Photo by Gerhard Plomitzer
The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II was a light but very capable, shoulder-winged attack aircraft based on the F-8 Crusader, but with a smaller subsonic airframe. The A-7 was one of the first combat aircraft to feature a head-up display (HUD), doppler-bounded inertial navigation system, and a turbofan engine. It served with both the United States Navy (USN) and the United States Air Force (USAF), and later with the Air National Guard. It was exported to Greece (in the 1970s), Portugal, and Thailand (in the late 1980s). It was phased out of service recently, but efforts to sell upgraded versions continue. 1551 were built.
A-7 Corsair II
The A-7 is a straightforward, shoulder-wing aircraft with swept flight surfaces, provision for inflight refueling, and narrow-track tricycle landing gear. ANG aircraft retain the folding wings and arrester hook employed on Navy versions, but have self-starter units, and improved avionics system with a continuous-solution navigation and weapon delivery system (NWDS) which is still considered very accurate more than two decades after it was designed. The A-7 gives substantial range, endurance and load-carrying capability to the close air support (CAS) and battlefield area interdiction (BAI) missions.
The A-7 was developed in 1964-65 and first flew on 27 September 1965. A-7A,A-7B, A-7C , TA-7C, A-7E versions served with the US Navy. A-7H and TA-7H aircraft were delivered to Greece. A-7P aircraft were sent to Portugal. Versions which were never built included the KA-7F tanker for the US Navy and a simplified A-7G proposed to Switzerland.
The A-7D is armed with a single M61A1 Vulcan 20-mm cannon, routinely carries two AIM-7L Sidewinder missiles on forward fuselage hardpoints, and can handle up to 15,000 lb of air-to-surface missiles, bombs, cluster bombs, rockets, or gun pods on six underwing ordnance stations. The pilots sits far forward on the fuselage in a McDonnell Douglas Escapac ejection seat, and has a heads-up display (HUD) to assist in flight maneuvering and weapons delivery.
The A-7D was adopted by the USAF in the late 1960s, its first A-7D (67-14584) flying on 26 September 1968. Late in the Southeast Asian conflict, the A-7D went into combat in October 1972. Four hundred and fifty-nine A-7Ds were delivered, powered by a 14,250-lb thrust Allison TF41-A-1 turbofan engine based upon the Rolls-Royce Spey.
In 1977, the USAF began retrofitting its A-7D fleet with Automated Maneuver Flaps (AMF) to improve the aircraft's performance at high angles of attack and to counter its tendancy to 'depart' when nose- high. On 383 A-7Ds, the Pave Penny system, or Target Indicator System Laser (TISL), was added to a chin protuberance and slaved to the HUD, improving target acquisition and bombing accuracy. In 1987-88, some 48 A-7Ds and eight A-7Ks were modified to carry the LANA (low-altitude navigation and attack) system, which introduced a new forward-looking infrared, automatic terrain-following capability, and wide-angle HUD. A Singer tactical mission computer is to be installed on non-LANA modified A-7Ds. The 162nd Tactical Fighter Group at Tucson, the RTU (replacement training unit) for the type, has evaluated a single-piece windshield which offers increased visibility and improved protection against birdstrikes.
Final operational version was the two-seat A-7K, which never served with the active duty USAF, but went directly to the Air National Guard. The first A-7K (73-1008), which made its maiden flight in January 1981, was a conversion of an existing A-7D, while a further 30 airframes were delivered in the series.
The USAF evaluated two YA-7F aircraft (the second time the F suffix was used) in 1989-91. The two YA-7F airframes introduced new, afterburning engines and avionics systems. Though these aircraft accumulated 316.1 flight hours in 183 sorties between November 1989 and January 1991, the USAF decided not to authorize production. The two YA-7F airframes (70-1039; 71-0344) have since been retired from flying status.
The last A-7D/K airplanes to leave the inventory were from the Air National Guard units at Rickenbacker ANGB (Ohio), Des Moines (Iowa), Tulsa (Oklahoma) and Springfield (Ohio).
Armament Options: internal M61A1 Vulcan 20-mm cannon with maximum of 1,00 rounds; two fuselage and six wing hardpoints for the carriage of most stores in US inventory, including conventional low-drag and retarded bombs, cluster-bomb units, gun and rocket pods; defensive stores include AN/ALQ-119 or -131 ECM pod, AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missile (one on each fuselage station), AN/ALE-39 chaff dispenser, typical ferry configuration with two or four drop-tanks
Close Air Support/Battlefield Area Interdiction: on a CAS/BAI, or a combined CAS/BAI mission, the A-7D flies to a radius of 460 miles to be on station for 1-2 hours with 1,000 rounds of ammunition for the M61A1, two wing drop-tanks on inboard hardpoints (stations 3 and 4), and six to 12 Mk 82 500-lb bombs (total of 12 on two double MERs or six on two TERs on mid-wing hardpoints, stations 2 and 5), with outboard wing hardpoints (stations 1 and 6) normally not used; for dedicated anti-armor work, the load-out would be two wing drop-tanks and eight Mk 20 Rockeye CBUs on two mid-wing hardpoints (stations 2 and 5), with outboard wing hardpoints not used; ECM pod may be carried
A-7D: the basic version of the Corsair II was the A-7D, with 459 being ordered between 1967 and 1975 for service with TAC. The majority were transferred to the ANG, although all were replaced by the F-16 by mid-1993.
A-7K: Following the evaluation of a two-seat A-7K modified from A-7D 73-1008, 30 production versions were ordered during 1979, 1980 and 1981 for the Air National Guard.
GA-7D: At least two GA-7Ds had been allocated to ground instruction duties with the Lowry Technical Training Center.
YA-7D: The first three aircraft from the initial batch were allocated the designation YA-7D to indicate service test without modification.
YA-7F: Two A-7D aircraft modified by LTV for the close-air support role. Following an evaluation, the project was cancelled with the two YA-Fs placed in storage.