Sorin®A-6 Intruder Page

The A6 Intruder, the subject of many Navy jokes calling it "the ugliest bird that ever took-off from a carrier", was however one of the greatest fighters/attack aircraft ever to see the light of dawn

People who wanted to fly F14 Tomcats after seeing the movie "Top Gun" were delivered to the A-6 and got to love it just as much

Information about the Grumman A6 Intruder

A6 Intruder

Name:
A6 Intruder

Producer:
Grumman Aircraft (Nortrhop-Grumman of today)

Other:
Resisted for more than 30 years in US Navy active service
Only in 1995 the pilots and navigators started to transfer on S3 Vikings and F18 Hornets
The production of A6E the Intruder will stop in 1999, but by then only a few will still be in active service in the US Navy

The Grumman A6A Intruder was introduced in february 1963, but the first A6A was delivered to the US Navy in the 1st of july 1965, and landed on the USS Independence.
Grumman A6 Intruder is a very robust aircraft, who's mission is to attack ground targets in the night or in very bad weather conditions, when other fighters are kept on the carrier.
People say about the A6 Intruder that is the ugliest airplane that ever flew from an carrier.
But ugly doesn't necessarely mean bad.
A6 Intruder attacks enemy ground targets in the night and in bad weather conditions. However, the A6 doesn't have any air-air capabilities, so it's usually guarded by his "big brothers", like the F18 Hornet or the F/A 18 SuperHornet.
In the Vietnam war, the A6 Intruder changed the course of the war the first time when it arrived, in the summer of 1965.
Before that, bad weather or night meant that american air forces couldn't attack NVA's targets anymore, so the Vietnamese sat back and relaxed in bad weather or ambushed the US Marines in the night.
But when the A6 entered the scene, NVA had soon found-out what it can do.
The NVA was extremly surprised when in very bad weather conditions or in the night the A6s attacked them with amazing precision.
At the beginning of the war, there waren't many maps of the Vietnam, and the very few that there were, had many errors, sometimes even between 5 and 7 km. But after precision mapping of the country, A6 squads started to systematically destroy NVA ground targets during the night or in bad weather conditions, and the NVA's anti-aircraft guns couldn't do anything about it because they simply couldn't see the enemy.
But later in the war, NVA had entered in position of soviet SA-7 surface-to-air heat seeking missiles, and the A-6s started to have problems.
In one day of the war, american officials from Washington DC ordered to US aircraft carriers around Vietnam to attack a Vietnamese island, where there were supposed to be training bases of some rebels from Lebanon, who attacked earlier various american targets in the Middle East.
But the orders were very specific, and said that the next day, at exactly 07:00 am, the A6 Intruder squad from a carrier will attack the terrorist targets.
The Intruders followed the specific mission exactly with the given coordinates, and one A6 was shut-down. The pilot was killed by the terrorists and the navigator- bombardier was tortured and presented the next days on vietnamese radio and TV.
The reason because this event is so important, is that the specific orders from Washington were completely wrong.
By the time the A-6 squad reached the targetted area, it attacked it in mid-day, when shooting them down was a very easy task for the NVA's anti-aircraft guns and SAMs. Starting the mission at 07:00 am meant that the attack would have place exactly in the afternoon, which was contrary to all the purposes which the aircraft was build for.
Another thing is that leaving at 07:00 am, the Intruders will have the sun exactly in their face, and the NVA's AAA guns will have the sun in their back, a perfect condition for the AAA and a very bad one for the Intruders.
The conclusion was that the mission planning was superficial, and that probably that's the cause of the aircraft shut down and the pilot's life.
However, when the investigation begun, the people who gaved the order back in Washington could not be tracked, so even until today nobody knows who gaved the orders to attack in those wrong mission parameters...
That's really one for the X-Files, isn't it ?
Well, in 1998 there are only a few squads of Intruders in the US Navy, and is expected that by the year 2000-2003 there will be completely replaced from active use. But the A6 Intruder had an very important role in the Vietnam war and in all the wars and conflicts that camed after it, and in an era of the space age (in the 60s), when it was designed, its ugly and robust airframe almost passed unobserved by nobody, but the early modest aircraft showned what it really can later, and stood up in action for more that 30 years, which is a very long time for a fighter of the modern era.
At its best time, the A6 was the top of the line in technology, it had nightvision equipment, FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red), a good radar and fly-by-wire as a standard equipment, and the electronics aboard the aircraft kept updating non-stop until today.
The A6 Intruder's main weapon is the TV-guided air-surface missile, which is the Condor missile.
The Vietnamese soon found out that the A-6 uses the TV-guided air-to-ground Condor missile (the ancestor of the current Maverick TV/IR/L guided missiles) and they started to blur their targets with smoke, as it confused the Condor missiles up to a point where they always missed the target due to insufficient visual input parameters.
The A6 Intruder survived the Cold War due to its tremendous fighting and attack capabilities and advanced technology, so emerging the A-6A, A-6B, A-6C and A-6D Intruder. Soon before the Gulf War, the last version, the A-6E Intruder entered in active service (late 1989).
However, the A-6E Intruder (which is the latest generation) can no longer stand up against the very advanced fighters and AWACS aircraft of today, and its aging and slow airframe doesn't fit the Navy's requirements anymore.
That is why the US Navy already started a disposal program in the early 1990s because the only aircraft that the Navy wants are the ones capable of multi-role activities. The F14 Tomcat and the F/A 18 Hornet together with the S-3 Viking and E-2C Hawkeye thrived in this environment as their airframes and capabilities support fruther upgrading (one example being the S-3B Viking, others being the F/A 18 E/F SuperHornet, F14D SuperTomcat or F/A 14 BombCat), while other aircraft like the A-6 Intruder and the Vought A-7 Corsair II did not.
In 1995, the US Navy had already cut more than 60% from the 1989 A6 Arsenal, and by 1999, production of new aircraft will stop completly.
Current (1995) A-6 pilots, navigators and crew, are either being transferred to the F/A 18 Hornet (young pilots and navigators) either to the S-3B Viking (medium aged pilots, navigators and all crew), either disposed from the Navy if they are older than a certain age (I believe 28).
However, there still is a nomber of A-6s in active service (1998), so the US Navy found a way to improve them, by converting them into EA-6 Prowlers.

