A-6 Intruder

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Two A-6 Intruders in flight.

The A-6 Intruder was an all-weather attack bomber for the United States Navy. It was first delivered in 1963.

Contents

Design

In the 1960s, the Navy was looking for a replacement and complement for the A-4 Skyhawk and the A-7 Corsair II, neither of which was equipped with avionics to attack in all weather. A replacement aircraft was also needed for the WWII-vintage A-1 Skyraider.

Grumman received the contract for the two-seat attack aircraft in 1959, constructing the first prototypes that same year. The first A-6As were delivered to VA-42 of the Navy, and the Marine Corps also purchased some aircraft.

Service

The aircraft quickly proved invaluable in the fighting in Southeast Asia. Its advanced electronics allowed it to fly in all weather, and it could carry a large bombload. When a pair of A-6 bombers with 17,000 pounds of bombs aboard demolished a power plant in Haiphong, the North Vietnamese criticized the U.S. military for using B-52 Stratofortresses against the city! In spite of the aircraft's advanced weaponry, 84 were shot down over North Vietnam.

In December 1983, Intruders and A-7 Corsairs struck Syrian positions in Lebanon, after the Syrians had fired SAMs at Navy F-14s on reconnaissance. The strike hit several artillery and radar sites, but one A-6 was lost to a SAM, the pilot being killed and the bombardier-navigator being captured.[1]

The A-6 next saw action in the Gulf of Sidra, during tensions with Libya. In late March of 1986, during Operation Prairie Fire, Intruders sank the missile boat Waheed (the first combat victim of the Harpoon missile) and the corvette Ean Mara, and damaged another corvette. Three weeks later, A-6s from the USS Coral Sea and USS America struck at the military barracks in Benghazi and at nearby Benini airfield as part of Operation El Dorado Canyon.[2]

During Operation Praying Mantis in the Persian Gulf in April 1988, US Navy A-6s helped sink the Iranian frigate Sahand. On the same day, a lone A-6 attacked the frigate Sabalan and severely damaged it, forcing it to limp home in retreat.[3]

A-6s also saw extensive action in the Gulf War. In addition to striking land targets, Intruders sank at least two Iraqi patrol boats. On January 25, 1991, the ninth day of the war, A-6Es made a highly successful attack on the naval base at Umm Qasr, damaging facilities and leaving four ships burning.[4]

Variants

A-6B

The A-6B was equipped to carry the AGM-78 Standard ARM, rather than the less common AGM-12 Bullpup.

A-6C

The A-6C had video camera and FLIR (forward looking infrared) technology, enabling it to reach targets in any weather or terrain.

KA-6D

The KA-6D was the Navy's main tanker from 1966 to 2001, when it was replaced by special versions of the F-18 Hornet.

A-6E

The A-6E was the most technologically advanced. It was equipped to carry high powered navigation/attack radar, laser bomb capability, and a video camera to record the damage done on a mission.

EA-6 Prowler

Main article: EA-6 Prowler

Retirement

The A-6 has been replaced by the F-18 Hornet.

Specifications

An A-6 in flight.


Type Two-seat carrier-based attack aircraft
Contractor Grumman
Power plant Two Pratt & Whitney 9,300 pounds of thrust J52-P-8A turbofans
Length 54 feet, 9 inches
Height 16 feet, 2 inches
Speed 655 miles per hour
Wingspan 53 feet
Empty weight 25,684 pounds
Crew Two
Unrefueled range 2000 miles
Maximum Weight 58,400 pounds
Armament Assorted guided and unguided bombs, Harpoon missiles, Standard ARMs, and cluster bombs up to 18,000 pounds

Notes

  1. Disaster in Lebanon
  2. El Dorado Canyon: Reagan’s Undeclared War with Qaddafi, by Joseph T. Stanik, Naval Institute Press, 2003
  3. Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History, by Craig L. Symonds, Oxford University Press, 2005
  4. Desert Storm: Air War, by Robert F. Dorr, Motorbooks International, 1991
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