Tinkertoy, Scooter, Bantam Bomber, Mighty Midget, Mighty Mite, Heinemann’s Hot Rod, and other affectionate names were given to the A-4 Skyhawk, which first flew on June 22, 1954. The little Skyhawk was originally designed to carry a single tactical nuclear weapon from the deck of an aircraft carrier to its target, not necessarily to return to its carrier. “One engine, one man, one way nuclear bomber” was a phrase used to describe the mission, but the design of the Skyhawk was so right that it was easily adapted to take on other roles, and in fact Skyhawks are still in service today. The Douglas Aircraft Company’s Edward H. Heinemann, who also was partially or completely responsible for the design of the SBD Dauntless, A-20 Boston, A-26 Invader, AD Skyraider, A3D Skywarrior, F4D Skyray and others, outdid himself with the Skyhawk. It far exceeded Navy expectations. Skyhawks formed the backbone of Navy light attack squadrons during the Vietnam War, and later versions flew as trainers and aggressor aircraft, in the latter role into the 21st century in U.S. service. A total of 2,960 were built, most serving with the Navy and Marine Corps, but 770 A-4s served with other air arms.
A-4 Skyhawk 60th Anniversary | Photos
U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Skyhawks
A4D-2 Skyhawks assigned to Attack Squadron (VA) 12 off of the carrier Essex (CVA 9) pictured along with other aircraft on the flight line at Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station (MCAAS) Yuma, Ariz., during participation in a weapons meet, Dec. 3, 1959. The prototype of the aircraft, which was nicknamed the "Scooter," first flew on June 22, 1954. The Skyhawk was destined to fly extensively in Vietnam and serve in a variety of roles and configurations until its retirement in 2003. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo An A-4E Skyhawk of Attack Squadron (VA) 55 in flight with bombs visible on the centerline rack and an AGM-12 Bullpup missile beneath the starboard wing, ca. 1963. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo U.S. Navy flight deck crewmen direct an A-4 Skyhawk onto the catapult on board the carrier USS Hancock (CVA 19) in the waters off North Vietnam, March 22, 1965. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo An Attack Squadron 83 (VA-83) A-4 Skyhawk aircraft refueling a Reconnaissance Squadron 62 (VFP-62) RF-8G Crusader aircraft. Despite its small size, because of its high useful load the Skyhawk was often pressed into buddy tanking service. DoD photo An A-4 Skyhawk attacks a moving train during a mission over North Vietnam, ca. 1965. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo Wounded in both legs by antiaircraft fire, VA-163 "Saints" pilot Lt. j.g. Denny Earl lands his A-4E Skyhawk aboard USS Oriskany (CV 34) on Oct. 20, 1967, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The emergency barrier ensured that Earl would be able to get aboard on the first attempt. Six days later, this same Skyhawk, BuNo 149959, was shot down over Hanoi. Its pilot, Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain, would spend the next 5 1/2 years as a POW. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo An A-4 Skyhawk from the USS Intrepid (CVS 11) during a mission over Vietnam, ca. 1966. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo Bob Hope sits in an A-4E Skyhawk of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211, Chu Lai, South Vietnam, Dec. 24, 1967. U.S. Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections photo An A-4E Skyhawk of Attack Squadron (VA) 163 crosses the ramp as the pilot prepares to trap aboard the carrier USS Oriskany (CVA 34) steaming in the waters off North Vietnam, ca. 1966. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo Two A-4 Skyhawks ready for launch aboard the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), ca. Nov. 1968. U.S. Navy photo A-4 Skyhawks of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 21 fly over the USS Hancock (CVA 19) in the Western Pacific, ca. 1975. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo An A-4E Skyhawk of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 131 assigned to the Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment (MARTD) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Willow Grove, Penn., unleashes bombs during a training mission. National Museum of Naval Aviation photo A TA-4F Skyhawk aircraft from Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 13 (H&MS-13). U.S. Marine Corps photo A Fleet Composite Squadron 5 (VC-5) A-4M Skyhawk aircraft intercepts a Soviet Badger reconnaissance aircraft near the west coast of Japan, ca. 1981. While considered an attack aircraft, the Skyhawk's agility and performance made it a formidable opponent in air combat once its ordnance was dropped. Intercepting Soviet "snoopers" was no problem. DoD photo Five A-4F Skyhawk aircraft from Marine Attack Squadron 133 (VMA-133), accompanied by a Prowler, bank to the left in echelon formation. Note that two squadron aircraft are painted in a low visibility scheme with subdued markings. DoD photo An air-to-air view of a colorful Fleet Composite Squadron 1 (VC-1) TA-4J Skyhawk. DoD photo by PH3 (AC) T.J. Pfrang Four Blue Angels A-4F Skyhawk aircraft in a diamond formation during an air show. The Blue Angels operated Skyhawks from December 1974 until November 1986, when they were replaced with F/A-18 Hornets. DoD photo A-4F Skyhawks assigned to the Blue Angels are flown in formation with "Fat Albert," the team's C-130 transport. U.S. Navy photo An air-to-air view, from the cockpit of another aircraft, of the underside of an A-4M Skyhawk, May 1, 1979. U.S. Department of Defense photo