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Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk

The TA-4J Skyhawk is the two-seat variant of the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft. Skyhawks began operational service in the mid-1950s and remained in service with the U.S. Navy and Marines through the remainder of the 20th century. The Museum’s Skyhawk was part of the Navy’s “Top Gun” program and served as an “aggressor aircraft” flown by highly skilled instructor pilots against Top Gun participants. Flown to the Museum in 2003, it is painted as a Top Gun aggressor. 

TA-4J Skyhawk….Fast Facts    

  • TA-4J is the two-seat training variant of the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a single-seat attack bomber flown extensively by the Navy and Marine Corps in Vietnam.

  • Nicknamed Scooter, Bantam Bomber and Kiddie Car because of its small size (just one-third the empty weight of its contemporary, the F-4 Phantom).

  • 2,960 Skyhawks were built between 1953 and 1979

  • The Navy’s Blue Angels flew A-4s from 1973 to 1986.

  • Early in the Vietnam War, the Skyhawk was the Navy’s primary light attack aircraft.   During the war 265 Skyhawks were lost to enemy fire and another 98 to other causes.   The last American air combat unit to leave Vietnam was Marine Attack Squadron 311, which operated Skyhawks.

  • The Museum’s Skyhawk (BuNo. 153525) was completed and delivered to the Marines in 1967.  In 1972, it was converted from a TA-4F to a TA-4J in preparation for its dedicated mission with a training unit. The conversion involved removing weapons systems and changing to a slightly less powerful engine.

  • In 1994 the plane was assigned to the Navy’s Fleet Composite Squadron 8 (VC-8) at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, which used Skyhawks in an adversary role. VC-8 pilots flew their Skyhawks as enemy aircraft in training exercises to test the combat effectiveness of other American units. This is the “Top Gun” school concept. It was for this adversary role that our Skyhawk acquired its unique brown and tan camouflage and the red star on its tail.

  • In 1976, it was assigned to the Navy with VC-10 at Guantanamo Bay and rearmed.  In 1988, it was assigned to the Navy with VC-8 at Roosevelt Roads, PR.  It flew as an adversary in "top Gun" type exercises, where it aquired its brown and tan camouflage and the red star on its tail.  VC-8 was deactivated in May 2003 when the last one landed at Palm Springs Air Museum.  Our plane was the next to last flying, and landed at Martin State Airport on May 2, 2003.

  • The aircraft bears several unusual markings that signify awards earned by squadron VC-8. The “E” under the canopy shows that the squadron received a Battle Effectiveness Award. The nearby “S” was awarded for unit safety.

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