US Navy/Marine Corps all-weather attack aircraft. Upgraded E version equipped with FLIR turret for precision strikes. The Grumman A-6 Intruder can trace its roots back to the Korean War. Following the success of dedicated ground-attack aircraft, such as the Douglas A-1 Skyraider, during that conflict, the US Navy prepared preliminary requirements for a new carrier-based attack aircraft in 1955. This was followed by the issuance of operational requirements, which included all-weather ability, and a request for proposals in 1956 and 1957 respectively. Responding to this request, several aircraft manufacturers, including Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas, and North American, submitted designs. After assessing these proposals, the US Navy selected the bid prepared by Grumman. A veteran in working with the US Navy, Grumman had designed earlier aircraft such as the F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, and F9F Panther. Proceeding under the designation A2F-1, the development of the new aircraft was overseen by Lawrence Mead, Jr. who would later play a key role in the design of the F-14 Tomcat. Moving forward, Mead's team created an aircraft that utilized a rare side-by-side seating arrangement where the pilot sat on the left with the bombardier/navigator slightly below and to the right. This latter crewmember oversaw a sophisticated set of integrated avionics which provided the aircraft with its all-weather and low-level strike capabilities. To maintain these systems, Grumman created two levels of Basic Automated Checkout Equipment (BACE) systems to aid in diagnosing issues.
A swept-wing, mid-monoplane, the A2F-1 utilized a large tail structure and possessed two engines. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney J52-P6 engines mounted along the fuselage, the prototypes featured nozzles that could rotate downward for shorter takeoffs and landings. Mead's team elected not to retain this feature in the production models. The aircraft proved capable of carrying an 18,000-lb. bomb load. On April 16, 1960, the prototype first took to the skies. Refined over the next two years, it received the designation A-6 Intruder in 1962. The first variation of the aircraft, the A-6A, entered service with VA-42 in February 1963 with other units obtaining the type in short order. In 1967, with US Navy aircraft embroiled in the Vietnam War, the process began to convert several A-6As into A-6Bs which were intended to serve as defense suppression aircraft. This saw the removal of many of the aircraft's attack systems in favor of specialized equipment for employing anti-radiation missiles such as the AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-75 Standard. In 1970, a night-attack variant, the A-6C, was also developed which incorporated improved radar and ground sensors. In the early 1970s, the US Navy converted part of the Intruder fleet into KA-6Ds to fulfill a mission tanker need. This type saw extensive service over the next two decades and was often in short supply.
Introduced in 1970, the A-6E proved the definitive variant of the attack Intruder. Employing the new Norden AN/APQ-148 multi-mode radar and AN/ASN-92 inertial navigation system, the A-6E also utilized the Carrier Aircraft Inertial Navigation System. Continually upgraded through the 1980s and 1990s, the A-6E later proved capable of carrying precision-guided weapons such as the AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-65 Maverick, and AGM-88 HARM. In the 1980s, designers moved forward with the A-6F which would have seen the type receive new, more powerful General Electric F404 engines as well as a more advanced avionics suite.
Approaching the US Navy with this upgrade, the service declined to move into production as it favored development of the A-12 Avenger II project. Proceeding in parallel with the career of the A-6 Intruder was the development of the EA-6 Prowler electronic warfare aircraft. Initially created for the US Marine Corps in 1963, the EA-6 used a modified version of the A-6 airframe and carried a crew of four. Enhanced versions of this aircraft remain in use as of 2013 though its role is being taken by the new EA-18G Growler which entered service in 2009. The EA-18G employs an altered F/A-18 Super Hornet airframe. Entering service in 1963, the A-6 Intruder was the US Navy and US Marine Corps' primary all-weather attack aircraft at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and US entry into the Vietnam War. Flying from American aircraft carriers off the coast, Intruders struck targets across North and South Vietnam for the duration of the conflict. It was supported in this role by US Air Force attack aircraft such as the Republic F-105 Thunderchief and modified McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs. During the course of operations over Vietnam, a total of 84 A-6 Intruders were lost with the majority (56) downed by anti-aircraft artillery and other ground fire.
