A-7 Corsair II
The A-7 is a modern, sophisticated, integrated, highly versatile airborne weapon system capable of performing a variety of search, surveillance and attack missions. Often called the SLUFF (short little ugly fat fellow), it was called many other names, but beautiful isn't one of them. It is capable of carrying four external wing-mounted 300 gallon fuel tanks, coupled with a variety of ordnance on remaining stations. The A-7 can also conduct in-flight refueling operations and is capable of transferring over 12,000 pounds of fuel. The A-7 has a fully integrated digital navigation/weapon delivery system, and the integration technique is common to all current US Navy and US Air Force attack aircraft. The avionics system, based on state-of-the-art electronics, digital computing techniques, and an automation philosophy, provide unparalleled mission effectiveness and flexibility. With its Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR) capability, the A-7's night attack accuracy is equivalent to its day attack accuracy.
As applied to an aircraft, the name Corsair has its origins in a series of famous biplanes built for the Navy by the Vought Corporation between World Wars I and II. Later, the name was applied to the famous Vought F4U series of fighters flown by Navy and Marine pilots during World War II. The modern-day descendant of these historic aircraft is the Vought A-7 Corsair II.
The A-7 series of aircraft were designed to replace the Douglas A-4E Skyhawk in Navy service as a carrier-borne attack aircraft. In May 1963, the Navy began a design competition for a light-attack, carrier-based aircraft. The new aircraft was to carry a larger ordnance payload than the Skyhawk and fly a greater combat radius. Vought, Douglas, Grumman, and North American responded to the Navy's invitation to bid.
Vought was selected as the winner in February 1964. In March, the designation A-7A was approved for the new aircraft. The proposal by Vought engineers was based on their F-8 Crusader but with many significant differences. By using a proven design and engine, development of the A-7 was greatly accelerated over what it would have been if both airframe and power plant were entirely new concepts.
Compared with the F-8, the A-7A had a shorter fuselage with less sweepback on the wing, and without that F-8 Crusader's adjustable wing incidence. Outboard ailerons were introduced on the A-7 wing, and the structure was strengthened to allow the wings and fuselage to carry a total ordnance load of 15,000 lbs on eight stations (two fuselage each with 500 lb capacity, two inboard on the wings with 2,500 lb capacity each, and four on the outer wings with 3,500 lb capacity each) for more than 200 combinations of different stores. The A-7A incorporated the 11,350 lb thrust Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-6 turbo-fan engine which had been developed for the F-111. The engine for the A-7, however, was not to have an after-burner.
That the lineage of the A-7 can be traced directly to the Vought F-8 Crusader fighter is obvious. Like the F-8, the configuration of the A-7 is characterized by a high wing, low horizontal tail, chin inlet, and short landing-gear legs that retract into the fuselage. Since the A-7 is a subsonic aircraft, however, no area ruling is incorporated in the fuselage, which is also shorter and deeper than that of the supersonic F-8. Because of the larger mass flow of the turbofan engine employed in the A-7, the size of the chin inlet is somewhat larger than that of the turbojet-powered F-8. These differences make the A-7 appear shorter and more stubby than the earlier fighter. The A-7 is sometimes unofficially called the SLUF (Short Little Ugly Fella) USAF crews.
The wing of the A-7 is closely related in geometry and physical size to that of the F-8. Leading flaps and single-slotted trailing-edge flaps are fitted to the wing, as are upper surface spoilers located ahead of the flaps. Not used on the A-7 is the unique variable-incidence feature of the F-8 wing. The shorter length of the fuselage together with the slight "upsweep" of the underside of the afterbody allow the A-7 to be rotated to a significantly higher pitch angle on takeoff and landing, without tail scrape, than was possible for the F-8. The higher available ground pitch attitude, together with the good augmentation capability of the high-lift system, no doubt played a large part in obviating the need for a variable-incidence capability in the wing. Speed brakes are located on the bottom of the fuselage about midway between the nose and the tail. A braking chute is provided for use in shore-based operations.
A wide assortment of external stores can be accommodated on the A-7. Eight store-mounting positions are provided. There are three pylons under each wing, and a single mounting station is located on each side of the fuselage. A total of 15,000 pounds of stores can be carried. A total of 6,560 pounds can be carried on a typical mission with a radius of 556 miles. A six-barrel 20-mm Vulcan cannon is located on the left side of the fuselage near the bottom of the aircraft.
The A-7A began Vietnam combat operations in December 1967, and proved to be one of the most effective Navy close support and strike aircraft in that conflict. A-7E Corsair IIs were part of the two-carrier battle group that conducted a joint strike on selected Libyan terrorist-related targets in 1986. Together with carrier-based F/A-18s, A-7s used anti-radiation missiles to neutralize Libyan air defenses. During Desert Storm, the A-7 demonstrated over 95% operational readiness and did not miss a single combat sortie.
The A-7 is one of those aircraft with a demonstrated capability of performing well in a wide variety of missions. Other aircraft are faster or have a greater range-payload capability or have a faster rate of climb; sometimes, certain of these characteristics is deemed so important that it dominates the entire design. What results is a "point design" aircraft that can perform one mission extremely well but is relatively much less effective in any other mission. The design parameters of the A-7 were chosen so that the aircraft has great mission versatility. It was successfully employed in just about every conceivable attack role during the Vietnam conflict where it first saw action in 1967.
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