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A-4 Skyhawk "Ayit"

A light, short range attack and close support aircraft. The Skyhawk was originally intended for the US Navy and Marine forces, based on experience gained in the Korean War. The plane was a quick success, and Skyhawks continue to fly in air forces around the world. The Israeli Air Force [IAF] acquired the Skyhawk in 1967 as an indirect result of the French embargo on Israel, which kept Israel from receiving 50 Mirage 5s that had been purchased from France and paid for in full. The Skyhawk was the first attack plane that the US agreed to sell Israel.

A special version of the plane - the A-4H - was developed for the IAF. The A-4H an A-4E with which featured improved avionics and the improved 9,300 lb thrust J-52-P-8A engine. External differences include the modified square-tipped tail. Unlike the A-4E, they had a ribbon parachute housed under the tail to shorten the landing run. Armament consisted of twin DEFA 30mm cannon in place of the USN 20mm guns. Later modifications included the avionics hump and an extended tailpipe, implemented in Israel by IAI. The extended tailpipe gave greater protection against surface to air missiles. A total of 90 A-4Hs were delivered, and were Heyl Ha'avir's primary attack plane in the War of Attrition.

In early 1973, the improved A-4N Skyhawk entered service, with a higher capacity engine, a cockpit with improved visibility, 30 mm. cannon and better maneuvering ability. Based on the A-4M used by the US Marine Corps, the IAF purchased dozens of A-4N Skyhawks, which remain in service with the IAF.

The different model Skyhawks carried out bombing missions in the Yom Kippur War, and a considerable proportion of the tactical sorties. They also suffered considerable losses, probably because of their relatively low penetration speed. They also attacked in Operation Peace for the Galilee, and one of them shot down a Syrian MiG-17. The IAF also has two seat models, for operations as well as advanced training and retraining. The first training models arrived in 1967, with the first batch of Skyhawks. During the Yom Kippur war, the Skyhawk order of battle was reinforced with TA-4F and TA-4J models.

As of mid-2003, advanced IAF pilot training was still being conducted with the A-4N and TA-4J versions, by the "Flying Tigers" of 102 Squadron at Hatzerim Air Base. The Israeli Air Force chose RADA Electronic Industries Ltd. to upgrade its A-4 trainer with weapon delivery, navigation and training systems. Integration of a multifunction and Head-up Display produced an advanced Lead in fighter trainer for the IAF's future fighter pilots.

On 08 December 2004 RADA announced that the first upgraded Israel Air Force (IAF) A-4 "Skyhawk" has successfully completed its inaugural flight. This critical milestone of the program was accomplished within a tightly planned schedule of only 11 months following the program initiation. The A-4 "Skyhawk" is the IAF's advanced trainer used in the flight academy and as a lead-in fighter trainer for both the modern fighters (F-15 and F-16). The program, activated on 01 January 2004, includes replacements of out-dated avionic units onboard all 50 aircraft with newly designed equipment. The modernization aims at improving the training environment of air cadets flying the aircraft, enables a complete debrief of each flight using 3 dimensional graphic displays synchronized with video and audio recordings, while significantly reducing the aircraft's cost of ownership. The flight testing phase was scheduled to be completed within 3 months; with serial production and installation continuing until the third quarter of 2005.



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