By Tommy H. Thomason
Saturday, August 23, 2008
The Navy's VA(L) was to be a single-seat, single-engine attack airplane with an overload mission of 12 Mk 82 (500-lb) Snakeye bombs delivered at a radius of 600 nautical miles. Another key requirement was that it be "a modification of an airplane currently in the Navy inventory." The payload/range favored the use of the Navy's new TF30 engine.
Grumman considered proposing either a TF30-powered F11F or a single-seat modification of its A-6 Intruder with a single seat but the existing engines. The latter's size enabled it to easily exceed the payload/range requirement even though it did not have the fuel-efficient turbofan engine. (Although the A-6's size was a drawback from the spot factor standpoint, it could be mitigated by folding the horizontal tail; see http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2009/06/minimizing-spot-factor.html.) Grumman decided to offer the A-6 derivative believing that the low development cost and commonality with an existing airplane in the air group would trump the somewhat higher unit cost.
Douglas proposed a supersized version of its A4D.
North American did the same with its FJ-4.
Vought won the VA(L) competition with an F8U Crusader derivative with an even more creative interpretation of the "modification" requirement than Douglas or North American proposed.
For a last minute change in the Vought proposal, see http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2009/06/it-takes-all-running-you-can-do-to-stay.html