Scooter! The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Story

Published: November 28th, 2011     
Author: Tommy H. Thomason
Reviewed by: Steve Collins - IPMS# 33811
ISBN #: 978-0-85979-160-1
Other Publication Information: Hardback, 272 Pages, 350+ photos, line drawings, charts, published 2011
Price: $44.95
Product / Stock #: AD160
Product provided by: Specialty Press

It's hard to think of an aircraft that has had a longer career than the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, frequently called the Scooter. That career started in 1954 (a very good year, by the way) and continues to this very day. The design was the result of Ed Heinemann's efforts to give the Navy the attack aircraft it wanted while making it fit on any aircraft carrier the Navy used. The maximum unfolded wingspan the Navy stipulated for carrier aircraft, 27' 6", determined the span of the A-4. The ability to carry the then-current Mk. 7 nuclear weapon resulted in the stalky landing gear with which we're all familiar. The product of Heinemann's genius was a reliable aircraft that could carry a useful weight of weapons a considerable distance while being tough enough and maneuverable enough to bring the pilot home after delivery.

This book starts with the background of naval aviation procurement at the time of the A-4's development. Most aircraft were getting bigger, faster, and more expensive. Douglas broke the mold and delivered an aircraft that was small enough to fit easily on carriers, fast enough to do the job needed to be done, and cheap enough that the Navy could afford to buy it.

The rest of the first half of the book covers growth and development of the basic aircraft from the A4D-1, as it was originally known, through the very capable and widely used A-4E, to the final versions of the A-4M. Comparisons are made throughout between the A-4 and its contemporaries, such as the F11F Tiger and the FJ-4B Fury. There is fairly detailed coverage of the competition between the A-4 and the A-7 for the follow-on attack aircraft. Some interesting bits of reading concerned some of the weapons that were tried with the aircraft, both those that worked and those that didn't.

The second half of the book covers the A-4's involvement in combat in Vietnam and in other conflicts and air forces around the world. Also covered in some depth is its use in the naval adversary role and by the Blue Angels.

To demonstrate the length of service, the A-7, chief rival of the A-4 in its later years and its intended successor, is scheduled to be retired from service in Portugal within a very short time. A-4s continue in service in Argentina, Brazil, Israel, and Singapore and look to do so for at least several more years. Additionally, several companies fly A-4s in contracted support roles for air forces and navies around the world.

This book is well written, interesting, and informative. Tommy Thomason continues to maintain his reputation as an expert on US naval aviation. Illustrated with over 350 photos, with a large percentage of them being color, and dozens of line drawings and charts, this book is highly recommended to any enthusiast of modern naval aviation and especially to fans of the Scooter, Ed Heinemann's Hotrod!

I would like to thank Crecy Publishing and Specialty Press for providing the book and John Noack for providing me the opportunity to review it.

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