The A-6A was originally designated A2F-1 and changed to A-6A in the DOD uniform designation system. This aircraft was first accepted by the Navy in February 1963 by VA-42. At light weights it could operate from short unprepared fields in close support of ground troops; at higher weights it could operate from catapult on long range special weapon strikes against heavily defended fixed targets. The A-6A had an attack-navigation and central digital computer system to find targets in all moving conditions.
The EA-6A was originallly designated the A2F-1Q. The electronic warfare EA-6A version was developed for the Marines; 28 were converted from A-6As. In combat, they operated from both shore bases and carriers. A fuselage extension forward of the cockpit and an upper fin antenna fairing housed the "electric Intruder's" countermeasures systems. Fuselage speed brakes were retained to allow wing tip antennas. This aircraft retained a portion of the A-6A's attack capability but gave up much of its bombing and navi-gation equipment to make space for antennas to convert the attack plane into an effective electronic warfare aircraft.
The A-6B was a version of the A-6A design produced to meet the special wartime need of destroying ground-based antiaircraft defenses. The A-6B was equipped to carry the Standard Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM) and had emitter location sensors.
The A-6C was another special version of the A-6A produced to meet a wartime necessity. It was equipped with infrared sensors and Low Light Level Television (LLLT). The A-6C was known by the acronym TRIM which described the aircraft's mission as Trails, Roads Interdiction Multi-sensor. The A-6C's sensors were meant to detect the enemy's supply depots and truck traffic in Southeast Asia.
The KA-6D was the A-6A modified for use as aerial refueling tanker. Interest in a tanker version led to 1970 conversions of early A-6s by removing avionics mission systems and installing a rear fuselage-mounted hose and drogue system. An unarmed variant, the KA-6D, was developed as the US Navy's principal carrier-based tanker. The resulting KA-6Ds were also operationally inte-grated into A-6 squadrons in small numbers.
The A-6E began development in the late 1960s. The A-6E was an all-weather, two seat, subsonic, carrier-based attack aircraft. It was equipped with a microminiaturized digital computer, a solid state weapons release system, and a single, integrated track and search radar. The A-6E is typical of the whole A-6 family, with long-span wings, almost full-span flaps and distinctive wing-tip split airbrakes. The bulbous nose radome remains, but now it houses a single AN/APQ-148 multi-mode radar capable of track-while-scan and ground-mapping terrain-avoidance. Beneath the radome is a stabilized chin turret containing IIR, laser spot tracker and laser ranger/designator. The A-6E was intended to reduce the necessary maintenance on the aircraft by increasing the reliability of its equipment and support. There were also improvements in the search and track radar, the computer and armament control equipment. As avionics digital technology moved rapidly forward, major replacement of DIANE components -- including a single multimode radar that could perform both the search and track radar functions, and updated computers -- resulted in a "new insides" model, the A-6E, though it arrived too late to see combat in Southeast Asia. The A-6E program involved new production A-6E's and the modification of A-6A's to the -6E configuration. The latter resulted in converting 240 A-6As to A-6Es. To expedite transition to this greatly improved systems capability, A-6As were converted to A-6Es. The first production deliveries were made in 1971. Production of new A-6Es and conversion of As to Es continued through the late 1970s. A-6Bs and Cs were phased into the E conversion line as capabilities similar to those of their specialized systems became available. The A-6As and special variants flew to war's end.
The A-6E is the U.S. Navy's recently retired heavy payload attack aircraft that provided all-weather, day or night, long-range strike capability. It was modified in the early 1990's with a composite wing, extending the plane's operational fatigue life 20 years. The Intruder is equipped with an all weather multiple-mode radar, DRS (Detecting and Range Set), and a self contained carrier airborne inertial navigation system. The APQ-156 integrated radar provides the capabilities of search, target tracking, airborne moving target identification, and beacon interrogation. The high resolution, real beam ground mapping radar, complemented by the Tactical Altitude Director (TAD) system, also provides terrain clearance and avoidance for low-level navigation. The DRS contains a Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR), laser rangefinder designator, and forward air control (FAC) receiver located beneath the nose in a sensor turret for precision attacks against tactical targets at night and in adverse weather.
The A-6E can deliver any of the U.S. Navy's arsenal of air-to-ground weapons, from general purpose bombs to ground attack missiles, and the AIM-9L/M air-to-air missile. The SWIP (Systems Weapons Improvement Program) is the latest upgrade that enables the Intruder, through a MIL-STD-1553 avionics multiplex databus to employ multiple advanced precision guided missiles against land and sea-based targets and emitters. Most A-6Es have been further modified to night multi-place attacks. The integrated attack navigation weapon system coupled with a two man, side-by-side crew, significantly enhances crew coordination, situational awareness, and safety of flight by reducing data saturation associated with the real world tactical environment.
The A-6E Target Recognition Attack Multisensor (TRAM) configuration of the A-6E greatly improved the air-craft's capability. The target recognition/attack multi-sensor (TRAM) version of the A-6E was introduced to the fleet in 1979. It was equipped with a chin turret containing a forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) system, a laser ranger and designator, and a laser spot tracker. The crew was able to view television quality images of their targets by day or night. The TRAM sensors greatly improve both ballistic and visual bombing accuracy. The TRAM version is equipped to launch laser-guided bombs and missiles. The TRAM's ASN-92 CAINS inertial navigation system gave the crew greater reliability and accuracy than was possible with the ASN-31. The TRAM version also had an Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS) and the Approach Power Compensator to provide totally automatic landing aboard carrier. With development of the full TRAM system, a full update package was established for production, resulting in the A-6E TRAM configuration. In keeping with evolving Navy practice, this became the recognized identification rather than using a revised designation for all new production and remanufactured, upgraded A-6Es. Its TRAM turret under the radome and a ram air inlet on the port side of the upper aft fuselage for additional aft bay systems cooling were among the few external changes made to Intruders. Internally, a new carrier airborne inertial navigation system and new universal missile wiring and pylons were of equal importance to the TRAM in crew effectiveness and combat capability.
The A-6F, the next generation Intruder, started development in 1984 incorporating General Electric F404 engines, an inverse synthetic aperture radar with air-to-air mode, and improved structural changes. This program was cancelled in 1989 with 5 prototypes built.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|