A-7D Corsair II 70-0970
(Deployed to Southeast Asian)
In September 1972, I enlisted in the United States Air Force to avoid being drafted by the selective service. My lottery number picked for that year was 13. Not very good odds for not being drafted. The war in Vietnam (Southeast Asia Conflict) was still going on and there seemed to be no end in sight. At the same time that I went down to the induction center at the Federal Building in Cincinnati, OH, a Squadron (22) A-7D, single engine light attack jet aircraft were deploying to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. Upon my completion of basic training (boot camp), Tech School (A school) and FTD training on a specific aircraft, (B school), I was assigned to the 354th Organizational Maintenance Squadron at Myrtle Beach, AFB in South Carolina. I was a Crew Chief or Aircraft Maintenance Specialist – APG (Airplane General). That means all systems. After 6 months of performing duties on the flight line at Myrtle Beach AFB, I and others were deployed to Korat RTAFB. Each rotation lasted 6 months. Anything over 180 days counted as an overseas short tour. Once a short tour was completed, the service member could count on at least a year before the next assignment back overseas.
Crewing (what is called when a crew chief performs his job) at Myrtle Beach and at Korat were two different worlds. At Myrtle Beach, we didn’t have aircraft loaded with bombs, napalm and missiles ready at a moments notice to scramble (to get airborne in a minimum of time) into action. The mission of the A-7D in the Southeast Asia Conflict was to provide close air support for ground troops and to aid in the search and rescue of downed aircrew by providing firepower provided to keep the enemy from capturing thee aircrew.
On November 18, 1972, A-7D 70-0970 was part of an 8.8-hour rescue of a downed F-105 pilot. The A-7 was one of the first light attack aircraft to use the Turbo Fan engine instead of the Turbo Jet engine. I will get into the difference a little later in the article. The A-7D was equipped with the M61A1 20 millimeter cannon capable of shooting between four thousand to eight thousand rounds per minute. A-7D 70-0970 was credited as the aircraft that delivered the last ordinance deliveries of the Vietnam War. The mission of the A-7D continued at Korat RTAFB for missions over Cambodia.
A-7D 70-0970 is on display at the Air Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio to this day. I enjoyed my time crewing the A-7D and although I was not the assigned Crew Chief of 70-0970, I did perform maintenance on it and was proud to be assigned to the squadron that was credited with the last air delivered munitions and attack of the Vietnam War.
The A-7D was a very sophisticated attack aircraft. It didn’t look sleek and sexy like the other fighters of the day. It flew sub-sonic or below the sound barrier. It’s engine, The TF41 was a turbofan. Most jet aircraft had turbo jet engines. Imagine if you will a pipe. For this example, imagine the pipe about two feet long. In the middle of this two foot pipe, imagine the diameter of the pipe to be smaller in diameter that the rest of the pipe. Sort of like an hourglass shape. The air pressure builds as it enters the pipe and reaches the constriction or the “Venturi” is. As the air is forced through, it increases pressure, as it has to compress to get through the constriction and then expands as it exits the constriction or “Venturi”. This is the principle of a jet engine. In a Turbojet engine, air enters the front of the engine through a series of fans and stationary fins. As each section or stage of blades continues back, they get smaller in length to follow the shape of the venturi. All of the air enters and is compressed and then ignited in the aft section of the engine. A Turbo Fan engine, the first stages of compression a larger than the venturi section of the engine. The air bypasses the internal compression and then mixes with the compressed and ignited exhaust gases. The cooler air mixes with the hot air and causes a reaction call “rapid air expansion”. This allows the engine to produce the same amount of thrust as a turbojet engine but needs less fuel to accomplish this. Thus, less fuel is necessary and the aircraft can stay airborne longer in between refueling.
The A-7D was also the first aircraft with a HUD (Heads Up Display), an Inertial Navigation System and a Pin Point Bombing system unlike any other fighter or light attack aircraft. The A-7D was in service in the active Air Force into the early 1990’s at Nellis AFB, NV acting as flight training for the F-117 stealth fighter. The only A-7’s that are active in the USAF are on display in Museums and military installations as static display units. There were several A-7 aircraft sold to other countries that are still flying the skies. There were 459 A-7D (US Air Force version) built. In the entire Vietnam Conflict, 12,928 combat sorties were flown by the A-7D from Korat RTAFB and deployment “bare bases” from inside Vietnam. Out of all those, there were six combat related losses. There was only one aircraft that delivered more ordinance than the A-7D. That was the B-52 stratofortress.