Douglas A-4A Skyhawk
The A-4 is jet-powered, carrier-based, light attack aircraft developed to replace slower propeller-driven attack aircraft in the mid-1950s. The Skyhawk could carry a substantial payload, including nuclear weapons. Despite its small size, its payload was greater than the much larger B-17 Flying Fortress used extensively in World War II. These capabilities were battle proven when the Skyhawk served as an elite ground attack aircraft throughout the Vietnam War and beyond.
The Skyhawk was one of the first aircraft in the United States’ military arsenal to utilize the delta-wing (full triangle wing shape) design. Although it is not a pure delta-wing configuration because it also has tail-mounted horizontal stabilizers, the greater wing surface contributed to the Skyhawks excellent maneuverability. The power and maneuverability of the aircraft led to its selection as the official aircraft of the United States Navy Blue Angels demonstration team from 1975-1986.
The small size and excellent maneuverability are also the reasons it was chosen to play the role of enemy fighters during advanced training for air-to-air “dogfighting” with Navy and Marine Corps pilots. Skyhawks flown by experienced instructors challenged the skills of pilots in larger fighter aircraft. The A-4 was featured in this role in the 1986 aviation action movie, Top Gun.
The Skyhawk (Bu # 139956), on display at the Aviation History & Technology Center, entered service on December 21, 1956 and was retired in April 1969. During its career, it served onboard the carriers USS Saratoga, USS Wasp and Naval Air Stations across the country. Late in its career, it was designated a TA-4A and performed training missions with United States Navy Reserve squadrons.
June 22, 1954
U.S. Usage (all models)
*still operated by foreign governments and private parties as of 2020
39 ft. 4 in.
27 ft. 6 in.
Max. Takeoff Weight
1 x Curtiss-Wright J-65-W-16A
Used By (all models)
U.S. Marine Corps
Numerous foreign nations