Originally conceived in 1963 as a light attack aircraft to replace the Douglas A-4 “Skyhawk,” the A-7 developed into one of the best tactical fighter bombers ever fielded by U.S. forces. With speed of development at a premium, LTV capitalized on its F8 “Crusader” design format, but with considerable changes. With a shorter, fatter fuselage housing a non-afterburning TF-30 turbofan engine, a wing of lesser sweep without variable incidence and outboard ailerons, and a strengthened structure. The A-7 could carry a 15,000 pound load of munitions on 8 different stores stations, accommodating virtually the entire range of then current U.S. Naval aircraft ordinance. The “Corsair II“ was also one of the first combat aircraft to feature a head-up display (HUD), an inertial navigation system (INS) and a turbofan engine.
The A-7A first flew in September 1965 and the first operational U.S. Navy squadron aircraft was delivered in October 1966. The “Corsair II” entered combat in 1967 and became the Navy’s primary ground support aircraft during the Vietnam War. The A-7B succeeded the A model in production, incorporating an uprated 12,200 pound thrust TF-30-P-8 engine. The first B model flew on February 6, 1968 and was followed by 195 more, with deliveries completed on May 7, 1969. The A-7B entered combat service in Southeast Asia on March 4, 1969. The U.S. Air Force also adopted this original U.S. Navy design and its version, the A-7D entered service in 1968.
The U.S. Navy flew its final A-7E combat missions during the Gulf War in 1990, and the A-7D’s and A-7K’s were retired from active service in 1993. The aircraft was also exported to Greece in the 1970s, and to Portugal and Thailand in the late 1980s. The last operational A-7 was retired from the Greek Air Force in October 2014. The A-7, in all of its variants, had a remarkable record of success in flight operations and in combat. It was truly a very successful airplane.
This aircraft was restored by the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation Volunteers and is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation.