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AD/A-1 Skyraider

The Douglas Skyraider, with its straight, low-mounted, tapered wings, was the only aircraft of its time capable of delivering 8,000 pounds of bombs with dive-bombing precision against such difficult targets as mountain bridges and hydroelectric dams. The AD-4B could deliver nuclear bombs using the "toss-bombing" or "over-the-shoulder" bombing technique.

During World War II the Navy began looking for a new dive-bomber torpedo aircarft to meet its changing tactical and operational requirements. Several planes, among them the AD's direct predecessor, the SB2D/BTD, were developed by the Bureau of Aeronautics. Design difficulties and over-weight problems, however, ultimately led to a decision not to produce the SB2D/BTD. This in turn led to a new design which incorporated the good features of the SB2D/BTD while overcoming its inherent difficulties.

The AD series (later redesignated A-1) that emerged from the combined efforts of the Bureau of Aeronautics and Douglas, who was the contractor, had two particularly significant design aspects. First, great emphasis was placed on the importance of the stringent weight control policy. Secondly, the standard bulky, heavy bomb displacing gear was replaced by a light, explosive device which literally blew the bomb clear. In comparison with the most advanced operational dive bombers in 1945, the AD's initial design compared most favorably with a 27 percent greater top speed and a capability of carrying up to 4,000 pounds of either bombs or torpedoes.

Originally designed to meet World War II requirements for a carrier-based, single-place, long-range, high performance dive bomber/torpedo-carrier, the Skyraider was ordered in July 1944 as the XBT2D-1. In April 1945, one month after its first flight, it was evaluated at NATC, and in December 1946, after redesignation to AD-1, delivery of the first AD to a fleet squadron was made to VA-19A. The first of the Skyraider was delivered in 1946 and named according to the Douglas tradition of starting the names of Navy aircraft with "sky." When the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force numbering systems merged in 1951, the "AD" series Skyraiders were redesignated as "A" series aircraft.

Though the Skyraider was produced too late to take part in World War II, it became the backbone of naval air attack forces in Korea, with the first ADs going into action from USS Valley Forge. Its ability to employ a wide variety of weapons allowed it to be used against nearly all Korean targets, earning the Skyraider the reputation of the most effective close support aircraft in the world at that time. Before production ceased in 1957, 12 years after the airplane was introduced, Douglas built 3,180 Skyraiders in 28 variations. These included carrier- or land-based airplanes, day or night attack bombers, and versions for photographic reconnaissance, electronic countermeasures, airborne early warning, utility and search missions.

Different configurations carried a pilot in an enclosed cockpit, a pilot and another person (either a radar operator or a co-pilot), and a pilot and two other crew. The AD/A-5 could carry a crew of four, plus four passengers or 12 troops, four stretchers, or 2,000 pounds of cargo.

During the Korean conflict, the Skyraiders entered service over the Korean Peninsula in October 1951, and by 1955, there were 29 Navy Skyraider squadrons on carriers.

In 1964, it was modified for service in the Vietnam War, redesignated A-1E/A-1H, and used by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. and South Vietnamese air forces. Because of its ability to carry large bomb loads, absorb heavy ground fire, and fly for long periods at low altitude, the Skyraider was particularly suited for close-support missions. Skyraiders continued in first line service well into the Vietnam conflict, where they once again became star performers in a close air support role. By this time, the Skyraider had picked up a new designation. It had become the A-1 in the 1962 redesignation of naval aircraft. The last Skyraider left active service late in 1971.



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