Hi, I’m Eric Boehm, curator of aviation here at the Intrepid Museum.
Today, we’re gonna to take a look at the A-4 Skyhawk, one of the most important
carrier airplanes of the Vietnam War.
The Skyhawk was developed in the early 1950s by
Douglas Aircraft lead designer Ed Heinemann.
The design was a response to the Navy’s requirement
for a jet powered aircraft to replace the older reciprocating engine, A-1 Skyraider.
Designed during a time when it seemed like aircraft were getting
larger and more complex, the Skyhawk was very different.
Heinemann’s team took a radical approach to the design.
Instead of a larger airplane, they came up with a small, lightweight, easily
The airplane actually half the size of what the Navy expected from the specification.
Because of its size, the Skyhawk could easily operate from
smaller, older aircraft carriers like the Intrepid.
The basis of the design was simplicity.
By hanging the weapons in the fuel tanks underneath the wing and fuselage, the
airplane could remain compact.
So small, in fact, that the complexity and weight of the folding wing system was
not needed, something nearly every other naval aircraft needs.
Another useful feature was in-flight refueling through the
in-flight refueling boom on the front of the aircraft.
The pilot can attach to another airplane called the tanker, but the Skyhawk could
not only receive more fuel, it could be the tanker.
Carrying a pod called a “buddy store”, the Skyhawk can lower the in-flight
refueling hose to another airplane, needing fuel.
The Skyhawk is one of the iconic aircraft of the Vietnam War.
It bore the brunt of the Navy’s fast attack needs until larger, more
sophisticated aircraft came online.
For more behind the scenes videos, visit IntrepidMuseum.org.
To learn more about the museum’s Vietnam era
aircraft, be sure to check out “On The Line: Intrepid in the Vietnam War”
a new exhibit opening October 16, 2015.