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A-6 Intruder Grumman
A-6 Intruder
Attack Bomber

DESCRIPTION:
Needing to replace the elderly A-1 Skyraider piston-engined attack plane that dated back to the end of World War II, the US Navy instigated a competition to develop a day/night, all-weather, long-range, low-level, jet-powered attack aircraft. After reviewing eleven designs from eight manufacturers, Grumman's G-128 was selected the winner in 1957, and the company preceeded to develop the A2F-1 (later redesignated A-6A) for both the Navy and Marine Corps.

Unlike most planes of the era designed for supersonic flight and high performance, the A-6 sacrificed speed and maneuverability for exceptional bombing accuracy and payload capacity. The rather conventional design featured a mid-mounted swept wing equipped with full-span slats along the leading edge and nearly full-span single-slotted flaps along the trailing edge. Instead of ailerons, the A-6 wing employed large spoilers located just ahead of the flaps to provide roll control when deflected differentially and to act as lift dumpers when deflected together. These wingtips also split open to act as airbrakes during landing. The bulbous fuselage provided space for a large attack radar, side-by-side seating under the cockpit canopy, two J52 turbojets fed by large cheek inlets, and a sophisticated array of electronic countermeasures and threat receivers.

Despite early development troubles, the A-6 emerged as a superb attack aircraft in Vietnam where its advanced avionics suite, heavy payload, large fuel capacity, and sturdy construction made the Intruder one of the most durable and versatile planes in the theater. The most successful variant was the A-6E equipped with a powerful multi-mode tracking and terrain-following radar and equipped to carry laser-guided bombs. The TRAM upgrade program saw the installation of the Hughes Target Recognition and Attack, Multisensor turret located under the nose. This pod contained a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), laser designator, and laser receiver. Further upgrades throughout the 1980s and 1990s allowed the A-6 to carry the latest array of precision guided munitions. Several A-6Es were also fitted with improved cockpit lighting systems compatible with night vision goggles. These features enabled pilots to reduce the low-level cruising altitude from 500 ft (150 m) to 200 ft (60 m) at night.

Although the Navy had shown interest in an upgraded A-6F equipped with even more capable avionics and a new radar, the program was cancelled following the decision to build the A-12 Avenger. Grumman's later attempt to develop a cheaper A-6G also failed, but the Navy did pursue a series of structural and avionics upgrades to extend the service life of the A-6E into the mid-1990s. Nevertheless, both the Navy and Marine Corps A-6 fleets were withdrawn following the Gulf War. The final front-line squadron was retired in 1997. The duties of the A-6 were split between the F/A-18 attack fighter, upgraded models of the F-14 equipped with precision bombing capability, and the S-3.

Data below for A-6E
Last modified 17 March 2012

HISTORY:
First Flight (YA2F-1) 19 April 1960
(EA-6A) 1963
(EA-6B) 25 May 1968
(KA-6D) 23 May 1966
(A-6E) 27 February 1970
(A-6E/TRAM) 22 March 1974
(A-6F) 26 August 1987
Service Entry (A-6A) 1 February 1963
(EA-6B) July 1971
Retirement (A-6E) 1997

CREW: two: pilot, weapons officer

ESTIMATED COST:

(A-6E) $43 million [1998$]

AIRFOIL SECTIONS:
Wing Root NACA 64A009 mod
Wing Tip

NACA 64A005.9 mod

DIMENSIONS:
Length 54.75 ft (16.69 m)
Wingspan 53.00 ft (16.15 m)
25.33 ft (7.72 m) folded
Height 16.17 ft (4.93 m)
Wing Area 528.9 ft (49.13 m)
Canard Area

not applicable

WEIGHTS:
Empty 27,615 lb (12,525 kg)
Normal Takeoff unknown
Max Takeoff 58,600 lb (26,580 kg) catapult launch
60,400 lb (27,395 kg) land-based
Fuel Capacity internal: 15,940 lb (7,230 kg)
external: 10,050 lb (4,560 kg) in five 400 gal (1,515 L) drop tanks
Max Payload

18,000 lb (8,165 kg)

PROPULSION:
Powerplant (A-6A) two Pratt & Whitney J52-6 turbojets
(A-6E) two Pratt & Whitney J52-8B turbojets
Thrust (A-6A) 17,000 lb (75.62 kN)
(A-6E) 18,600 lb (82.74 kN)

PERFORMANCE:
Max Level Speed at altitude: 625 mph (1,005 km/h), Mach 0.94
at sea level: 645 mph (1,035 km/h), Mach 0.85
cruise speed: 475 mph (765 km/h)
Initial Climb Rate 7,620 ft (2,325 m) / min
2,120 ft (645 m) / min [with one engine]
Service Ceiling 42,400 ft (12,925 m)
21,000 ft (6,400 m) [with one engine]
Range typical: 880 nm (1,630 km) [with max payload]
ferry: 2,820 nm (5,220 km)
Endurance unknown
g-Limits +6.5

