Grumman A-6 Intruder


This designation was given to eight prototypes and pre-production aircraft, used in the development of the A-6A Intruder.


The initial version of the Intruder was built around the complex and advanced DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack/Navigation Equipment), intended to provide a high degree of bombing accuracy even at night and in poor weather. DIANE consisted of multiple radar systems: the Norden AN/APQ-92 search radar and a separate AN/APQ-112 for tracking, AN/APN-141 radar altimeter, and AN/APN-153 Doppler to provide position updates to the AN/ASN-31 inertial navigation system. An air-data computer and ballistics computer integrated the radar information for the bombardier/navigator (BN) in the right-hand seat. TACAN and ADF were also provided for navigational use. When it worked, DIANE was perhaps the most capable nav/attack system of its era, giving the Intruder the ability to fly and fight in even very poor conditions (particularly important over Vietnam and Thailand during the Vietnam War). It suffered numerous teething problems, though, and it was several years before its reliability was established.

Total A-6A production was 488, including six pre-production prototypes. Many of the surviving aircraft were converted to other variants.


To provide Navy squadrons with a SEAD aircraft to attack enemy air defense and SAM systems--a mission dubbed "Iron Hand" in Navy parlance: 19 A-6As were converted to A-6B standard from 1967 to 1970. The A-6B had many of its standard attack systems removed in favor of special equipment to detect and track enemy radar sites and to guide AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-78 Standard anti-radiation missiles. Five were lost in combat, and the rest were later converted to A-6E standard in the late 1970s.


12 A-6As were converted in 1970 to A-6C standard for night attack missions against the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam. They were fitted with a TRIM (Trails/Roads Interdiction Multi-sensor) pod in the fuselage for FLIR and low-light TV cameras, as well as a "Black Crow" engine ignition detection system. One of these aircraft was lost in combat, the others were later converted to A-6E standard after the war.


In the early 1970s some 78 A-6As and 12 A-6Es were converted for use as tanker aircraft, providing aerial refueling support to other strike aircraft. The DIANE system was removed and an internal refueling system was added, sometimes supplemented by a D-704 refueling pod on the centerline pylon. The KA-6D theoretically could be used in the day/visual bombing role, but it apparently never was, with the standard load-out being four fuel tanks. Because it was based on a tactical aircraft platform, the KA-6D provided a capability for mission tanking, the ability to keep up with strike packages and refuel them in the course of a mission. A few KA-6Ds went to sea with each Intruder squadron, and the retirement of the aircraft left a gap in USN and USMC refueling tanker capability. The USN S-3 Viking also has an aerial refueling capability, but its performance and fuel capacity effectively limit it to the role of recovery tanker. The loss of mission tanking capability was only later remedied by the new F/A-18E Super Hornet, which can act as a mission tanker.


The definitive attack version of the Intruder, introduced in 1970, with its first deployment 9 December 1971, with vastly upgraded nav/attack systems. The original search and track radars of the A-6A were replaced by a single AN/APQ-148 Norden multi-mode radar, and the onboard computers with a more sophisticated (and generally more reliable) solid-state electronic system. A new AN/ASN-92 inertial navigation system was added, along with the CAINS (Carrier Aircraft Intertial Navigation System), for greater navigation accuracy.

Beginning in 1979, all A-6Es were fitted with the AN/AAS-33 DRS (Detecting and Ranging Set), part of the TRAM (Target Recognition and Attack, Multi-Sensor) system, a small, gyroscopically stabilized turret, mounted under the nose of the aircraft, containing FLIR boresighted with a laser spot-tracker/designator and IBM System/4 Pi computer. TRAM was matched with a new AN/APQ-156 Norden radar. The BN could use both TRAM imagery and radar data for extremely accurate attacks, or use the TRAM sensors alone to attack without using the Intruder's radar (which might warn the target). TRAM also allowed the Intruder to autonomously designate and drop laser-guided bombs. In addition, the Intruder used AMTI (Airborne Moving Target Indicator) which allowed the aircraft to track a moving target (such as a tank or truck) and drop ordnance on him even though the target was moving. Also, the computer system allowed the use of Offset Aim Point (OAP), giving the crew the ability to drop on a target unseen on radar by noting coordinates of a known target nearby and entering the offset range and bearing to the unseen target.

In the early 1990s some surviving A-6Es were upgraded under SWIP (Systems/Weapons Improvement Program) to enable them to use the latest precision-guided munitions, including AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84E SLAM, AGM-62 Walleye and the AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile. After a series of wing-fatigue problems, about 85% of the fleet was fitted with new graphite/epoxy/titanium/aluminum composite wings.

A-6E models totaled 445 aircraft, about 240 of which were converted from earlier A-6A/B/C models.

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Wikipedia: A-6 Intruder