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Vought / LTV A-7 Corsair II Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft (1967)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 4/17/2015

The LTV A-7 Cosair II strike platform was developed as a replacement for the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk line and was based on the successful Vought F-8 Crusader design.

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Developed as a successor to the Douglas A-4 "Skyhawk" series of carrier-based strike fighter, the LTV A-7 "Corsair II" entered service with the United States Navy (USN) during the Vietnam War (1955-1975) in 1967. Some 1,569 examples were ultimately produced and operated by the United States, Greece (Hellenic), Portugal, and Thailand. The last operational versions were retired (with the Hellenic Air Force) as recently as 2014 while American use was given up following the Gulf War in 1993.

Origins of the A-7 reside back in a 1962 USN initiative which produced the VAX ("Heavier-than-Air, Attack, Experimental") program seeking a follow-up design to the aging A-4 platform. A budget-conscious approach was selected in which an existing airframe was to serve as the basis for the new aircraft. This would also expedite development and ultimate serial production of the strike fighter. Key industry powerhouses such as Douglas, Grumman, North American, and Vought (part of Ling-Temco-Vought = LTV) put forth various submissions, each with potential. The Vought submission in particular was based on their successful F-8 "Crusader" carrier-based strike fighter which became a proven USN contributor during the 1960s. Its airframe was modified slightly to include a shortened fuselage but retained its high-mounted, swept-back wings (though with greater span), tricycle undercarriage, and under-cockpit intake. The adjustable, pivoting wing mainplanes of the F-8 were dropped to simplify the new design for both production and maintenance/operation. After evaluation of all the competing types, the Vought submission was selected in February of 1964 and assigned the USN designation of "A-7" with the name of "Corsair II" - honoring the successful war-winning World War 2-era Vought F4F "Corsair" carrier-based, prop-driven product.

Development of the A-7 platform was relatively fast and three YA-7A developmental models were ordered by the USN in March of 1964. A first flight was recorded on September 26th, 1965 with the engine of choice being the Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-6 turbofan of 11,350 pounds thrust. Its non-afterburning engine decreased fuel consumption which adding operational range but limited speeds to the subsonic range. The initial design was also fitted with all-important radar in the nose via the AN/APQ-116 series system and a Head-Up Display (HUD) in the cockpit made it the first American aircraft to feature this useful, now standard, technology. An ejection seat increased pilot survivability and an advanced, digital weapons suit made for an accurate bomb-delivery platform when compared to contemporaries.

The wing mainplanes were hinged outboard of the hardpoints for improved carrier storage and the tricycle undercarriage designed with the rigors of carrier operation in mind. Underwing hardpoints numbered six in all (three to a wing) and two side-fuselage stations were also in play - mainly to carry AIM-9 "Sidewinder" short-range, Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs). Total stores capability was theoretically 15,000 pounds made up of a mix of conventional drop bombs, guided ordnance, and homing/guided missiles. Initially 2 x 20mm Colt MK 12 cannons were fitted for close-in work and 250 rounds were afforded per gun installation. A later mark introduced a single 20mm rotary gun with 1,030 rounds carried.

With testing behind it, the YA-7A graduated to its first production form as the "A-7A" and these were taken into USN service in 1966 through Squadron VA-147. In 1967, Initial Operating Capability (IOC) was reached. The A-7 appeared at a time when the American military was firmly committed to actions in and around Vietnam. As such, the Corsair II's baptism of fire was quick to be seen as the aircraft was shipped to the theater in number. Its first sorties came during December of 1967 beginning a long and storied service life for the Vought product.


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Specifications for the
Vought / LTV A-7 Corsair II
Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft


Focus Model: Vought A-7E Corsair II
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Vought / Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1967
Production: 1,569


Crew: 1


Length: 46.13 ft (14.06 m)
Width: 38.71 ft (11.80 m)
Height: 16.08ft (4.90 m)
Weight (Empty): 18,942 lb (8,592 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 42,000 lb (19,051 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Allison / Rolls-Royce TF41-A-1 turbofan engine developing 15,000 lb of thrust.


Maximum Speed: 659 mph (1,060 kmh; 572 kts)
Maximum Range: 564 miles (908 km)
Service Ceiling: 42,999 ft (13,106 m; 8.1 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet-per-minute (0 m/min)


Hardpoints: 8 (two reserved for Sidewinder AAMs)
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
2 x 20mm single-barrel cannons (early)
1 x 20mm M61 six-barrel rotary cannon (later models)

Mission-specific armament on eight external hardpoints (two side-fuselage positions reserved exclusively for AIM-9 "Sidewinder" AAMs) included:

AIM-9 "Sidewinder" AAMs, conventional drop bombs, Laser-Guided Bombs (LGBs), AGM-65 "Maverick" ASMs, munition dispensing pods, rocket pods, and/or jettisonable fuel tanks.


Variants:
YA-7A - Prototype Model Designation of which 3 produced; fitted with Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-6 non-afterburning turbofans engines capable of 11,350lbs of thrust; 2 x 20mm single-barrel cannons.


A-7A - First Production Model of which 199 produced; based heavily on the YA-7A prototype.

A-7B - Featured the TF30-P-8 turbofan capable of 12,200lbs of thrust; 196 produced.

A-7C - TF309-P-408 turbofan capable of 13,400lbs of thrust; 67 produced.

A-7D "Corsair II" - TF41-A-1 powerplant capable of 14,500lbs of thrust based on Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan but license-built; First designated use of "Corsair II" as aircraft name; 1 x 20mm rotary cannon replacing 2 x 20mm single-barrel cannons; improved avionics, navigation and weapons systems; "Pave Penny" laser tracking system; 459 produced.

A-7E - TF41-A-2 powerplant capable of 15,000lbs of thrust; forward-tracking infra-red senor integrated.

YA-7F - Improved Export Model development designation; Improved avionics package, improved powerplant, airframe refinements and improved electronics.

A-7F - Close-support Upgrade Model (project cancelled).

A-7K - Two-seat trainer for USAF.

TA-7C - Two-seat conversion of A-7A and A-7B models.

TA-7H - Greece-export Model with provisioning for AGM-65 Maverick missiles; anti-ship strike model.

A-7P (or "Plus") - Refurbished A-7A upgraded with A-7E avionics package (exported to Portugal - no longer utilized).

EA-7L


Operators:
Greece; Thailand; Portugal; United States