By Tommy H. Thomason

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Say Hello to My Little Friends

Between the Korean and Vietnam wars, one of the primary missions of the U.S. Navy attack carriers was the destruction of Chinese and Soviet military bases with nuclear weapons if the cold war became hot. In order to increase the number of nukes that could be delivered in the first wave, the A3D Skywarrior fleet was to be augmented by a squadron or two of diminutive A4D Skyhawks.

The Skyhawk was point designed to be as small as possible, so more could be accommodated on each carrier. One fallout of its minimum size and weight was the absence of a radar that would enable more accurate navigation at night or in poor visibility conditions.

A tactic to reduce the likelihood that the Skyhawk pilots would get lost en route was to have them fly on the wing of an A3D, which was not only equipped with radar but carried a crewman trained in the art of celestial navigation. The A3D crew would lead them to a visible landmark, at which point the A4D pilots would break off and all would continue independently to their assigned targets.

The capability was futher enhanced by the addition of aerial refueling equipment to the A3D as a tanker and the A4D as a receiver, thereby extending the Skyhawk's range. Nevertheless, its pilots still referred to their mission as one man, one bomb, one way.

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