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Douglas A-1 Skyraider Fighter-Bomber (1946)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 1/18/2015

The multirole Douglas A-1 Douglas Skyraider proved its worth during a storied career over the skies of Vietnam in the Vietnam War.

The Douglas A-1 Skyraider series would have become a major contributor to warplans concerning American involvement in World War 2 if it had been designed and produced a few months than it was. Regardless, the system proved itself quite a capable close-support strike aircraft throughout the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953) and Vietnam War (1955-1975) that followed. The aircraft gained an exceptional reputation for reliability, resilience, ease of flying and inherent payload capacity throughout several major production marks.

The Skyraider saw its first flight in March of 1945 as the "XBT2D-1 Destroyer II" prototype. This proved the first instance and was actually designed as a carrierborne torpedo / dive bomber in the vain of the Douglas SBD Dauntless before it. The airframe provided observers with an impressive display of its capabilities and the series was put into serial production shortly thereafter under its more recognizable AD-1 "Skyraider" designation.

The AD-1 Skyraider was a large aircraft for its single-engine, single-seat low-monoplane wing approach. The series was powered by a massive Wright radial piston engine fitted to the fuselage in a conventional arrangement (ahead of the cockpit). From the first AD-1, featuring a 2,500 horsepower engine and twin 20mm cannon armament, to the AD-4B that was modified to be nuclear-delivery capable, the Skyraider proved its value as a highly adaptable aircraft through sheer numbers and mission success.

Underwing stores included conventional drop bombs and rockets which, when coupled with the integrated cannon armament, provide a devastating punch against enemy ground targets in the open or those under cover. The large fuselage allowed the aircraft to be modified for more specialized roles including that of anti-shipping (with widened fuselage for a second crewmember seated side-by-side) and the "N" model featuring a crew of three and specialized for the night-fighting role.

After a stellar run of these variants, production numbered past 3,100 units. The series would later be redesignated to the more historically identifiable "A-1" marker. The Skyraider was used by both American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War. Captured systems fell to Vietnam proper. The type was also fielded by neighboring Cambodia and Thailand. In Europe the series found operators in the United Kingdom, France and Sweden.

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Specifications for the
Douglas A-1 Skyraider

Focus Model: Douglas AD-1 Skyraider
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Corporation - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1946
Production: 3,180

Crew: 1

Length: 39.37 ft (12 m)
Width: 50.00 ft (15.24 m)
Height: 15.75ft (4.80 m)
Weight (Empty): 10,470 lb (4,749 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 18,029 lb (8,178 kg)

Powerplant: 1 x Wright R-3350-24W air-cooled radial engine developing 2,500 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 321 mph (517kmh; 279 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,553 miles (2,500km)
Service Ceiling: 26,001 ft (7,925 m; 4.9 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,300 feet-per-minute (701 m/min)

Hardpoints: 14
Armament Suite:
4 x 20mm Cannons fitted to wings

12 x Rockets underwing
Up to 7,000 pounds of external ordnance including conventional drop bombs, torpedoes, machine gun pods, cannon pods and mine dispensers.

XBT2D-1 "Destroyer II" - Prototype Model Designation.

AD-1 - Fitted with R-3350-24W radial engine generating 2,500hp; 2 x 20mm cannons; 8,000lbs of underwing stores; 242 produced.

AD-2 - 156 produced featuring increased fuel capacity.



AD-3 - 125 produced; new canopy and landing gear system.

AD-3N - Night Attack Variant

AD-3Q - Electronic Countermeasures

AD-3W - AEW Radar-Toting Model

AD-4 - Fitted with R-3350-26WA engine generating 2,700hp; autopilot system implemented.

AD-4B - Nuclear capability; 4 x 20mm cannon; 165 produced.

AD-4L - Winterized Variant

AD-4N - Modified Variant to AD-4NA Standard

AD-4NA - Day Attack Variant

AD-4NL - Winterized Variant

AD-5 - Anti-Submarine Model of which 212 produced; two crew-seating in side-by-side configuration; widened fuselage.

AD-6 - Improved AD-4B versions; improved low-level bombing capability; 713 produced.

AD-7 - AD-6 version fitted with R-3350-26WB and reinforced substructure of which 73 were produced in total in this way.

A-1E - AD-5 Redesignated from 1962 standard onwards.

A-1H - AD-6 Redesignated from 1962 standard onwards.

A-1J - AD-7 Redesignated from 1962 standard onwards.

Cambodia; Central African Republic; Chad; France; Gabon; South Vietnam; Thailand; Sweden; United Kingdom; United States; Vietnam