You must have heard about the Vietnam War, and surprisingly, the A-7 Corsair II was the second most powerful bomber aircraft after the B-52 “flying fortress”. However, A-7 was the most fortunate aircraft of the US Air Force during the Vietnam War, when only a total of six aircraft were shot down.
On October 17, 2014 witnessed a sad moment in the history of combat aviation – the retirement of the humble, but incredibly effective, Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II – at Araxos Air Base. Though it’s better known as the SLUF – Or Short Little Ugly Fucker.
Since October 17, 15 A-7E and 2 TA-7C (2-seat training variants) of the 336th squadron have left the Greek Air Force payroll. Finally, after 47 years of active operation, the US-produced A-7 light attack aircraft model officially disappeared from the sky.
The LTV A-7 Corsair II is an American carrier-capable subsonic light attack aircraft manufactured by Ling-Temco-Vought to replace the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. The SLUF, a derivative of America’s “last gunfighter,” the F-8 Crusader, first flew in 1965. The jet was an incredible mix of just enough kinetic performance, game-changing technology, and a lot of gas and bomb lugging ability. The Corsair II initially entered service with the US Navy during the Vietnam War. It was later adopted by the US Air Force, including the Air National Guard, to replace the Douglas A-1 Skyraider and North American F-100 Super Sabre. The aircraft was also exported to Greece in the 1970s, and to Portugal in the late 1980s. The A-7 was retired from US Navy service almost immediately after Desert Storm, with the Air National Guard putting the jet out to pasture in 1993. Portugal followed in 1999, leaving just Greece as the final active A-7 operator until 2014.
The A-7 was designed in the early 1960s as an attack-focused offshoot of the Navy’s legendary F-8 Crusader, a replacement for the A-4 Skyhawk with greater range and payload. Particular emphasis was placed on accurate delivery of weapons to reduce the cost per target. The requirements were finalized in 1963.
An obvious difference between the F-8 and A-7 is the overall size, with the A-7 being considerably shorter and stubbier. Like the F-8, the configuration of the A-7 was characterized by a high wing, low horizontal tail, chin inlet, and short landing-gear legs that retract into the fuselage.
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. Vought previously produced two aircraft known as “Corsair”. During the 1920s they produced the O2U Corsair biplane scout and observation aircraft, and during World War II they made the highly successful F4U Corsair. The first A-7 mock-up in 1964
Original power plant of the A-7 was a non afterburning version of the Pratt & Whitney TF30 turbofan. This is the same engine that, equipped with an afterburner, powers both the F-111 and the F-14. Beginning with the A-7D, however, the more powerful Allison TF41-A-1 turbofan, an American version of the British Rolls-Royce Spey engine, was installed. VA-147 was the first operational USN A-7 squadron, in 1967.
The Corsair II was the first aircraft to truly make cockpit functionality and pilot interface a hallmark design objective. For instance, the SLUF was the first production aircraft to feature a true Heads Up Display as we understand it today. The jet also utilized a state-of-the-art radar set, inertial navigation system, centralized mission computer, and a moving map display for incredibly accurate bombing and autopilot navigation, even in horrid weather conditions.
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 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.
The A-7 had a fast and smooth development. 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 operational status on 1 February 1967, and began combat operations over Vietnam in December of that year.
A total of 1,569 A-7 aircraft would ultimately be built, including 459 to the U.S. Air Force. It was also utilized in many foreign countries. The wing mainplanes were hinged outboard of the hardpoints for improved carrier storage and the tricycle undercarriage designed with the rigors of carrier operation in mind. Underwing hardpoints numbered six in all and two side-fuselage stations were also in play – mainly to carry AIM-9 “Sidewinder” short-range, Air-to-Air Missiles. Total stores capability was theoretically 15,000 pounds made up of a mix of conventional drop bombs, guided ordnance, and homing guided missiles. Initially 2 of 20mm Colt MK 12 cannons were fitted for close-in work and 250 rounds were afforded per gun installation. A later mark introduced a single 20mm rotary gun with 1,030 rounds carried.
The first model produced was the A-7A with 199. The follow-up production model became the A-7B which installed the TF-30-P-8 engine of 12,190lb thrust and these were later modernized with the TF30-P-408 engine of 13,390lb thrust. Total production of B-models reached 196 examples.
The A-7D differed from the Navy’s Corsair II in several ways. It has been equipped with the Allison TF41-A-1 turbofan engine, which was a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Spey. It offered a thrust of 14,500 lbf, over 2,000 lbf greater than that of the TF30 that powered the Navy’s Corsair IIs. Other changes included a head up display, a new avionics package, and an M61A1 rotary cannon in place of the two single-barreled 20-mm cannon. Also included was a computerized navigation delivery system with AN/APQ-126 radar and a head-up display.
The Vought YA-7F “Strikefighter” was a prototype transonic attack aircraft based on the subsonic A-7 Corsair II. Two prototypes were converted from A-7Ds. The YA-7F was not ordered into production, its intended role being filled by the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
As stated at the beginning of the video, the A-7s of the US Air Force made a total of 12,928 missions during the Vietnam War and suffered only 6 losses. This were the lowest loss among US fighters in Vietnam. This aircraft was second only to the B-52 aircraft in terms of the number of bombs thrown into Hanoi during the Linebacker II campaign. On the first day of the Linebacker II campaign, an A-7 was shot down by the North Vietnamese SAM-2.
The aircraft saw additional combat service during the 1983 invasion of Grenada and in the actions for Lebanon that same year. In 1986, aircraft were used in the war against Libya. It was also used in the Gulf war in 1991. The A-7s were used as a deception and training aircraft by the group between 1981 and 1989 for the Lockheed F-117 “Nighthawk” stealth fighter program.The Greek Air Force purchased 60 A-7H and 5 TA-7H from the US between 1975 to 1980 and 50 A-7E, 18 TA-7C from the US Navy stockpile after the first Gulf War in 1991, handed over in the period 1993-1994. A total of Greece’s A-7 squadrons were 133 aircraft – the largest of international customers using the aircraft. In addition to Greece, A-7 were also exported to Portugal and Thailand.