A-7 Corsair II

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Two A-7E jets in flight.

The A-7 Corsair II was a light bomber and attack aircraft used primarily by the Navy. It was intended as a complement and eventually a replacement for the A-4 Skyhawk, going into service in 1966.

Contents

Design

The Navy wanted an aircraft with increased range and payload to replace the A-4. Several companies, including Grumman, Douglas, and North American tried for the contract, but eventually it was Vought who received the contract.

Vought built the aircraft in a remarkably short time, mostly because it was basically the same design as the F-8 Crusader. The first test aircraft (named after the World War II fighter) were delivered in 1964.

After a period of onshore testing, the A-7 was delivered to VA-147 on the USS Ranger in 1966. The Air Force also bought a more highly powered version for light ground support.

Versions

A-7B

The A-7Bs had the more powerful Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-8 engine, which provided 12,200 pounds of thrust. These airplanes were the primary A-7 version in Vietnam.

A-7C

The A-7Cs were modified to carry the 13,400 pounds of thrust Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-408 engine.

A-7D

The A-7Ds were the first to carry the M61A-1 Vulcan cannon in the fuselage. They also were equipped with laser-guided bombs.

A-7E

The A-7Es had an Allison/Rolls-Royce engine which provided 15,000 pounds of thrust. It also was equipped with forward looking infrared (FLIR) equipment which enabled it to fly at night.

Service

Vietnam

The A-7's combat debut came in Vietnam, where it was effective in attacks on North Vietnamese MiG bases and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The first A-7 squadron to be deployed to Vietnam was VA-147, based aboard the USS Ranger; they flew over 1400 sorties, losing only one aircraft.

A-7's were effective in search and rescue missions, where they escorted helicopters to the location of the downed aircraft; they replaced the A-1 Skyraider in this role. Air Force A-7D's flew nearly 13,000 missions in Vietnam, and the aircraft was second for the record for the most ordnance dropped on Hanoi, after the B-52 Stratofortress.

One shining star on the career of the airplane came when six Navy A-7s with Mark 55 mines, supported only by several F-4s and two EA-6 Prowlers, mined Haiphong Harbor in 1972.

Despite doubts by some military leaders, the aircraft held its own against supersonic jets. Only one Corsair was lost in air-to-air combat, to a MiG-21 in May 1972.[1]

A flight of A-7s.

Lebanon

Corsairs saw combat again ten years later, in strikes on Syrian positions in Lebanon in December 1983.[2]

Libya

A-7's also saw action against Libya in 1986; after Libyan air defense operators fired SA-5 surface-to-air missiles at a pair of F-14 Tomcats, two A-7Es from the USS Saratoga attacked and destroyed the Libyan radar with AGM-88 HARMs. Later, Corsairs from the America participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon, supporting the main strikes against Tripoli and Benghazi by suppressing SAM sites with AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-88 HARM missiles.[3]

Iran

The aircraft saw action against Iranian targets in the Persian Gulf during Operation Praying Mantis in April 1988. A-7E's sank the Iranian frigate Sahand after the destroyer Samuel B. Roberts hit an Iranian mine.

The Sahand burning after being hit by A-7's with Harpoon missiles and bombs.

First Gulf War

Navy A-7s were still effective in the first Gulf War, using Walleye TV guided bombs, HARMs, and laser bombs to attack Iraqi targets. Tanker A-7s also performed well.

Retirement

By the second Gulf War, the A-7s had been retired. The last mission of A-7s in active duty was the testing of anti-radar equipment for the F-117. The plane has been replaced in the Navy by the F-18 Hornet and in the Air Force, by the A-10.

Operators

Greece

Greece operates two A-7 squadrons, which have been much upgraded with superior avionics and arms capability, under the name of A-7H and A-7E. They are used for ground attack missions, although they also use some variants as training aircraft.

Portugal

Portugal ordered 20 A-7 airframes in 1980, and later purchased six training aircraft and 24 other A-7's. Corsair II's logged over 64,000 flight hours in the Portugese Navy before being retired in 1999.

Thailand

Thailand purchased fourteen A-7E's and four TA-7C's in 1995. They are currently operative but not operational.

Specifications

Type Light attack aircraft
Contractor Vought
Power plant (A-7E) One Allison/Rolls-Royce TF41-A-2 with 15,000 pounds of thrust
Length 46 feet
Height 16 feet, 1 inches
Speed 690 miles per hour without stores
Wingspan 38 feet, 9 inches
Weight 19,111 pounds empty
Crew One
Range Unrefueled 2,861 miles
Maximum Weight 42,000 pounds
Armament Assorted stores up to 15,000 pounds, including Mark 55 mines, anti-radiation missiles, unguided bombs, TV guided bombs, and laser-guided bombs. One Vulcan M61A-1 cannon in the fuselage.

A 7E Corsair II.JPG

External links

References

  1. MiG-21 Units of the Vietnam War, by Istvan Toperczer, Osprey Publishing, 2001
  2. Disaster in Lebanon
  3. El Dorado Canyon: Reagan's Undeclared War with Qaddafi, by Joseph T. Stanik, Naval Institute Press, 2003
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