS CONSTELLATION (CV-64). The aircraft are: top, four F-14 Tomcats, right, four A-6 Intruders, left, four A-7 Corsair IIs and bottom, a group of two S-3 Vikings, an EA-6B Prowler and an A-7 Corsair.LTV A-7 Corsair II: Front right view of 16 aircraft flying over the aircraft carrier USS CONSTELLATION (CV-64). The aircraft are: top, four F-14 Tomcats, right, four A-6 Intruders, left, four A-7 Corsair IIs and bottom, a group of two S-3 Vikings, an EA-6B Prowler and an A-7 Corsair.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft fitted with a Radar Simulating Set (RSS)-(JEEP) pod, parked in front of Building 351 at the Pacific Missile Test Center.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft fitted with a Radar Simulating Set (RSS)-(JEEP) pod, parked in front of Building 351 at the Pacific Missile Test Center.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of two A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of an A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right side view of an A-7 Corsair aircraft assigned to Light Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72) on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV 66).

LTV A-7 Corsair II: A KC-135A Stratotanker aircraft refuels two A-7 Corsair IIs and one F-15 Eagle during Operation Midnight Sun.LTV A-7 Corsair II: A KC-135A Stratotanker aircraft refuels two A-7 Corsair IIs and one F-15 Eagle during Operation Midnight Sun.

LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft in use during the joint Exercise Bright Star '83.LTV A-7 Corsair II: An air-to-air right front view of an A-7 Corsair II aircraft in use during the joint Exercise Bright Star '83.

More photos: LTV A-7 Corsair II photo gallery

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