The A-6 Intruder continued to serve in this role after Vietnam and one was lost during operations over Lebanon in 1983. Three years later, A-6s participated in the bombing of Libya following Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's support of terrorist activities. The A-6's final wartime missions came in 1991 during the Gulf War. Flying as part of Operation Desert Sword, US Navy and Marine Corps A-6s flew 4,700 combat sorties. These included a wide array of attack missions ranging from anti-aircraft suppression and ground support to destroying naval targets and conducting strategic bombing. In the course of the fighting, three A-6s were lost to enemy fire.
With the conclusion of hostilities in Iraq, A-6s remained to help enforce the no-fly zone over that country. Other Intruder units conducted missions in support of US Marine Corps activities in Somalia in 1993 as well as Bosnia in 1994. Though the A-12 program had been cancelled due to cost issues, the Department of Defense moved to retire the A-6 in the mid-1990s. As an immediate successor was not in place, the attack role in carrier air groups was passed to LANTIRN-equipped (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) F-14 squadrons. The attack role eventually was assigned to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Though many experts in the Naval Aviation community questioned retiring the aircraft, the last Intruder departed active service on February 28, 1997. Recently refurbished and late-model production aircraft were placed in storage with Davis-Monthan Air Force Base's 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. Color scheme is for late 1990's. Specifications:
General: Length: 54 ft., 7 in.;
Wingspan: 53 ft.;
Height: 15 ft. 7 in.;
Wing Area: 529 sq. ft.;
Empty Weight: 25,630 lbs.;
Loaded Weight: 34,996 lbs.;
Power Plant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney J52-P8B turbojets;
Range: 3,245 miles;
Max. Speed: 648 mph;
Ceiling: 40,600 ft.;
5 hardpoints, 4 on wings, 1 on fuselage capable of carrying 18,000 lbs. of bombs or missiles
About this creation
Upper left view with the canopy open, boarding ladder deployed on the port intake, and RAT (Ram Air Turbine) deployed on the port rear wing root.
Top view. The RAT (Ram Air Turbine) can be seen on the rear of the port wing root. The dark areas on the wing roots and fuselage spine are non-skid walkways for maintenance personnel. The angle of the wing leading and trailing edges are easily seen here. This engineering problem was solved by utilizing a pivot point just outboard of the wing roots. The all-moving horizontal stabilizers use a similar method.
Upper left rear view, note the deployed RAT (Ram Air Turbine) and the downward slope of the wings and wing root.
Rear view. Note the contour of the underside of the fuselage.
Bottom view. The MER (Multiple Ejector Racks) filled with Mk 82 general purpose bombs can be easily seen, as can the landing gear bays and contour of the fuselage. The nose gear retracts rearwards, with a small front door with integral landing light closing to the rear over the pivot point, and two large side doors that clamshell closed over top of the main part of the bay. The main gear retract forwards into the wing roots, with the wheel rotating 55 degrees as it retracts to lie with the hub facing semi-downwards and two large doors closing over each gear.
Front view. You can't see them in the picture, but each intake has a fan blade inside.
The large radome open, showing the Norden AN/APQ-156 radar antenna, as well as the deployed boarding ladder. The dome below the open nose is the TRAM (Target Recognition and Attack Multi-Sensor) turret, housing a FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red), laser, and interfacing with the IBM AN/ASQ-155 attack computer.
The radome was challenging to recreate, as I had to model both the bulbous shape, as well as functionally able to hinge upwards correctly and hollow so as to allow the antenna to fit inside.
Cockpit closeup, showing the ejection seats, control panel with multifunction displays and radar display, control stick, and HUD (Heads Up Display). The shape of the sliding cockpit canopy was a distinct challenge as well.