EA-6 Prowler

The EA-6A Prowler is derrived from the A-6E Intruder, which could only perform air-to-ground missions. The EA-6A Prowler saves the ground attack and night snicking capability, however its main job now is to jam enemy radar and air defences. The EA-6A Prowler is equipped with advanced jamming equipment which puts a blur (same as the one you see on your TV set when you loose the satellite signal or CATV connection, or when you seek between freq) on enemy radar screens. If it cannot put a blur to the enemy radars (it usually can, even against the most advanced Russian-made AAAs, SAMs and Radars), the EA-6A Prowler is fitted with two or four (usually, but it could carry more) AIM-84A HARM missles (High Speed Anti-Radiation missiles) which attack and destroy any enemy radar signal source (first used in Vietnam, effective even after the Vietnamese started to Blink their radars).
The EA-6A Prowler is totally outdated today (2001), but it has since long been upgraded into the current version, the EA-6B Prowler.

EA-6B Prowler

The EA-6B Prowler keeps all the capabilities of the EA-6A, has a totally new set of jamming and radar attack devices and technologies, and also has the new feature of being an air-tanker.
EA-6B Prowlers can perform air-to-air refueling missions (both buddy-to-buddy as well as non-buddy) plus a very limited air-to-air defence systems, due to the help of their new AIM-9L/M Sidewinder short range supersonic heat-seeking air-to-air missiles.
However, the EA-6B Prowler still and will always depend of its "bigger brothers" reminded earlier in this article, always being protected and escorted mainly by F/A 18 Hornets but nowadays also by F/A 14 Bombcats, AV8 Harrier Bs, Harrier GR7s, Tornado F3s, Tornado GR1s and especially GR4s, EF2000s, Mirages and JSFs.
EA-6B Prowlers onboard the USS Enterprise were sustensively used in december 1998 to attack Iraqi radar sites, anti-aircraft artilery sites, as well as missile and biological and chemical factories, and they were also used to jam any Iraqi radars that could lock on any SAM missiles and attack Allied Fighters over Iraq.
EA-6B Prowlers onboard the USS Enterprise participated heavily to the war effort in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of december 1998 during Operation Desert Fox.
EA-6B Prowlers from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS Enterprise and Aviano AirBase in NE Italy have also been used in jamming, surveilance, anti-defense and ground attack missions during the Kosovo war, between March and April 1999.
And the latest mission of the EA-6B Prowler was also attacking, jamming and supressing Iraqi air defences in the 19th of february 2001 in Southern Iraq, near the already known areas of Baghdad and Basra.