Douglas Skyraider

One of the masterpieces of Douglas designer Ed Heinneman, the Skyraider was the result of experience gained from the SBD Dauntless and the abortive BTD Destroyer program, and although seemingly obsolete at the dawn of the jet age, would in fact serve far longer than all of its turbojet-powered contemporaries. In contrast with the Destroyer, with its large internal weapons bay and tricycle landing gear, Heinneman's team opted for a single-seat (although still quite large) taildragger design built around the Wright R-3350, and fitted to carry all of its weapons on external hardpoints.


XBT2D-1: Prototype; first flown in March 1945.

AD-1: Initial production variant; began equipping VA-19A in late 1946. 242 of the basic model were built, joined by 35 AD-1Q two-seater ECM variants.

AD-2: 156 aircraft with the R-3350-26W engine.

AD-2Q: 21 ECM models

AD-3: This designation was initially applied to a projected turboprop powered derivative, but was later applied to a piston powered model with a new canopy design and longer landing gear.

AD-3N: Night attack model.

AD-3Q: ECM model.

AD-3W: First production AEW model.

AD-4: R-3350-26WA engine.

AD-4B: -4 variant fitted out to deliver tactical nuclear weapons on loft bombing profiles.

AD-4L: Winterized model

AD-4N: 307 night-attack aircraft

AD-4NA: 100 -4Ns fitted for daytime missions with the specialized mission equipment deleted and a quartet of 20mm cannon fitted.

AD-4Q: ECM version.

AD-4W: AEW version. A total of 50 -4Ws were supplied to the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as Skyraider AEW.1s; these were deployed in four-plane detachments aboard British carriers until replaced by AEW Gannets in 1960, with thirteen then being sold to Sweden, where they were stripped of their radar and used as target tugs.

AD-5/A-1E: Multi-role model with a widened and slightly stretched fuselage, incorporating side by side seating.

AD-5W/EA-1E: 218 new-build AEW models.

AD-5Q/EA-1F: 54 ECM conversions.

AD-5N/A-1G: New build night attack model.

AD-6/A-1H: Single-seaters able to carry 3,500lb stores on the centerline; three dive brakes fitted. A-1Hs from the USS Constellation were part of the strike force that bomb North Vietnamese patrol boat and oil storage facilities in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents in August 1964; during this operation, Lt. Richard Sather became the first USN pilot to be killed in the Southeast Asia fighting, when his A-1 was downed by AAA.

AD-7/A-1J: Last production model; single-seater with R-3350-26WB and strengthened wing.

Production did not end until 1957, and attack models would remain on carrier decks for nearly another decade after that. The USAF was supplied with former Navy aircraft in the 1960s for counter-insurgency and SAR support over Southeast Asia, and these proved to be more useful than jets in many regards, being able to stay on station for extended periods and deliver massive quantities of cannon, bombs, and rocket fire. Survivors were turned over to the South Vietnamese Air Force in the early 1970s; the SVNAF had gained its first Skyraiders more than a decade previously to replace T-28s and F8Fs, and continued flying A-1s right up to the fall of Saigon in 1975.

The Skyraider ranked among the most powerful single piston engined aircraft of all time; AD pilots had to contend with a large amount of torque from the R-3350 engine and large prop. Just visible inside the cowl ring are some of the nose flaps.

Magazine Articles and Photos:

"New Bomber Packs Punch, Long Range" Naval Aviation News October 1946 Details the then-new Skyraider; includes a photo of one of the early aircraft in bare metal.

Douglas ad featuring the AD-1 Aviation October 1946 p.123

W. L. Whittier "Designed-In Maintenance Ease Keynoted in Douglas AD-1" Aviation April 1947 p.78-80 Several diagrams, including comparing the Skyraider's fuel system with that of the BTD-1.

Photo: AD-1 conducts carrier qualification aboard USS Sicily (CVE-118) Naval Aviation News October 1947 p.22

Photo: "Radar-Equipped AD3W Skyraider" Aviation Week November 7, 1949 p.16

"AD's try Cameras on B-36 - Prop Wash Makes Stern Run Poor" Naval Aviation News February 1950 p.19. VA-55 Skyraiders intercept B-36 over San Miguel.

