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LTV A-7 Corsair II

Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft

United States | 1967

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

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 09/28/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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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 F4U "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.

The A-7A was produced in 199 examples and featured the same powerplant of the developmental-minded YA-7A. The follow-up production model became the A-7B which installed the TF-30-P-8 engine of 12,190lb thrust and these were later modernized with the TF30-P-408 engine of 13,390lb thrust and had their original AN/APQ-115 terrain-following radars (as featured in the A-models) replaced by the AN/APQ-116 series. Total production of B-models reached 196 examples.

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Sixty-seven examples of the A-7C model followed and these carried a TF30-P-408 engine of 13,400lb thrust output. They were eventually featured with the avionics/armament suite of the upcoming A-7E model. A trainer form emerged as the TA-7C and this featured a two-seat cockpit for student and instructor while being forged from 24 examples of the existing A-7B stock as well as 36 pulled from the A-7C total.

The United States Air Force (USAF) realized the value of the A-7 as a strike platform and ordered its own batch from Vought as the A-7D. These were fitted with the license-built Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan (as the local Allison TF41-A-1) and gave up the 2 x 20mm cannon approach for a simplified 1 x 20mm M61 "Vulcan" internal "Gatling-style" cannon arrangement. They carried AN/APN-185 nav radar and AN/APG-126 terrain-following radar. The "Pave Penny" laser tracker and maneuvering flaps were also part of the product. Serial manufacture became an impressive 459 total example of which many were handed to Air National Guard (ANG) units and saw their combat debut over Vietnam in 1972.

The USN followed the USAF and adopted the A-7D model as the A-7E with modifications to suit carrier-based operations. The nav radar became the AN/APN-190 kit and the terrain-following radar was the AN/APQ-128 series. Its engine was the Allison TF41-A-2 of 15,000lb thrust and Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) was standard. Production was an even more impressive 529 units for the service.

There were several other less-notable marks to emerge. The YA-7F "Strikefighter" - also known as the A-7D "Plus" - was a proposed upgrade which included a Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofan (the same as featured in the McDonnell Douglas F-15 "Eagle" and General Dynamics F-16 "Fighting Falcon" offerings) which would have given the line a supersonic capability. Its fuselage was stretched for more internal space. This program only netted two prototypes before the endeavor was given up for good.

The A-7G was a proposed mark for export to Switzerland though none were realized before the end. The A-7H was exported to Greece through 60 examples and lacked the in-flight refueling capability of its American brethren. Its two-seat trainer model was the TA-7H. The EA-7L was a two-seat "electronic aggressor" platform serving squadron VAQ-34 and pulled from the TA-7C stock to become eight examples. These were later upgraded to the A-7E standard. The A-7K were thirty airframes used as trainers by the ANG. Portugal received some 44 ex-USN A-7A models fitted with TF30-P-408 series engines and A-7E avionics. Trainer forms followed as TA-7P and were pulled from USN A-7A stocks numbering six total examples. The YA-7E and YA-7H were two-seat private venture products offered by LTV but fell to naught.

As a combat platform, the A-7 series succeeded its expectations. Of the nearly 13,000 sorties flown over Vietnam by the aircraft, just six were counted lost in the whole of the war. It proved itself one of the most accurate bomb-delivery platforms during the conflict. The line saw additional combat service in the Grenada invasion (1983) and in actions over Lebanon that same year. During 1986, the aircraft was used against Libyan in targeting Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) positions. The aircraft was then featured in the 1991 Gulf War where its precision strike capabilities were used to good effect. During the contest, the aircraft also flew as converted aerial refueling tankers with success. Some of its final service with American forces came in the training role for the Lockheed F-117 "Nighthawk" stealth fighter program where its subsonic qualities were equal to that of the next-generation, radar-evading bomber.

Final A-7s in American service were retired during 1993 and the Portuguese Air Force gave up use of the type in 1999 followed by the Hellenic Air Force in 2014. Thai A-7s are under a "non-operational" status and can be presumed officially retired bringing an end to the operational service life of this fine aircraft. Many have survived as preserved museum showpieces.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the LTV A-7E Corsair II Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft.
1 x Allison (Rolls-Royce) TF41-A-1 turbofan engine developing 15,000 lb of thrust.
659 mph
1,060 kph | 572 kts
Max Speed
42,999 ft
13,106 m | 8 miles
Service Ceiling
564 miles
908 km | 490 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the LTV A-7E Corsair II Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft.
46.1 ft
14.06 m
O/A Length
38.7 ft
(11.80 m)
O/A Width
16.1 ft
(4.90 m)
O/A Height
18,942 lb
(8,592 kg)
Empty Weight
42,000 lb
(19,051 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the LTV A-7 Corsair II Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft provided across 8 hardpoints.
2 x 20mm single-barrel internal automatic cannons (early).
1 x 20mm M61 six-barrel rotary internal automatic cannon (later).

Armament across eight external hardpoints (two side-fuselage positions reserved exclusively for AIM-9 "Sidewinder" AAMs) for the carrying of:

AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air missiles, conventional drop bombs, Laser-Guided Bombs (LGBs), AGM-65 "Maverick" air-to-service missiles, munition dispensing pods, rocket pods, and jettisonable fuel tanks.

Hardpoints Key:

Not Used
Notable series variants as part of the LTV A-7 Corsair II family line.
YA-7A - Prototype Model Designation of which 3 produced; fitted with Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-6 non-afterburning turbofans engines capable of 11,350lb 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 12,200lb of thrust; 196 produced.
A-7C - TF309-P-408 turbofan capable of 13,400lb of thrust; 67 produced.
A-7D "Corsair II" - TF41-A-1 powerplant capable of 14,500lb 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 15,000lb of thrust; forward-tracking infra-red sensor 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 - Eight TA-7C twin-seaters modified to the Tactical Electronic Warfare (TEW) role equipped with jamming and ECM pods; crew of two in tandem.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the LTV A-7 Corsair II. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1,569 Units

Contractor(s): Vought / Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) - USA
National flag of Greece National flag of Portugal National flag of Thailand National flag of the United States

[ Greece; Thailand; Portugal; United States (retired) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (659mph).

Graph Average of 563 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
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Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Developments of similar form-and-function, or related, to the LTV A-7 Corsair II Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft.
Going Further...
The LTV A-7 Corsair II Carrier-Borne Strike Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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