The RAT (Ram Air Turbine) deployed. This is an emergency generator that pops out into the airstream in the event of loss of electrical power. The Intruder has utilized two variations, the one I modeled that opens to the rear, and a second version that opens towards the port wingtip. Mine uses a cover built into the top of the RAT, as well as a second cover that closes behind the RAT to fair it into the fuselage.
The tailhook. This is my second design, this time incorporating the characteristic white and black striped appearance typical of Navy aircraft. The tailhook retracts into a recess in the underside of the rear fuselage. The Intruder uses a "Y" shaped tailhook, as opposed to the typical monopole "stinger" style typical of most aircraft. Just forward of the tailhook is the two countermeasures stations, and a large ECM blister. The protrusion from the extreme aft of the tail is a fuel vent pipe for jettisoning fuselage fuel in an emergency.
The spoilers, flaps, and wingtip split airbrakes deployed. The spoilers (on top of the wings) disrupt the flow of air over the wing, "spoiling" lift, in this case working like an aileron to roll the aircraft by spoiling lift on one wing while the other continues to provide lift, causing the aircraft to roll. The flaps (trailing edge of the wing) change the curve (or camber) of the wing, providing more lift and allowing both a steeper angel of descent while allowing a lower airspeed, both important to carrier aircraft. The wingtip split airbrakes work to slow the aircraft by opening into the airstream. The Intruder originally was designed with large fuselage mounted airbrakes, just aft of the engine exhaust on either side of the rear fuselage. These were found to interfere with airflow over the horizontal stabilizers and were deleted from most aircraft, being replaced by the wingtip versions. However, some A-6As kept them, many being converted into EA-6A electronic warfare variants, as well as the A-6B defense suppression variant and KA-6D refueler variant.
Wings folded. Naval aircraft often feature folding wings to allow a larger number of aircraft to be stored and moved in the confines of an aircraft carrier. Grumman pioneered the concept of folding wings with the F4F-4 Wildcat (although technically not the FIRST aircraft to have folding wings, the Wildcat was the first SUCCESSFUL aircraft to have them, and the same fold mechanism survives today in the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound).
Side view with the wings folded. The model would most likely require weight in the forward fuselage to counteract the weight of the tail. Even scale models of the Intruder I have built have always been tail heavy, as recreating the actual weight and balance of a real aircraft with internal equipment is not really possible in model form.
Top view with the wings folded. The folded wings are barely the span of the horizontal stabilizers, greatly reducing the space the aircraft takes up in the crowded confines of a carrier where space is at a premium.
"In flight". Canopy closed, boarding ladder, RAT (Ram Air Turbine), and landing gear retracted, aircraft in "clean" configuration.
Bottom view of the "in flight" arrangement. Note the compound curve of the lower fuselage, and the bulges under the wing roots that house the landing gear.
Comparison with my McDonnell Douglas F-4S Phantom II. Both the Intruder and the Phantom served in the US Navy and Marine Corps, both entered service in the mid 1960's, seeing combat in the Vietnam War through the first Gulf War. The Navy retired their last Phantoms in the late 1980's, but the Marine Corps still equipped Reserve units into the early 1990's. The Intruder was finally retired in the early 2000's, although the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare variant continues to serve until it is replaced by the Boeing EA-18G Growler.
This aircraft is Amazing! As a former USN jet engine mechanic on F/A-18C birds, I can say, this model is incredible! Is there an LDD file you could send? Heck, send all your LDD files!! These are so realistic! firstname.lastname@example.org
Impressively accurate and great to see all of the working details, such as the trademark A-6 air brakes and that pop-up APU turbine. Do you think that the wings would hold up in real bricks? Brilliant work and a great base for a Prowler aircraft too.
Model features working landing gear, positionable sliding canopy, opening radome, positionable spoilers, flaps, and wingtip speedbrakes, positionable tailhook, opening RAT (Ram Air Turbine), moving tailplanes, and folding wings.