Planned in 1963 as the successor to the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk for the US Navy and Marines, the A-7 Corsair II proved so effective that it was also chosen by the USAF to replace the F-100 Super Sabre and F-105 Thunderchief. The prototype flew for the first time on September 27, 1965, and production commenced on 199 of the A-7A version. This was followed by the more powerful A-7B (196 machines, first flight February 6, 1968). The variant designed for the USAF was the A-7D, which took off on April 5 furnished with a different kind of engine and modified both with regard to armament and electronics. Deliveries of the 459 models of the A-7D which had been ordered took place from September 1970 to December 1976. In 1969 a new version was produced for the US Navy, the A-7E, which became the principal type built (after the first 67 machines, known as A-7C), with 529 planes up to March 1981. Among minor variants were the TA-7C and the A-7K, two-seater trainers for possible operational use by the US Navy and the US Air National Guard; and the A-7H and A-7P for Greece and Portugal. It was much used in Vietnam; the first A-7As received their baptism of fire on December 4, 1967.
On August 15, 1973, the day when hostilities ended between the United States and North Vietnam, an A-7D Corsair of the USAF carried out the last attack on territory north of the 20th parallel. Although this was coincidental, there can be no doubt that this type of aircraft was, during the second half of the war, the most effective instrument of American tactical bombing of North Vietnam. Designed by Vought at the behest of the US Navy, both for its own requirements and those of the Marine Corps, who used it in the A, B and E versions, it was also chosen to replace the Thunderchief by the USAF, who deployed it in Vietnam in the D version, with the 354th TFW, based at Korat in Thailand, from the end of 1971. The first Marine A-7As went into action in December 1967, being assigned to the VA-147 Squadron on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger, and soon proved themselves worthy of the name Corsair, given them in memory of the famous World War Two fighter. Furthermore, the A-7s could be used more intensively than other carrier-based planes because, for the first time, they were equipped with a round-the-clock landing system. Even before the A-7Ds of the USAF became operative, the US Navy A-7Es, improved versions, had reached Vietnam. From the beginning of August 1973, Marine Corsairs carried out more than 90,000 missions, losing only 54 machines as a result of enemy action. The USAF, whose first A-7Ds only went into action on March 29, 1972, had no time to exploit their exceptional qualities.
Aircraft: Vought A-7D