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, and in fact the Douglas Aircraft Company’s Edward H. Heinemann had the design so right that Skyhawks are still in service today. A total of 2,960 were built, most serving with the Navy and Marine Corps, but 770 A-4s served with other air arms. While more advanced aircraft like the A-7 Corsair II and F/A-18 Hornet superseded the Skyhawk in the attack role, the little aircraft, with its agility and sparkling performance, retained roles as a trainer and adversary aircraft. Skyhawks flew as trainers for 30 years, with some 555 dual-control models manufactured, finally being fully replaced by the T-45 Goshawk in 1999, when the last catapult launch of a Skyhawk trainer took place. In their role as adversary aircraft, stripped down Skyhawks, usually flown without external tanks or pylons, and often fitted with more powerful Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408 engines, gained new nicknames like “Mongoose,” “Super Echo” and “Super Fox,” and served the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps into the 21st century.
A-4 Skyhawk Anniversary | Photos
Trainers and adversaries
A TA-4J Skyhawk waits behind the blast deflector for its turn at the catapult as another Skyhawk clears the flight deck of the auxiliary aircraft landing training ship USS Lexington (AVT-16) during pilot carrier training. The Lexington was a modified World War II-era carrier, but big enough for the little Skyhawk. DoD photo by Jim Bryant A TA-4J Skyhawk from Training Squadron 22 (VT-22) is guided to the catapult on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). PHAN R. Eslinger A TA-4J from Training Squadron 7 (VT-7) is prepared for launching during flight operations aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). DoD photo by PH3 Don Choquette A TA-4J Skyhawk aircraft from Training Squadron 7 (VT-7) waits to be launched during flight operations aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). DoD photo by PH3 Don Choquette A TA-4J Skyhawk from Training Air Wing Two (VT-2) prepares to launch from the USS George Washington on Sept. 29, 1999, during carrier qualifications in the Atlantic Ocean. The final cat shot of a U.S. Navy Skyhawk took place the next day. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Johnnie Robbins. A US Navy (USN) Catapult and Arresting Gear Officer signals the launch of a USN TA-4J Skyhawk aircraft, from the flight deck of the USS George Washington (CVN 73), as Training Air Wing Two (VT-2) conducts carrier qualifications while the ship is underway in the Atlantic Ocean. The Skyhawk was one of the last Navy aircraft to employ a catapult bridle rather than a direct hookup of the shuttle to the nose gear. DoD photo by PH3 Johnnie Robbins Two TA-4 Skyhawk adversary aircraft of VF-126 in flight during a dissimilar air combat training sortie. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Baranek A U.S. Navy TA-4F Skyhawk aircraft, bottom, and an F-14 Tomcat aircraft, both assigned to Fleet Composite Squadron (VC) 13, fly together over the Pacific Ocean near Southern California, in November of 1987. U.S. Navy photo A TA-4J Skyhawk of Fighter Squadron 45 (VF-45) parked on the flight line at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. DoD photo by PH2 Bruce R. Trombecky A plane captain for Fighter Squadron 126 (VF-126), performs preflight checks on a Skyhawk as ground crewmen look on. DoD photo by PH3 Jason Marzini A Fleet Composite Squadron 5 (VC-5) A-4E Skyhawk aircraft banks to the right during exercise Thalay Thai '89. A Fighter Squadron 43 (VF-43) TA-4J Skyhawk aircraft takes off from NAS Oceana, Va. DoD photo by PH2 Bruce Trombecky, USNR. A view taken from inside the cockpit of a Fleet Composite Squadron 5 (VC-5) TA-4J Skyhawk aircraft flying wing on a VC-5 A-4E Skyhawk aircraft. DoD photo by PH1 Mike D.P. Flynn Two Fighter Squadron 126 (VF-126) A-4F Skyhawk adversary aircraft painted in typical pseudo-Soviet schemes. DoD photo by PH2 Trombecky A TA-4 Skyhawk from Fighter Squadron 126 (VF-126) near San Diego. DoD photo by PHCS Lawson Two VF-43 A-4E Skyhawks in formation. DoD photo by LCDR Slowik A Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) A-4E "Super Echo." Without pylons or external tanks, and with the P-408 engine, the Skyhawk could give contemporary fighters a run for their money. DoD photo by Lt. Baranek A Composite Squadron 12 (VC-12) A-4 Skyhawk aircraft. DoD photo Twelve Skyhawks Fighter Squadron 43 (VF-43) off the Atlantic coast in July 1993, during the final official flight of VF-43's A-4s before the squadron was disestablished. DoD photo by LCDR Dave Parsons TA-4J Skyhawks assigned to Fleet Composite Squadron Eight (VC-8) perform a final fly-by over the Live Impact Area (LIA) on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. With the closing of the Vieques training range, the Roosevelt Roads-based VC-8, final U.S. operator of the Skyhawk, was disestablished in 2003. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Brian W. Stueber