A-4M Skyhawk II
The last version of the Skyhawk series to be built, the A-4M Skyhawk II, was obviously the most capable. Designed specifically for use by the U.S. Marine Corps, the A-4M improvements included the 11,200 lb thrust Pratt & Whitney J52-P408 engine; a smokeless burner can; a larger, increased-visibility canopy; a ribbon-type drag chute; and a re-positioned Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) antenna atop a squared-off vertical fin.
Mission: Close Air Support, Armed Reconnaissance, Air Defense, Nuclear Bomber
Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company; El Segundo, CA
Bureau Number: 160264
Length: 41 ft, 3 in
Wing Span: 27 ft, 6 in
Height: 15 ft
Max Speed: 597 kts (688 mph)
Initial rate of climb: 13,500 ft/min
Ceiling: 44,300 ft (46,200 ft in combat)
Range: 955 nm (1,099 mi)
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408
Thrust: 11,187 lbs
Guns: 2 × Colt Mk-12 20 mm cannon with 200 rounds each
External Stations: 5
Cargo Hook: 5,000 lbs
Crew: Pilot only
While the original Skyhawks were designed as a lightweight delivery platform for nuclear weapons, the “Mighty Mikes” were refined into the ultimate close air support weapon to protect the “Mud Marines.” With the Hughes Angle Rate Bombing System installed it was arguably the world’s best close air support jet aircraft ever built. Ironically, the A-4M was the only Skyhawk version, other than the A4A, to not see combat. The A-4M first entered service in 1971 as the Vietnam War was grinding to a halt and left front line service in February 1990 prior to the Gulf War. Marine A-4Ms stayed forward-deployed in Japan throughout their active service life in readiness for a war that never was.
During the ten-year production run of the A-4M, significant improvements were made. Among these was a new heads-up cockpit display. A Hughes Angle/Rate Bombing System (ARBS) was installed which featured both television and laser tracking modes. The sensor package included a television camera and a laser spot tracing system to provide for acquisition and tracking of laser-designated targets. On either side of the nose sensors was an antenna for the ALR-45 radar warning system. Another antenna for the ALR-45 radar homing and warning system was fitted to the top of the vertical fin. Below the nose was an antenna for an ALQ-126 deception jammer transmitter and receiver system.
A total of 160 A-4Ms were built (including two revised A-4Fs). The final A-4M was delivered on February 27, 1979, bringing Skyhawk production to an end. At the time, the 27 year production was the longest for any American tactical aircraft.
The aircraft on display was the last of 2,960 A-4s built. Initially delivered to the “Bumblebees” of VMA-331 in March 1979, it was reassigned to Naval Weapons Center, China Lake for missile testing. It was returned to the Marine Corps with VMA-223 “Bulldogs” in December of that year. One of only two A-4s wired to carry and deliver AGM-65E Maverick missiles, it was sent to the “Vampires” of Air Development Squadron 5 (VX-5) at NAF China Lake in October 1981. In September 1983 it was transferred to Naval Air Test Center in Patuxent River, MD. It returned to China Lake, participating in various test programs until February 1991. In March 1991 it was returned to the USMC with the “Whistling Death” of VMA-124 at NAS Memphis until retired from service and assigned to this museum in 1994. This aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the Marine Corps.