Dedicated electronic countermeasures (ECM) aircraft became critically important during the Cold War as radar developed with increasing accuracy not only for detection, but also as guidance for surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. Aircraft such as the EA-1F, based on the A-1 Skyraider, used ECM equipment to detect and jam enemy radar, providing clear avenues for inbound attack and fighter aircraft.
By the time the 500th AD Skyraider rolled off the Douglas Aircraft Company assembly line in 1949, the aircraft had undergone 22 modifications, reflecting the inherent versatility of a design that flew for another two decades in Navy colors. Among them were versions devoted to the electronic countermeasures (ECM) mission, their fuselages packed with a host of sophisticated sensory equipment including a radio receiver and search radar. The first of these ECM aircraft was the AD-1Q, and by 1956 the first AD-5Q (redesignated EA-1F in 1962) took to the air on its maiden flight.
The fifty-four AD-5N night attack versions of the Skyraider modified as AD-5Q ECM aircraft were distinguishable from conventional attack versions of the aircraft in their widened forward fuselages made to accommodate four crewmen. The aircraft retained provisions for a wing armament of four 20mm cannon and installation of bomb racks, though it was the equipment it carried to detect and jam enemy radar that was the aircraft's greatest offensive weapon.
EA-1Fs were on the scene in the skies over Vietnam during the months leading up to the escalation of American involvement in 1964, flying air defense missions out of South Vietnam. Subsequently, every carrier air wing operating from the Tonkin Gulf included a detachment of EA-1Fs to support strikes into North Vietnam.
Typical missions involved a pair of Skyraiders launching ahead of a strike to a position off the coast to monitor for enemy radar. Once a site was discovered, the aircraft flew to its vicinity, using jamming equipment and dispensing chaff to prevent it from locking on to incoming strike aircraft.
The last EA-1F combat flights occurred in December 1968, with Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 12 and Carrier Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 33 logging the final missions. A VAQ-33 detachment also logged the EA-1F's final carrier deployment aboard the flattop John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) the following year. The Museum's aircraft (Bureau Number 132532) was received from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 1972.
|Manufacturer:||Douglas Aircraft Company|
|Crew:||Pilot, navigator, and two ECM operators|
|Powerplant:||One 2,700 horsepower Wright R-3350-26-WA 2,700 engine|
|Dimensions:|| Length: 40 ft.|
Height: 15 ft., 8 in.
Wingspan: 50 ft.
|Weight:||Empty: 12,097 lb.|
Gross: 25,000 lb.
|Performance:|| Max Speed: 290 mph at 17,200 ft.|
Ceiling: 23,100 ft.
Range: 1,358 miles