Skyhawks Forever


On June 12, 1952,

the U.S. Navy contracted with Douglas Aircraft Company of El Segundo, California, to build one prototype XA4D-1 Skyhawk attack aircraft. Literally "hand built," XA4D-1, BuNo 137812, was the first of an eventual 2,960 Skyhawks to roll off the Douglas Aircraft Company assembly line. Powered by a Curtiss-Wright J65-W-16A engine, it had a one-piece windscreen, no tail-hook or refueling probe; and the "sugar scoop" exhaust baffle was not yet conceived.

The first Skyhawk flight, flown by Douglas test pilot Robert Rahn, took place at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 22, 1954.


"Why A-4s Rule the Furball!"
"There's hardly a combat mission that the A-4 Skyhawk hasn't flown, making it, in its new role, one tough old bird.

Every single person I've ever fought in one of these airplanes has died the first time I fought him. Every..." Randy Clark brandishes a model of the A-4 Skyhawk and tells me how the half-century-old design can whup far newer aircraft: F/A-18 Hornets, F-14 Tomcats-maybe someday even F/A-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

I need no convincing. In the 1970s, I'd flown in an A-4 variant, the two-seat TA-4J, at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Maryland's Patuxent River base. As an engineering student learning how to size up a fighter's combat performance, I'd experienced first-hand how this machine could out-hassle pretty well anything in the sky."

The Hotrod Squad by Graham Chandler
"Why A-4s Rule the Furball!"
June/July 2004 Issue of Air and Space Magazine

Dave Dollarhide demonstrates Skyhawk's Roll Rate

From A to M, the last of the Best, A-4M Skyhawk BuNo 160264

Major General Leblanc on acceptance of last Skyhawk 27FEB1979

The incredible 25 year Skyhawk production run, which began in February 1954 when A-4A Skyhawk BuNo 137812 was rolled out for engine run-up, came to an end on February 27, 1979 when the U.S. Navy accepted A-4M BuNo 160264 from McDonnel-Douglas. It was the 2,960th versatile and rugged Skyhawk manufactured by Douglas and by McDonnel Douglas and was delivered to VMA-331 based at Cherry Point, NC.

Marine Corp Lt.Col. M.R. (Sid) Snedecker, CO of VMA-331. Also in attendance were U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Robert P. Coogan, commander of Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet and U.S. Marine Corp Major General William R. Maloney, commanding general of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS El Toro.

Shortly after delivery to VMA-331 BuNo 160264 was transferred to NWC China Lake and subsequently spent time with NATC Patuxent River (7T-305 in 1985), with VX-5 (XE-15 in 1986) and with VMA-124 (QP-00 in 1990 & 1994) before being retired and transferred to the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, San Diego, CA, where she is on display in the markings of VMA-124, QP-00.



23 AUG 2003 - Last U.S.N. Active Duty Skyhawk Unit:

The "Redtails" of Composite Squadron Eight (VC-8) were the last U.S. Navy active duty unit to operate the Skyhawk on a regular basis. Flying the TA-4J out of Ofstie Field, Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; the "T" Birds were equipped with special electronics gear. VC-8 Skyhawks provided utility missions in support of fleet operations, close air support training for Marine, Army, and Special Force units, and operated in an adversary role in support of the Tomcat and Hornet RAGs. The "Redtails" TA-4Js were retired from active service in May 2003. The active duty life of the venerable Skyhawk in U.S. Navy fleet service began in late September 1956 and spanned more than 47½ years.
Note that today, several civilian companies are utilizing the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk to perform many of the duties, and more, that were previously performed by units such as VC-8. See our "Civilian Skyhawks" page.


VC-8 TA-4J BuNo 158137.

The story of one of the last retired U.S.N. Skyhawks and the U.S.S Hornet Museum.





Dave “Whizzer” White, DDS., Skyhawk Association Founder. comments on the Skyhawk & VC-8 Retirement.

1608 Jimmie Davis Highway
Bossier City, LA 71112

22 August 2003
Re: Skyhawk Retirement

Commander, Thomas J. McDonough, USN
Commanding Officer Fleet Composite Squadron Eight

Dear Skipper,

Thank you for shouldering the bittersweet task of striking our beloved little lady from the List of active US Navy Aircraft. You won’t find a Scooter pilot who doesn’t have a story told from the heart about their time in the A-4.

“…she was born in the fertile mind of a singular man. Designed, built and tested by men whose skills, experience and opinions won wars and plotted movements of nations. She was nurtured in the hands of the best the Navy had to offer and demonstrated her loyalty to those who flew her with a tangible affection carried for a lifetime."

With a smile she has been compared to a high school sweetheart – “Fast” enough to be interesting but slow enough to enjoy the ride…! She was there for many ‘firsts.’ For most she was our first FLEET aircraft. Many pilots logged their first carrier landing in an A-4 which set them apart and above any other form of military aviation. In the 1960’s she shared our fear for the unknown of war but when launched from ships into battle she became both our protector and companion in the transition from observer to warrior. It might have been her first time as well and like her pilots not all returned. Who doesn’t have a picture standing beside the aircraft with their name painted on the side – another first. Whether a first or a routine task, together, we did it well for over fifty years.

She has served with other nations where the language was, at first, unfamiliar but would fade as humps and lumps and bumps were added, probes bent and shortened to fit the mission of her new country. Regardless of the dialect a trust soon formed and soon the personalities of the airplane and the pilot would merge and once more she was effectively carrying out a nation’s policy.

Over time a rallying cry emerged that overcomes language barriers and politics. A phrase that ties all members of her team into one family. A simple phrase recognized by all who flew her and best explains the almost mystic feeling between the aircraft and her pilots. Please raise a glass for all of us who couldn’t be at the ceremony but who have slipped the surly bonds of earth in an A-4 to dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings and become a part of A-4’s FOREVER.

God bless our nation, our navy and the memory of the A-4 Skyhawk.

A-4’s FOREVER, Whiz!

