Douglas built 2,960 Skyhawks between 1954 and 1979. Built small to be cost effective and so that more could be accommodated on a carrier, the lightweight, high-speed bombers were affectionately nicknamed “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” (after Douglas designer Ed Heinemann), the Bantam Bomber, Mighty Mite and Scooter. Skyhawks provided the U.S. Navy and Marines and friendly nations with maneuverable, yet powerful, attack bombers that had great altitude and range capabilities, plus an unusual flexibility in armament capacity.
The Skyhawk A4D was roughly half the empty weight of its contemporaries and could fly at 677 mph at sea level. After 1956, it had provisions for in-flight refueling, and it carried anti-radar missiles on its wing racks. After 1966, it included a hump-like avionics pod. Upgraded models had improved engines and a drogue parachute, new avionics displays, larger cockpit canopies, and more ammunition for the two cannons. Two-seat trainer versions included the TA-4F, TA-4J and the TA-4K Series.
Its combat career began with the first American carrier-launched raids on North Vietnam, Aug. 4, 1964. Later, during Israel’s Yom Kippur war in 1973, Skyhawks provided much of the short-range striking power on the Sinai and Golan Heights fronts.
The Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron flew the A-4 Skyhawk II from 1974 to 1986. Skyhawks were also used by the armed forces of Argentina, Australia, Israel, Kuwait, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand, and they remained active with several air services into the 2000s.