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Douglas A-1 Skyraider (AD-1)

Single-Engine, Single-Seat Fighter-Bomber / Ground Attack Aircraft

Douglas A-1 Skyraider (AD-1)

Single-Engine, Single-Seat Fighter-Bomber / Ground Attack Aircraft


The multi-role Douglas A-1 Douglas Skyraider more than proved its worth during a storied career that included time in the skies over Vietnam.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1946
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Douglas Aircraft Corporation - USA
OPERATORS: Cambodia; Central African Republic; Chad; France; Gabon; South Vietnam; Thailand; Sweden; United Kingdom; United States; Vietnam
National flag of Cambodia
National flag of Central African Republic
National flag of Chad
National flag of France
National flag of Gabon
National flag of South Vietnam
National flag of Sweden
National flag of Thailand
National flag of United Kingdom
National flag of United States
National flag of ; Vietnam
Technical Specifications

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Douglas AD-1 Skyraider model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
POWER: 1 x Wright R-3350-24W air-cooled radial engine developing 2,500 horsepower and driving a four-bladed propeller unit at the nose.








nautical miles


2 OR 4 x 20mm autocannons in wings (model dependent)

Between 6,000 lb and 8,000 lb of stores set across fifteen external hardpoints to support various ordnance including rockets, rocket pods, torpedoes, mine dispensers, conventional (and nuclear) drop bombs, and fuel tanks.
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo
Graphical image of an air launched nuclear weapon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft external fuel tank
Variants / Models

• 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-1Q
• AD-2Q
• 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.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Douglas A-1 Skyraider (AD-1) Single-Engine, Single-Seat Fighter-Bomber / Ground Attack Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/25/2019. Authored by Dan Alex. Content ©
Throughout World War 2 (1939-1945) the United States Navy (USN) - like the United States Air Force (USAF) - undertook a myriad of programs in an effort to find more modern, capable solutions to meet wartime requirements. Beyond its crop of fighters, the service looked to improve its stock of dive bombers and torpedo bombers as the war in the Pacific expanded. Additionally, the ground strike role was evolving and many existing fighters were quickly turned into fighter-bombers but lacked a hefty ordnance-carrying capability and the ranges needed to cover the vast expanse of the Pacific Theater.

Skyraider Origins

Douglas had attempted to sell the USN on several "large" carrier-based aircraft designs in an effort to keep USN interest in Douglas aircraft products for as long as could be had. However, many projects became stillborn or forgotten ventures so an all-new approach was taken with the next attempt. The initiative was born through talks with USN authorities in June of 1944 and veteran Douglas engineers (including famous aircraft designer Ed Heinemann) immediately went to work, producing a large fighter concept in short order. The presented proposal from Douglas was enough to win over the USN and order for fifteen (later increased to twenty-five) prototypes under the "XBT2D-1" designation was handed down on July 21st.

The speed at which the war evolved also dictated development windows of wartime aircraft ventures and the XBT2D-1 proved no different. The design team had the mockup completed in August for review and a premium was placed on expediency so many existing components and proven design elements were incorporated into the new aircraft. Much thought was also given to the design based on first-hand accounts from pilots in the field and company personnel bringing these notes back stateside. The prototype was unveiled in February of 1945 and the aircraft flown for the first time on March 15th of that year - the XBT2D-1 coming in both under weight and some four months ahead of the intended development schedule.

Skyraider Walk-Around

The XBT2D-1 appeared as if an oversized fighter and was, on the whole, a most conventional looking aircraft for the time. Engineers did away with the idea of an internal bomb load to open space for fuel and other applicable equipment. Ordnance carrying capability came from the straight wing appendages which provided for seven hardpoints each. Additionally there lay a single hardpoint under the fuselage. At least two underwing positions and the fuselage centerline hardpoint were also plumbed for external fuel stores while internal fuel all resided in a single tank. A powerful Wright R-3350-8 supercharged radial piston engine of 2,300 horsepower was fitted in the nose and this drove a large four-blade propeller unit. Immediately aft of the engine compartment lay the single-seat cockpit under a bubble canopy offering elevated views over the nose and wings. As the aircraft was expected to fly in low against enemy air defenses the cockpit was protected with over 200 lb of armor plating. The wings were fixed ahead of amidships bringing most of the aircraft's mass forward. The fuselage was largely tubular in shape though somewhat deep (and awkward looking) in profile. The lower rear fuselage sides were slab-sided and contained dive brake panels with a third panel added to the belly. The tail unit utilized a rounded vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes. A typical "tail-dragger" undercarriage arrangement was used with the main legs retracting rearwards under the wings. An arrestor hook was fitted under the tail and the wing mainplanes were designed to fold outboard of the main legs for carrier storage.

