USS Intrepid

Attack Squadron 15 (VA-15).

 

  • August 1965: Although scheduled to transition to the A-6 Intruder, VA-15 began training under VA-44 for transition to the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.
  • 4 April–21 November 1966: VA-15 deployed to Vietnam as a component of CVW-10 embarked on USS Intrepid. CVW-10 was an all-attack air wing composed of four attack squadrons, two squadrons flying A-4 Skyhawks and two squadrons with A-1 Skyraiders.
  • 15 May 1966: The squadron flew its first combat mission since March 1945 when it was designated VT- 4 and a member of Carrier Air Group 4.
  • 1967: VA-15 again returned to Southeast Asia on the USS Intrepid

 

The jet-powered follow-on to the Skyraider in the light attack aircraft category was the subsonic Douglas Skyhawk series that first showed up in US Navy and US Marine Corps service in 1956. It eventually served in a variety of versions. The pre-1962 designation system labelled them the A4D-1, the A4D-2, A4D-2N, and the A4D-5. In 1962, they became respectively the A4-A, the A-4B, A-4C, and the A-4E.

This picture shows the size comparison between the USS Forrestal on the right, a Forrestal-class carrier, and the USS Intrepid (CVA-11), a modernized Essex-class carrier with an angled flight deck, seen on the left. The USS Forrestal suffered two large accidental fires, the worst of which occurred in 1967 and killed 134 crewmen and wounded another 161. The same fire also destroyed twenty-one aircraft.

Even as Project SCB-27A was progressing, new advancements in both carrier and carrier aircraft designs compelled the US navy to adjust its plans. It was decided that six additional unmodified Essex-class carriers would go through a new upgrading process, as well as the USS Oriskany, already upgraded under SCB-27A.

The previously unmodified Essex-class carriers to go through this new upgrade programme, labelled Project SCB-27C, included the USS Intrepid (CV-11), USS Ticonderoga (CV-14), USS Lexington (CV-16), USS Hancock (CV-19), USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) and USS Shangri-La (CV-38).

Project SCB-27C included the addition of a new more powerful British-designed steam catapult system and the removal of one of the carrier’s two centreline elevators. The deleted aft (rear) near centreline elevator was replaced by another deck-edge elevator located aft of the carrier’s islands on the starboard side. Another design change was an increase in the carrier’s beam of 11 feet.

In October 1952 the US navy classified the majority of its modernized Essex-class carriers as ‘attack carriers’ and assigned them the new letter suffix designation code ‘CVA’. The CVAs normally carried a combination of aircraft (i.e. fighters and fighter-bombers) and attack aircraft, assigned the letter suffix ‘AD’, the latter being capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Also carried on board the CVAs were special-purpose aircraft such as photo reconnaissance and airborne early warning planes, the first of the latter being the WF-1 Tracer.

The first three Essex-class carriers modified under Project SCB-27C – the USS Intrepid, USS Ticonderoga and USS Hancock – were retro-fitted with angled flight decks to conform to the Project SCB-125 standard in 1957. In addition, eight of the nine Essex-class carriers that had previously received the Project SCB-27A upgrades were fitted with angled flight decks under Project SCB-125.

Of the various post-war modernization upgrades, only the USS Oriskany went through Project SCB-27A, Project SCB-27C and Project SCB-125 upgrades. The carrier was also the only Essex-class vessel to be fitted with an aluminium flight deck in place of the standard unarmoured metal flight deck covered with wooden planking.

Another design feature that appeared on the Essex-class carriers brought up to the Project SCB-125 standard was an enclosed hurricane bow in place of the original open bow space. As time went on, all the post-war modernized Essex-class carriers that went through Project SCB-27A and Project SCB-27C were retro-fitted with enclosed hurricane bows. All four surviving Essex-class carriers currently preserved as museum ships – USS Yorktown (CVS-10), USS Intrepid (CVS-11), USS Hornet (CVS-12) and USS Lexington (AVT-16) – were brought up to the Project SCB-125 standard.