"Guppy AD Wins Spurs" Conversion of VC-11 from AD-3s to AD-3Ws. Naval Aviation News May 1950 p.34

3-view profile: AD-4 Skyraider: Flight 27 February 1953 p.253

"Reservists Create Blue Tailed Fly" Naval Aviation News June 1954 p.30 Restoration of a crashed AD-4N at NAS Akron using components from stricken Skyraiders

Photo: VA-95 AD-6 launched from USS Hornet at anchor at Yokosuka, Japan. Naval Aviation News January 1955 p.30

Photo: VA-115 ADs from USS Kearsarge on China coast patrol. Naval Aviation News April 1955.

"AD-5N's Fly Around U.S. - Marines Tour Nation in Skyraiders" Naval Aviation News August 1955 p.5

Photo: AD of VA-75 launching from USS Independence. Naval Aviation News June 1961 p.14

Photo: AD-5 makes first official arrested landing at NAF Naples. Naval Aviation News December 1961 p.16

Photo: Skyraider tug WT949 / SE-EBB Air Pictorial December 1962 p.397

"U.S. Sending 75 Skyraiders to Vietnam" Aviation Week & Space Technology May 18, 1964 p.31

"A-1E Transition Training" Aviation Week & Space Technology May 25, 1964 p.25

"Vietnam pilots trained - VA-152 Det. Z shows A-1H use" Naval Aviation News January 1965 p.13

"Modified Ordnance Arms A-1Es Against Viet Cong Targets" Aviation Week & Space Technology January 4, 1965 p.20-21 5 photos

Photo: "Minigun Pod Mounted as A-1E External Store" Aviation Week & Space Technology April 26, 1965 p.57

Photo: A-1H making 122,000nd landing aboard USS Bon Homme Richard.Naval Aviation News February 1966 p.32

Photo: Stripped Skyraider hulk at Litchfield Park. Naval Aviation News February 1967 p.24 "VAW-33 retired EA-1E Guppies" Last ASW configured Skyraiders are retired at Quonset Point. Naval Aviation News April 1967 p.16

Photo: Skyraider being transported by a CH-54 Aviation Week & Space Technology August 21, 1967 p.45

Photo: Derelict AD-1. Air Classics May 1974 p.14

1/72 scale AEW Skyraider plans. Airfix Magazine November 1975 p.160-161

"Korean War Skyraiders" Scale Modeler October 1981 ESCI 1/48 scale AD-4W, AD-6

"Douglas Skyraider - Paint Schemes and Markings" Scale Modeler April 1983. Aircraft depicted include examples from VA-75 (USS Independence), VA-152 (USS Coral Sea), VA-155, VA-95 (USS Ranger) and VA-115 (USS Kitty Hawk).

Review of the Magna Models 1/72 Skraider Swedish target tug kit Scale Aviation Modeller July 1995 p.354

Photo: AD-2s of VA-194 / Carrier Air Group 19 at NAS Alameda, 1949. The Hook - Journal of Carrier Aviation Summer 1996 front cover.

Thomas Abbondi "Fist of the Fleet" Skymodel 14/07 p.18-25 A detailed look at building Revell's 1/72 two-seater Skyraider model.

Tom Sunley "Enter the Spad" Airfix Model World #25 Building the big 1/32 scale A-1H kit from Zoukei-Mura as an aircraft from VA-176 on the USS Intrepid.


Martin Streetly World Electronic Warfare Aircraft page 45: side view plans of AD-4W, AD-5Q/EA-1F page 46: photo of EA-1F BuNo 135018; page 47: Photo of EA-1E BuNo 139577 of VAW-33 with wings folded

Larry Davis Planes, Names and Dames Vol III 1955-1975 p.70 602nd Air Commando Squadron A-1E Corn Fed

Walter A. Musciano Warbirds of the Sea p.336: AD-4 side-view cutaway

Lou Drendel Air War Over Southeast Asia Vo. 3 1971-1975 p.13: artwork depicting a camouflaged South Vietnamese A-1E in action