The fifteen total hardpoints - coupled with the massive engine output - allowed for up to 6,000 lb of external stores to be carried. Standard armament included 2 x 20mm cannons (later four) installed in the wings. These weapons could be used as both an offensive and defensive measure by the pilot (as seen in the wars to follow).

The USN received the aircraft for trials in April of 1945 and, beyond some slight issues, the aircraft won over test pilots and authorities. With the war in Europe over in May of that year - and Japan to follow in August - the XBT2D-1 product was allowed to survive and was not cancelled as so many other programs were in the post-war drawdown. Instead, the USN cut its production order to help ease delivery of the product which was adopted as the AD-1 "Skyraider".

As such, the Skyraider missed out on combat actions in World War 2.

Skyraiders Over Korea

Nevertheless, the Skyraider was acquired in numbers significant enough to make up the strike arm of United States Navy carrier groups heading into the Korean War (1950-1953). It was also taken on by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) who could appreciate a heavy ordnance hauler for Close-Air Support (CAS). As the AD-1, Skyraider aircraft received their baptism of fire over the Korean Peninsula despite the arrival of jet fighters by this time - Skyraiders showcased better range and loitering times as well as ordnance flexibility when compared to thirsty jet fighters with limited air-to-ground armament. First actions for AD-1s were on July 3rd, 1950 from the deck of USS Valley Forge (CV-45). The Skyraider recorded its only air kill of the war on June 16th, 1953 when a USMC Skyraider claimed a Polikarpov Po-2 "Mule" biplane. Beyond its traditional bombing sorties, Skyraiders accounted for other missions inthe theater including radar jamming and night strikes. The Hwacheon Dam was struck by a torpedo released by a Skyraider back on May 2nd, 1951 - torpedo delivery being one of the Skyraiders original battlefield roles when developed. Skyraider losses in Korea totaled 128 aircraft though 27 of this total was to non-combat-related incidents - particularly tricky handling of the powerful aircraft.

Douglas A-1 Skyraider (AD-1) (Cont'd)

Single-Engine, Single-Seat Fighter-Bomber / Ground Attack Aircraft

Douglas A-1 Skyraider (AD-1) (Cont'd)

Single-Engine, Single-Seat Fighter-Bomber / Ground Attack Aircraft

Skyraiders Over Vietnam

Despite the growing stock of American Navy jets, the Skyraider remained a primary player in USN service heading into the latter part of the 1950s. As such, they were once again pressed into combat service during the Vietnam War (1955-1975) where their endurance and ordnance-hauling proved the aircraft an excellent prop-driven design for the attack role. Initial operations involving Skyraiders was on August 5th, 1964. Its air-to-air prowess was exemplified somewhat when a pair of NVAF Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 jet fighters were claimed to cannon fire during June of 1965 and October of 1966 - the slower-moving Skyraiders gaining the advantage over the faster-moving jets. Inherently good loitering times also allowed Skyraiders to stay on station over downed pilots to provide CAS until rescue helicopters arrived. By the end of the war, Skyraiders began to give way to the inbound stock of Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Grumman A-6 Intruder, and Vought (LTV) A-7 Corsair II jet-powered strike platforms. Ex-USN Skyraiders made it into the inventory of the USAF and the South Vietnamese Air Force (SVAF) by the end of the war and - from 1973 onwards - all in-theater Skyraiders were strictly under SVAF usage. Total Skyraider losses in the Vietnam War were 266 aircraft - 201 of these under the USAF banner.

Foreign Service

As USN jets took over Skyraider territory, other Skyraider operators began to emerge. The South Vietnamese Skyraiders were reconstituted by the North following the end of the Vietnam War (some also ended their service days in Cambodia and Thailand). The French Air Force purchased over 100 former USN Skyraiders for colonial defense duty where they were used in the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962). The British Royal Navy took on a stock of 50 aircraft for the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) role from 1951 onwards and knew these as the "Skyraider AEW.Mk 1". Fourteen RN models were then sold off to Sweden and these served from 1962 to 1976 before ending their tenures as target tugs. Other foreign operators became the Central African Republic, Chad, and Gabon. The last Skyraiders in service were retired from the Gabonese Air Force in 1985.

The End

Total production of Skyraiders was 3,180 aircraft manufactured during the span of 1945 to 1957. The turbo-prop-powered Douglas A2D "Skyshark" was born from the Skyraider line as a possible USN attack aircraft product - though only twelve were ever completed. First flight of a prototype was on March 26th, 1950.

Skyraider Variants and Designations

Because of the wide reaching 1962 redesignation of American warplanes, the Skyraider carried several major designations and served under many marks. XBT2D-1 was the original single-seat dive bomber / torpedo bomber prototype for USN consideration which begat the alternative three-seat XBT2D-1N prototype of which three were completed. XBT2D-1P was a one-off prototype for a photographic reconnaissance mark. XBT2D-1Q was another one-off to provide the basis for a two-seat Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) platform. A single prototype was also made for BT2D-2 as the XAD-2 with increased fuel capacity and intended as an improved attack platform.

Original production models were the AD-1 which numbered 242 in all. The AD-1Q became a two-seat ECM platform based on the AD-1 production model and 25 examples followed. AD-1U was outfitted with radar countermeasures and could tow aerial targets while lacking engine water injection and armament capabilities. XAD-1W was a prototype made to serve in the AEW role and became 31 examples of the AD-3W in service.

AD-2 followed as an improved mark over the AD-1. These introduced the Wright R-3350-26W radial engines of 2,700 horsepower output. 156 aircraft were built to this standard. AD-2D was a little-remembered variant used in post-nuclear data collection and were operated by remote control. AD-2Q was built in 21 examples from the AD-2 as a two-seat ECM aircraft. AD-2QU was a radar countermeasures platform in the same vein as the AD-1U before it (lacking armament and water injection) - only one example was realized.

The AD-3 became the aforementioned A2D Skyshark experiment with turboprop engine so the AD-3 designation was later reused as a continuation of the direct AD Skyraider line with reinforced fuselage, longer landing gear legs, and a new canopy design. 125 of this mark were produced. The AD-3S became an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) platform though only two prototypes of this model existed. Fifteen AD-3N three-seat night attack forms were produced. The AD-3Q was another ECM model of which 23 examples followed. AD-3QU became a target tower and AD-3W served in the AEW role through 31 aircraft.

AD-4 brought about reinforced landing gear legs, navigational improvements, cockpit upgrades, new radar, support for underwing rockets, and 4 x 20mm cannon as standard armament. 372 of this mark were completed. AD-4B was a special mission model capable of delivering a nuclear bomb and existed in 165 new-build aircraft as well as 28 converted models. AD-4L was a winterized model for Korean service and 63 aircraft were acquired. AD-4N were 307 examples of a three-seat night attack model. AD-4NA designated 100 AD-4N aircraft with their night mission equipment removed. The AD-4NL were 36 conversions of AD-4N aircraft. AD-4Q existed as a two-seat ECM aircraft and saw 39 examples procured. AD-4W was a three-seat AEW platform of which 168 were delivered. 50 of these later came under British Royal Navy service as the Skyraider AEW Mk.1

The AD-5 model used a unique side-by-side cockpit layout and completed without the usual dive brake arrangement. 212 of this type were realized. 239 examples of te AD-5N, a four-seat night attack platform, were seen. The AD-5Q was a four-seat ECM model and converted from 54 existing airframes. AD-5S served as a one-off prototype for Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) ASW equipment testing. AD-5W was a three-seat model for AEW service and 218 were completed. UA-1E was a utility-minded variant of the AD-5 mark.

AD-6 was built in 713 examples as a single-seat attack platform with ordnance carrying capabilities up to 3,500 lb. The AD-7 followed though outfitted with the Wright R-3350-26WB engine and life extension improvements added. This marked the last official Skyraider production model with 72 being completed.

In the 1962 revision, the AD-1 Skyraider became the A-1 Skyraider and its various marks followed. A-4D became the A-1D, AD-5 was the A-1E, AD-5N was the A-1G, AD-5Q was the EA-1F, AD-6 was the A-1H, and AD-7 was the A-1J.


General Assessment

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating
The MF Power Rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (321mph).

Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Douglas AD-1 Skyraider's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (3,180)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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