ARMAMENT:
Gun none
Stations five external hardpoints
Air-to-Air Missile AIM-9 Sidewinder (rarely carried)
Air-to-Surface Missile AGM-12 Bullpup, AGM-45 Shrike, up to two AGM-62 Walleye, up to four AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-78 Standard ARM, up to two AGM-84 Harpoon, up to two AGM-84 SLAM, up to four AGM-88 HARM, up to two AGM-123 Skipper II
Bomb up to four GBU-10/12/16 Paveway laser-guided, up to three B57/61 nuclear, up to 22 Mk 81/82 GP or ten Mk 83 GP or three Mk 84 GP, up to 22 Mk 7/20 Rockeye, up to 28 CBU-78, up to 20 Mk 117, up to 22 Mk 77 Napalm
Other ECM pods, up to 10 2.75-in rocket pods, up to 10 5-in Zuni rocket pods, up to 26 ADM-141 decoy drones, D-704 buddy-buddy refueling pod, mines

KNOWN VARIANTS:
YA2F-1 or YA-6A Development prototype ordered in March 1959, the first four were fitted with swiveling engine nozzles to provide additional lift at takeoff; 8 built
A-6A Production attack plane first delivered to the US Navy in February 1963; 482 built
EA-6A Electronic countermeasures and intelligence gathering platform based on the A-6A airframe; 6 converted (3 YA-6A, 3 A-6A) and 21 built
NA-6A YA-6A and A-6A airframes devoted to special test duties; 6 converted
A-6B A-6A airframes modified to carry the AGM-78 Standard ARM (anti-radiation missile) in place of the AGM-12 Bullpup; 19 converted
A-6C A-6A airframes modified with improved night-attack capability by the addition of FLIR (forward-looking infrared) and low-light TV equipment in a turret under the fuselage; 12 converted
KA-6D Originally ordered as a new production model but instead former A-6A airframes modified for use as in-flight refueling aircraft equipped with a hose and drogue unit in the rear fuselage and TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation) instrumentation, also retained day attack capability and could be operated as an air/sea rescue control platform; 78 converted
A-6E Advanced new-build attack bomber with an improved multi-mode nav/attack radar, and an automated attack and weapons-delivery system; about 120 built and 240 A-6As converted
A-6E/TRAM Target Recognition Attack, Multisensor (TRAM) upgrade applied to the A-6E fleet that saw the installation of a chin turret containing a FLIR and laser-designator, CAINS (carrier airborne inertial navigation system), an automated carrier-landing system, and the ability to carry precision guided bombs
A-6E/SWIP A-6E upgrade introducing the ability to carry stand-off precision attack weapons such as Maverick, Harpoon, SLAM, and HARM; later upgrades added a HUD for the pilot, revised wing fillets, and additional fuel
A-6F Proposed improved attack bomber with new engines, new radar, updated cockpit displays, and ability to carry air-to-air missiles; cancelled when the Navy decided to develop the General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II stealth attack aircraft; 5 prototypes built
A-6G Proposed cheaper alternative to the A-6F; not built
EA-6B Prowler Improved electronic countermeasures aircraft equipped with up to 5 underwing and underfuselage jammer pods, also retrofitted to carry AGM-88 HARM missiles

KNOWN COMBAT RECORD:

Vietnam War (USN, USMC 1965-1972)
Lebanon - US Multinational Force (USN, 1982-1983)
Libya - Operation Attain Document (USN, 1986)
Libya - Operation El Dorado Canyon (USN, 1986)
Persian Gulf - Operation Praying Mantis (USN, 1988)
Iraq - Operation Desert Storm (USN, USMC, 1991)
Iraq - Operation Southern Watch (USAF, 1991-1994)

KNOWN OPERATORS:

United States (US Marine Corps)
United States (US Navy)

3-VIEW SCHEMATIC:

A-6 Intruder


SOURCES:
  • Bishop, Chris, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Weapons: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Weapon Systems from 1945 to the Present Day. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1999, p. 346.
  • Bonds, Ray, ed. The Modern US War Machine: An Encyclopedia of American Military Equipment and Strategy. NY: Military Press, 1987, p. 182-183.
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 470, Grumman A-6 Intruder/EA-6B Prowler.
  • Donald, David and Lake, Jon, ed. The Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 2000, p. 180-182, Grumman A-6/KA-6 Intruder.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995, p. 126, Grumman A-6 Intruder.
  • Gunston, Bill and Spick, Mike. Modern Air Combat: The Aircraft, Tactics and Weapons Employed in Aerial Combat Today. NY: Crescent Books, 1983, p. 110-111.
  • Laur, Timothy M. and Llanso, Steven L. Encyclopedia of Modern U.S. Military Weapons. NY: Berkley Books, 1995, p. 6-8, Intruder (A-6).
  • Munro, Bob and Chant, Christopher. Jane's Combat Aircraft. Glasgow: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995, p. 124-125, Grumman A-6E Intruder.
  • Taylor, Michael. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1996/1997. London: Brassey's, 1996, p. 147, Northrop Grumman A-6E/TRAM Intruder.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999/2000. London: Brassey's, 1999, p. 126, Northrop Grumman A-6E/TRAM Intruder.
  • Wilson, Jim. Combat: The Great American Warplane. NY: Hearst Books, 2001, p. 176-177, A-6 Intruder.





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