A-1 Skyraider, Douglas

A-1 Skyraider, large single-engined attack aircraft

Large single-engined attack aircraft. The A-1 (originally designated BT2D, and later AD) Skyraider was designed as a single-seat attack aircraft to replace the less attractive BTD, and was much simpler and lighter. It was too late for WWII, but much used in Korea and later in Vietnam. The Skyraider was a very effective attack aircraft, but exhausting for the pilot. There were also multi-place versions, ECM and AEW aircraft, and ASW versions. Some of the 3180 Skyraiders built were still in combat service in 1979.

Type: A-1H Skyraider
Country: USA
Function: attack
Year: 1947?
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 2700hp Wright R-3350-26WA
Wing Span: 15.25 m
Length: 11.84 m
Height: 4.78 m
Wing Area: 37.19 m2
Wing loading: 220 kg/m²
Empty Weight: 5429 kg
Max.Weight: 11340 kg
Max. Speed: 518 km/h
Cruise Speed: 475 km/h
Ceiling: 8685 m
Range: 2126 km
Armament: 4*g20mm, 3630 kg of ordnance on 15 external hardpoints including bombs, torpedoes, unguided rockets or gun pods.

Ed Heinemann, Chied engineer at Douglas was so unimpressed by his XBTD-1 series built to US Navy specification for a carrier based dive-bomber/torpedo carrier that he took it upon himself to design a simpler design which he thought was much more useful. Designated XBT2D-1 when it was flown for the first time in March 1945, the AD-1 Skyraider was to enjoy an amazingly long and varied service career. Crewed only by a pilot, the Ad-1 was at the time the largest production single seater powered by a Wright R-3350 radial engine. Despite have a vast internal space for weapons, the folding wings were given 7 hardpoints on each side. Wartime experience had shown that the most important characteristic for an aircraft of this type was the ability to deliver a wide range of ordinance. It was this ability and basic veratillity was such that 3180 had been built when production ceased in 1957. As it was just too late for WW2, the AD-1 proved a valuable weapon in the Korean War.

Ad1 to Ad4 variants differed in detail, but the AD-5 had awider cockpit seating two side-by-side and several early versions had APS-20A radar with a rear cabin for 2/3 operators for AEW missions. The AD-5 introduced conversion kits for ambulance, freight. transport or towing targets. The AD-6 and AD-7 were improved single-seat versions used by the French Armee de l'Air in Algeria. In 1962 Skyraiders were re-designated A-1D to A-1J whilst Tactical Air Command used A1-E, A1-H and A1-J versions with great success in South Vietnam, continuing to use them after the Navy had withdrawn their aircraft from this theatre. Late in the Vietnam war, A-1 roles were taken over by the subsonic A-37 Dragonfly and A-7 Corsair II.


Although the Skyraider entered production too late for active service in World War II, it turned out to be of great value in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as its weapon load and 10-hour flying time far surpassed the jets that were available at the time.

One of the Skyraider's most famous roles was as the "Sandy" helicopter escort. In one incident an A-1 pilot landed under fire to rescue another downed A-1 pilot, winning its pilot the Medal of Honor. After November 1972 all A-1s in US service in Southeast Asia were transferred to the South Vietnamese Air Force and their former roles were taken over by the subsonic A-37 Dragonfly and A-7 Corsair II. The Skyraider in Vietnam pioneered the concept of tough, survivable aircraft with long loiter times and large ordnance loads later exemplified by the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II. An A-1 was even credited with downing a MiG-17 that happened to fly across its gunsight.

In addition to serving during Korea and Vietnam as an attack aircraft, it was modified into the first airborne early warning aircraft to see service off aircraft carriers. It served in this function in the USN and Royal Navy, being replaced by the E-1 Tracer and Fairey Gannet respectively in those services.
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