USN Attack Planes

Before the Hornet appeared on US Navy carriers, there were a number of aircraft dedicated to the attack role that flew from carriers during the postwar years. The first of these was the Douglas Skyraider that came in numerous models, AD-1 through AD-7, with sub-variants of each model, not all being employed by the US Navy and US Marine Corps. In 1962, the last three models of the Skyraider built were re-labelled. The AD-5 became the A-1E, the AD-6 became the A-1H, and the last model, originally designated the AD-7, was re-labelled as the A-1J.

The Skyraider was a prop-driven aircraft originally designed during the Second World War, but did not begin appearing on US Navy carriers until 1949. It saw service in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars before being retired by the US Navy in 1968. Total production of the Skyraider numbered 3,180 units, with many being employed by the US Air Force during the Vietnam War, but not the Korean War.

The Skyraider was not the only prop-driven specialized ground attack aircraft adopted by the US Navy in the early postwar years. There was the Martin AM-1 Mauler, but it did not live up to expectations and was in service only from 1948 until 1953, before the US Navy withdrew it in favor of the better performing Skyraider. Only 151 units of the Mauler were built.

The jet-powered follow-on to the Skyraider in the light attack aircraft category was the subsonic Douglas Skyhawk series that first showed up in US Navy and US Marine Corps service in 1956. It eventually served in a variety of versions. The pre-1962 designation system labelled them the A4D-1, the A4D-2, A4D-2N, and the A4D-5. In 1962, they became respectively the A4-A, the A-4B, A-4C, and the A-4E.

Appearing in US Navy and US Marine Corps service after 1967 was the A-4F model of the Skyhawk that can be easily identified by the upper fuselage hump pod that contained additional avionics. One hundred units of the A-4C were later rebuilt to the A-4F model standard and designated the A-4L. They served only with US Navy Reserve squadrons. The US Marine Corps employed 158 units of the aircraft designated A-4M Skyhawk, that had a more powerful engine and improved avionics.

The last production unit of the A-4M was delivered to the US Marine Corps in 1979, with the Skyhawk series being withdrawn from US Marine Corps service in 1998, and US Navy use in 2003. A total of 2,960 units of the aircraft were built, with over 550 being two-seat trainers.

The eventual replacement for the Skyhawk on US Navy carriers in 1966 was the Vought A-7 Corsair II. It saw combat in the Vietnam War and remained in service long enough to be employed during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. It was retired soon after that Middle Eastern conflict. In total, the US Navy acquired 997 units of the Corsair II, with 60 being two-seat trainers, designated the TA-7C. The Corsair II was not adopted by the US Marine Corps, which preferred to stay with the Skyhawk, until it could be replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet. The Corsair II also served with the USAF and several US allies.

Supplementing the light attack Skyhawk and Corsair II, beginning in 1963, and eventually replacing them on US Navy carriers was the Grumman A-6 Intruder, classified as a medium attack aircraft. The Intruder was an all-weather aircraft that could also operate at night. Its baptism in combat was the Vietnam War, with the initial model labelled the A-6A. Later versions included the A-6B, A-6C, and the final model, the A-6E that entered service in 1970.

Over 700 units of the Intruder eventually entered service with the US Navy and US Marine Corps. The latter retired their Intruder inventory in 1993 and the US Navy in 1996. It was the last dedicated attack aircraft in US Navy and US Marine Corps service.

A variant of the Intruder still in service is the EA-6B Prowler, which is an electronic-warfare (EW) aircraft intended to degrade enemy air-defense systems by jamming their electronic signals or killing them with anti-radiation missiles. The aircraft first entered service in 1971 with the US Navy and US Marine Corps. It will be retired from US Navy service in 2015, but retained by the US Marine Corps until 2019.

There was also an aerial refuelling version of the A-6 Intruder, designated the KA-6D. It could carry over 3,200 gallons of jet fuel that was transferred to other aircraft by hose-and-drogue pods. In total, ninety units of the KA-6D were placed into service by converting older model Intruders to the new role. Due to age-related fatigue problems, the aircraft is no longer in service with the US Navy.

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