Douglas Skyraider
Design and development

The A-1 was originally designed to meet World War II requirements for a carrier-based, single-place, long-range, high performance dive-/torpedo bomber. Designed by Ed Heinemann of the Douglas Aircraft Company, the Skyraider was ordered in July 1944 as the XBT2D-1. In April 1945, one month after its first flight on 18 March 1945, it was evaluated at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC). In December 1946, after a designation change to AD-1, delivery of the first production aircraft to a fleet squadron was made to VA-19A.

The AD-1 was built at Douglas' El Segundo plant in Southern California. In his memoir The Lonely Sky, test pilot Bill Bridgeman describes the routine yet sometimes hazardous work of certifying AD-1s fresh off the assembly line (quoting a production rate of two aircraft per day) for delivery to the US Navy in the 1949-1950 time frame.

A-1H Skyraider
[Source: Jack Cook Collection]

The low-wing monoplane design started with a Wright R-3350 radial engine, later upgraded several times. Its distinctive feature was the presence of seven hardpoints on each wing. The large straight wings give it excellent low speed maneuverability, and enable it to carry a tremendous amount of ordnance over a considerable combat radius and loiter time for its size, comparable to much heavier subsonic or supersonic jets. The aircraft is optimized for the ground-attack mission, and is armoured against ground fire in key locations, unlike faster fighters adapted to carry bombs such as the F4U Corsair or P-51 Mustang which would be retired by US forces long before the 1960s.

The piston engined prop-driven Skyraider was a postwar follow-on to World War II dive bombers and torpedo bombers such as the Helldiver and Avenger. It was replaced in the 1960s by the A-4 Skyhawk as the Navy's primary light attack plane. Used over Korea and briefly over North Vietnam, it was adopted as the primary ground support attack for the U.S. Air Force and South Vietnamese VNAF during the Vietnam war, before being supplanted by the jet powered A-37 Dragonfly and A-7 Corsair II.

Wikipedia: A-1 Skyraider