Sixty years ago today, the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk took flight for the first time. A classic of Naval Aviation, the A-4 was an extraordinary aircraft. The legendary Ed Heinemann created the Skyhawk at one-half of the weight allowed and the type remained in production for over 20 years. The A-4 became the most impressive conventional bomber of its era, flying like a fighter but capable of bombing targets with great accuracy. The Skyhawk was so small that it did not require folding wings for use aboard aircraft carriers. Skyhawks were the Navy’s primary light bomber during the early years of the Vietnam War, carrying-out some of the first air strikes during the conflict. On May 1, 1967, an A-4 became a MiG-killer when Lieutenant Commander Ted Swartz downed a MiG-17 with air-to-ground rockets! A total of 2,960 Skyhawks were manufactured in a number of variants. Significant numbers were exported to other nations and Argentina, Israel, and Kuwait have all employed the A-4 in combat. The Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron operated the A-4 from 1974 through 1986. The Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program used the A-4 in an adversary role and the TA-4J model served as the advanced jet trainer until being replaced by the T-45 Goshawk. The aircraft was affectionately known as “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” and the “Scooter.”
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