VA-155 Silver Foxes A-4E Skyhawk
A-4 Aircraft Evoloution
In February 1959, Douglas submitted a proposal for an A4D-5 (A-4E) Skyhawk as a follow-on to the A4D-2N (A-4C). Proposed improvements included installation of the lighter weight, 8,500 lb thrust Pratt & Whitney J52-P6A engine; re-design of the fuselage center section and inlet ducting; addition of two wing station "hard points" for increased weapons-carrying; increased air-frame strength; and navigation and bombing systems upgrades. Price is $750,000.
Initially, conversion of two A4D-2N (A-4C) Skyhawks was authorized. The first A4D-5 (A-4E) flight took place on July 12, 1961 and a production contract for an additional 498 was approved shortly thereafter.
Delivery of A-4E Skyhawks began in January 1963.
VA-155 fly A-4E aircraft on a 3rd Vietnam Combat Cruise
August 26, 1967 to April 6, 1968: VA-155 flying the Douglas A-4E Skyhawk deployed with CVW-15 on USS Coral Sea (CVA 43) for the Silver Foxes third combat tour to Vietnam.
October 17, 1967: LTJG. F. J. Fortner was Killed In Action flying A-4E Skyhawk BuAer 152038 NL 512 over North Vietnam.
Distinguished Flying Cross Action
On 21 October, the ship gained her first "PT–boat Ace," when a VA-155 aviator sank four North Vietnamese patrol boats. LCDR Wilmer P. Cook and his wingman LTJG M. L. Watson, detected six such boats at first light, cleverly screened by a fishing fleet, about a mile east of Thanh Hoa harbor. Cook executed a shallow diving turn that enabled him to pick up the patrol boats in his sight; his bombs impacted squarely in the midst of the formation of enemy boats, sinking four of the six and damaging the others. Cook's "airmanship, revolutionary tactics, and courage in the face of a determined enemy" earned him his third DFC. Cook had previously sunk one Swallow class patrol boat 6 August 1966 at the Hong Gay Naval Base, for which he had received his second DFC.
LCDR Cook and Silver Foxes NL 507 without a starboard main mount extended due to battle damaged by a SAM, comes aboard for a barricade landing. LCDR Cook, with his Skyhawk damaged managed to nurse his crippled bird back to the ship, refueled continuously by a KA-3B tanker from VAH-2, and executed a "text book" barricade arrestment, although Cook was knocked unconscious during the landing. Just another day at the office!
Duty on the Line Continues
October 26, 1967: CDR Verlyne W. Daniels successfully ejected and was captured by the North Vietnamese and made Prisoner Of War. Silver Foxes A-4E Skyhawk BuAer 150059 NL 501 was shot down by a SAM over North Vietnam.
November 25, 1967: CDR W. H. Searfus, the VA-155 commanding officer, in Silver Foxes A-4E Skyhawk BuAer 150037, was blown off the fantail by the jet blast from another aircraft. Both aircraft and aviator were lost.
December 22, 1967: As the tragedy of war continued, LCDR Wilmer Paul Cook died three days before Christmas attacking a pontoon bridge near Vinh in North Vietnam while flying his A-4E Skyhawk BuAer 152071 NL 506. Rescue attempted by USS Dale (DLG-19/CG-19) HC-7 Seadevils Det. 106 UH-2B Seasprite helicopter hovered 4' above deceased aviator.
Armed Forces Expeditionary Operations
During late February 1968 there was snow and ice on deck while conducting Operation Formation Star cold weather training in the Sea of Japan. This operation prepared men and machines for duty in March 1968 while USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), with VA-155 Silver Foxes embarked, operated on station off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in January by North Korea.
Copyright © 2019 Bert McNamee, Harleigh, PA. All rights reserved.