Able to carry more payload than a four-engine B-17 Flying Fortress, the single-engine AD (later A-1) Skyraider was considered one of the finest attack and close air support aircraft ever built. Skyraiders proved critical during the Korean War, striking heavily defended industrial areas and key targets such as the Hwachon Dam. The Museum's aircraft is the last Skyraider flown on an attack mission, its last combat flight occurring over the jungles of North Vietnam.
The airplane that became the AD Skyraider (redesignated A-1 in 1962) evolved from a 1943 Navy decision to combine the dive-bombing and torpedo missions in one aircraft. The resultant AD could carry 8,000 lb. of ordnance, more than a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress. First flown in 1945, Skyraiders entered fleet service the following year. Later nicknamed "Spad" for its old-school approach to design and appearance that was reminiscent of the World War I aircraft, the AD earned its reputation as one of the finest attack aircraft ever built in the skies over Korea. Missions varied, including attacking heavily defended industrial and infrastructure targets, knocking out the Hwachon Dam with aerial torpedoes, and earning the affection of many a grunt with its close air support capabilities. Skyraiders were also modified to conduct electronic countermeasure and night attack missions. Aircrews appreciated the airplane's inherent ruggedness that brought them back despite heavy damage from enemy fire.
After the Korean War, Skyraiders continued to serve in multiple roles. Some AD pilots trained for nuclear war, practicing long-range flights to deliver nuclear bombs at low altitude. By the time of the Vietnam War, more modern aircraft had begun to assume the attack mission in Naval Aviation. Though transfer of A-1s to the Republic of Vietnam Air Force began as early as 1960, A-1s continued to fly in the U.S. Navy. A-1s were part of the first attacks against North Vietnam following the Tonkin Gulf Incident and in June 1965, a pair of Skyraiders shot down a North Vietnamese MiG-17 in air-to-air combat. In 1968, when increasingly sophisticated anti-aircraft defenses proved too hazardous for the slow "Spads," Navy A-1s ceased flying attack missions, though they continued to operate in the electronic countermeasures role until 1972. All told, 3,180 Skyraiders rolled off the Douglas Aircraft Company assembly line.
After acceptance by the Navy in June 1954, the Museum's AD-6/A-1H subsequently flew in several attack squadrons, including Attack Squadron (VA) 25 in Vietnam. Its last combat mission came in 1968 off the carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), flying rescue combat air patrol and providing close air support to Marines at Khe Sanh. It was the last combat mission of that cruise for VA-25 and the last for the Navy's Skyraiders. The flight was made by Lieutenant Junior Grade Theodore D. Hill Jr., who later flew the plane to Pensacola.
|Manufacturer:||Douglas Aircraft Company|
|Type:||Carrier-based attack aircraft|
|Powerplant:||One 2,700 horsepower Wright R-3350-26W engine|
Length: 38 ft., 10 in.
Empty: 12,094 lb.
Max Speed: 343 mph at 20,000 ft.
Four 20mm fixed forward-firing cannon and 8,000 lb. of ordnance