The ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawk represents a Singaporean evolution of the Vietnam War-era Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bomber series.
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The A-4 Skyhawk originally appeared in 1956 as a product of the Douglas Aircraft Company, later absorbed into McDonnell Douglas. The aircraft proved a success as it saw considerable action in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and some 2,960 units were produced with operators spanning the globe. The United States gave up use of the series in 2003 (USN) and the Israeli Air Force followed in 2015 (trainer versions were the last to go). Operators continuing to service the line include Argentina (as the modernized "Fightinghawk"), Brazil, and Singapore - the latter operating what is referred to as the definitive variant of the Skyhawk.
As the A-4 was ending its frontline reign, Singapore took the initiative - with help from American defense industry powerhouse Lockheed Martin - to locally modernize and vastly upgrade the A-4S models it maintained. The charge fell to Singapore Aircraft Industries (SAI) (now ST Aerospace) and the company produced the newer A-4SU "Super Skyhawk" form. A first-flight was recorded on September 19th, 1986 with service introduction following in 1989. About 150 Skyhawks were rebuilt to this standard, the first eight completed by Lockheed Martin, and a dedicated single-seat strike form and two-seat advanced jet trainer form emerged. Only the latter (A-4SU) remains in service with the Republic of Singapore Air Force as of this writing (2016).
Singapore received its original 40-strong Skyhawk inventory from ex-United States Navy stocks beginning in 1970 and these batches were centered on B- and C-models, becoming the "A-4S" in Singapore service. Changes to these earlier machines included installation of a more powerful Wright J65-W-20 turbojet engine and updated navigation-attack system. Other modifications included an Automatic Direction Finder (ADF) hidden in a dorsal "hump" on the fuselage, a lengthened nose housing a new avionics fit, and support for the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" short-range Air-to-Air Missile (AAM). 2 x 30mm ADEN cannons replaced the original 2 x 20mm Colt Mk 12 cannons in most of these aircraft. C-models arrived in 1980 (70) with additional B-models coming in 1983 (16) with some held in reserve for spares and others converted to the S-standard.
To squeeze more life out of the existing inventory of still-useful-but-aging A-4S airframes (their engines were becoming more akin to museum pieces than proper military propulsion systems - thusly more expensive to maintain and repair with spare parts becoming increasingly hard to come by), a mid-1980s program (1984) was pushed through that saw the original Wright J65 turbojet engines replaced by non-afterburning General Electric F-404-GE-1000D turbofan engine of 10,800 lb thrust output. The avionics package was also upgraded to a more modern standard (AN/APG-145 Mapping and Ranging Radar, Litton LN-93 series Inertial Navigation System, GEC-Ferranti 4510 HUD, BAe Systems MED-2067 series MFDs) and the nose carried a Lockheed Martin "Pave Penny" laser seeker system for delivery of laser-guided munitions. A new CounterMeasures (CM) unit was installed and Radar Warning Receivers (RWRs) added at front- and rear-facing positions to help increase the product's battlefield survivability.
The program was broken down into Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 dealt with turbofan engines and involved Grumman and General Electric as the airframe had to accommodate the newer, larger and heavier engine which also forced a revision to the air intakes along the fuselage sides. The introduction of the F404 resulted in an immediate 15% increase to straightline speeds as nearly 30% more power became available to the airframe. This also led to an improved rate-of-climb (35%) and better initial thrust acceleration (up to 40% greater).
First-flight of a prototype was completed on September 19th, 1986 and service entry of this new mark was in 1989 through 143 Squadron, 142 Squadron and 145 Squadron (in that order) and the aircraft also formed the mount-of-choice for the "Black Knights" of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aerobatic team. 52 A-4S Skyhawks were converted to the A-4SU "Super Skyhawk" standard. Phase 2 involved Ferranti (BAe Systems) applying their advanced avionics kit detailed above.
"Super Skyhawks" served the Singapore Air Force for over thirty years and appeared across two distinct variants, the "A-4SU" built from A-4S-1 aircraft and the "TA-4SU" built from TA-4S and TA-4S-1 trainer aircraft. Final trainer forms have been succeeded by Italian-originated Alenia Aermacchi M-346 "Master" advanced jet trainers (detailed elsewhere on this site).
As finalized, A-4SU Super Skyhawks managed a maximum speed of 700 miles per hour, a range out to 2,000 miles with three drop tanks fitted, and a service ceiling up to 40,000 feet. Five hardpoints allowed for the carrying of missiles, guided ordnance, drop ordnance and rocket pods with three positions plumbed for fuel tanks.
[ 150 Units ] : ST Aerospace (Singapore Aircraft Industries) - Singapore / Grumman - USA
- Ground Attack
- Close-Air Support (CAS)
41.77 ft (12.73 m)
27.56 ft (8.4 m)
14.93 ft (4.55 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawk production model)
10,251 lb (4,650 kg)
22,498 lb (10,205 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawk production model)
1 x General Electric F404-GE-100D turbofan engine developing 10,800lb of thrust.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawk production model)
702 mph (1,130 kph; 610 kts)
40,026 feet (12,200 m; 7.58 miles)
2,001 miles (3,220 km; 1,739 nm)
10,915 ft/min (3,327 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawk production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
2 x 30mm ADEN internal cannons
Up to 9,900lb of externally-held ordnance across five hardpoints including Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs), Air-to-Surface Missiles (ASMs), rocket pods, laser-guided bombs, conventional drop bombs and up to 3 x jettisonable fuel tanks for increased range.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the ST Aerospace A-4SU Super Skyhawk production model)
A-4SU "Super Skyhawk" - Base Series Name; single-seat fighter-bomber form built from existing A-4S operational models.
TA-4SU "Super Skyhawk" - Tandem two-seat advanced jet trainer form.
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