Monday, December 26, 2011


A-6 Intruder


A-6 Intruder

For over 30 years beginning in 1963 the A-6 was the Navy's long range, low level tactical strike aircraft.  Experience in the Korean War made it imperative the Intruder be capable of completing its mission without regard to weather conditions.  Until the arrival of the F-111 the A-6 was the only American aircraft able to perform at night over North Vietnam.  

A - 6

Crew:                    2 - pilot, bombardier/navigator

Power:                  2 - Pratt & Whitney 4222 kg / 9300 lb thrust J52-P-8B turbojets

Max. Speed:        1035 kph / 644 mph
Ceiling:                 12,932 m / 42,400 ft
Range:                  1627 km / 1011 miles
Climb:                    2621 m / 8600 ft per minute

Weight -
Empty:                  12,104 kg / 26,660 lb
Max. Take Off:     26,604 kg / 58,600 lb

Size -
Wingspan:           16.15 m / 53 ft
Wing Area:          49.13 sq m / 528.9 sq ft
Length:                 16.69 m / 54 ft 9 in
Height:                  4.93 m / 16 ft 2 in

                             8172 kg / 18,000 lb - nuclear or conventional ordnance or missiles



FA-6  Prowler

The Prowler is a four seat variation of the A-6 but having a primary role of ECM, Electronic Counter Measures.  Besides the pilot the crew includes three Electronic Weapons Officers who are responsible for radar suppression and the jamming of military communications.  The Prowler continued operation well after the A-6 was retired in the late 1990s.  


The training was for flying at night, coming in low over the target and releasing their ordnance.  The A-6 has no weapons for self-dense other than evasion and concealment.  The tactic worked over North Vietnam but withering antiaircraft fire brought down five Intruders in the first Gulf War, forcing them to fly at an altitude less vulnerable to cannon fire from the ground.  


The above graphic is the A-6 which is the basis for the EA-6 Prowler.  The Prowler is notable for  its four crewman cockpit, extended fuselage and bulged fintip atop its tail, which houses antennas associated with electronic warfare equipment.  Unlike the A-6 the Prowler is not normally armed but it is capable of carrying HARM, or High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, used to knock out radar sights.  

Landing aided by Split Trailing Edge Airbrakes

The Prowler is considerably heavier than the A-6 due to the weight of its ECM, Electronic Counter Measure, equipment.  Its systems are turned off while on board the carrier as their emitted microwave energy would be lethal to deck crew members.  

Carrier Launch

The A-6 has been replaced by the F/A-18 Super Hornet.  Its original designated successor, the A-12 Avenger, was scrapped by Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney due to the program's failure to meet design specifications.  Among other problems, the A-12 had grown 30 percent beyond its weight goal, a critical factor for carrier operated aircraft.  

Prowler among Intruders

As carriers grew in size so did their aircraft.  Space is always at a premium and expensive equipment is well secured to the deck.  The A-6 is designed to be an all-weather, night flyer, capable of completing missions in near zero visibility.  That means launch, and especially recovery, can be as treacherous as the mission itself.  


The nozzles of the A-6's Pratt & Whitney engines are turned slightly downward to improve the aircraft's lift.  For the Intruder payload, not speed, is more important.  Being able to linger over a target area at low speed is part of the Prowler's mission.  In both instances designing in increased lift capability is central to the aircraft's role.  

EA-6 with wing tanks, refueling probe

The EA-6 has replaced the Air Force's aging EF-111 Raven but the Prowler lacks both the Raven's speed and range.  The EA-6 is one of the Navy's most expensive aircraft and demand for their services exceeds their supply.  Although upgraded numerous times the Prowler has been in service for forty years.  

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