Dave “Whizzer” White, DDS
Founder, Skyhawk Association



Skyhawk - First / Last Milestones

FIRST LAST Milestone Events   [updated 08dec17daw]
21 JUN 52   Contract awarded to Douglas Aircraft Company for XA4D1 Aircraft
26 JUL 52   Preliminary design begins by Douglas.
13 OCT 52   Authority to proceed given to Douglas.
01 FEB 54   XA4D-1 aircraft rollout at Douglas El Segundo Plant
22 JUN 54   First flight of XA4D-1 piloted by Bob Rahn at Edwards Air Force Base.
00 OCT 54   Authority to proceed for A4D-2 is given to Douglas.
12 SEP 55   First Carrier Trials of A4D-2 aboard U.S.S. Ticonderoga.
15 OCT 55   A4D-1 sets world speed record for 500Kilometer closed course at 695.163mph; LT Gordon Gray.
26 MAR 56   First A4D-2 flight, test pilot Dur Wood of Douglas.
27 SEP 56   First fleet delivery of A4D-1; to VA-72 at Quonset Point, RI.
29 SEP 56   First delivery of A4D-1, BuNo 139920, to USMC VMA-224.
00 JAN 58   First "E"s earned by A-4s, accomplished at VA-34.
21 AUG 58   First Flight A4D-2N
00 OCT 58   First Deployment 300 Gallon Drop Tanks.  A4D-2 with VA12 aboard USS Forrestal
00 OCT 58   First Night Quals in Night Air/Air Refueling.     A4D-2 & VA12 aboard USS Forrestal
00 OCT 58   First Buddystore equipped Standby Tanker.     A4D-2 with VA12 aboard USS Forrestal
00 JAN 59   U.S.S. Intrepid Landing Record with A4D-2 of VA-106
00 JUL 59   First Skyhawk Trans-Atlantic with BuddyStore, accomplished by Marine Air Wing 2 - A4D-2s
00 SEP 59   First Operational Bullpup firing by a Skyhawk . VA-34 in the Atlantic Fleet
01 FEB 60   Fleet Deliver of A4D-2N.   VMA-225
15 APR 60   Authority to proceed for A-4G for Australia.
00 MAY 60   Authority to proceed with A4D-5 given to Douglas.
00 APR 61   First Bullpup firing in Fleet Air,  Jacksonville Area with VA-46
00 JUL 61   1000th Skyhawk rolls off the Douglas production line
12 JUL 61   First Flight A4D-5
  00 DEC 62 Last Delivery A-4C  (A4D-2N)    
26 DEC 62   First unit to receive A-4E . VA-23 Black Knights
08 FEB 64   First Driver to get 100 landings in A-4E was Dale Evans
00 JUL 64   Authorization to proceed with the TA-4E.
04 AUG 64   First Skyhawk Raids into North Vietnam
05 AUG 64   First Skyhawk lost to combat in Vietnam.    VA-144 BuNo 149578
25 APR 65   Shrike Missile into combat via a Skyhawk .  VA-23 Black Knights with A-4E
01 JUN 65   First Skyhawk lands at Chu Lai, Vietnam.     BuNo147779, VMA-225, Col. J. Noble
30 JUN 65   First Flight TA-4E which is quickly re-designated TA-4F
00 DEC 65   Contract to Douglas to modify A-4Bs to A-4P for Argentina.
  01 APR 66 Production ended on A-4E
16 APR 66   Authority to proceed with TA-4G for Australia
19 MAY 66   First Fleet Deployment of TA-4F at VA-125 NAS Lemoore CA.
31 AUG 66   First A-4F Flight   [A converted "E"]
10 OCT 66   Authority to proceed with A-4H for Israel.
11 MAR 67   First Walleye fired in combat. VA-212 CO CDR H. Smith - SE Asia
01 MAY 67   A-4C shoots down a MiG in Vietnam with Zuni rockets.
00 JUN 67   Fleet Delivery A-4F
19 JUL 67   First flight of A-4G. Test Pilot Jim Stegman
21 JUL 67   First flight of TA-4G. Test Pilot Jim Stegman
27 JUL 67   First Delivery A4-G & TA-4G produced for Australia
27 OCT 67   First flight of A-4H produced for Israel. Test pilot John Lane.
01 NOV 67   First Skyhawk Unit equipped with Walleye .     VA-212 a/c modified for Walleye
03 JUL 68   Authority to proceed with A-4K and TA-4K for New Zealand.
00 xxx 68   Authority to proceed with TA-4J.
17 DEC 68   First Flight of TA-4J
00 xxx 69   First Deployment TA-4J     VT-17 NAS Kingsville TX
15 APR 69   First flight TA-4H
06 JUN 69   First factory to fleet delivery of TA-4j
21 AUG 69   First flight of A-4L. (upgraded A-4C)
10 NOV 69   First flight of A-4K
05 DEC 69   First flight of TA-4K
10 APR 70   First flight of A-4M. Test pilot Walt Harper.
00 OCT 71   First "Production" A-4M BuNo. 158148.     VMA-324 MCAS Beaufort, SC.
16 APR 71   Fleet Delivery A-4M to VMA-324 MCAS Yuma AZ.
08 JUN 72   First flight A-4N
  06 SEP 72 Last USN Skyhawk lost to combat in Vietnam. VA-212 BuNo 155021
  26 SEP 72 Last USMC Skyhawk lost to combat in Vietnam. VMA-211 BuNo151099
  27 JAN 73 Last Skyhawk Bomb Dropped in Vietnam.  Col. John Caldas, CO VMA-311
00 SEP 73   A-4F Skyhawks selected for use by the Blue Angels.
00 xxx 74 00 xxx 86 Skyhawks fly with the Blue Angels Demonstration Team.
10 JAN 75   Authority to proceed with A-4KU and TA-4KU for Kuwait.
  00 DEC 75 Last USN A-4 Line Squadron dis-established.
20 JUL 76   First flight of A-4KU
14 DEC 76   First flight of TA-4KU
  27 FEB 79 Last Production A-4 Delivered - BuNo160264 . #2,960, a "Skyhawk II" A-4M to VMA-331
  00 SEP 99 TA-4s retired from VT-7
  00 MAY 03 Last USN Active Duty Skyhawk Flight. VC-8 TA-4J to Palm Springs Airport
  23 AUG 03 Formal Retirement of the Skyhawk in the USN. VC-8 Red Tails Deactivation NAS Oceana.


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