The TA-4J “Skyhawk” is a two-seat, lightweight, high-performance aircraft with a modified delta wing. It was manufactured by the Douglas Aircraft Company of Long Beach, CA, and was designed as a training aircraft capable of operating from a carrier or shore base. It is powered by a Pratt & Whitney J52 P6B and can carry a variety of external stores. The TA-4J flew for the first time on December 17, 1968. It entered service with VT-21 in mid 1969.
The primary role of the TA-4J was to train carrier pilots. A total of 226 TA-4Js were built. Many TA-4F airframes were converted to TA-4J configuration by removal of their offensive weapons systems. Several TA-4Js were used in support roles, including that of adversary aircraft. Dubbed the “Scooter” by its Navy and Marine pilots due to its legendary maneuverability and outstanding roll rate, the A-4 also became known as “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” in tribute to its designer.
Fleet Composite Squadron EIGHT (VC-8) was commissioned as Guided Missile Squadron TWO at NAS Chincoteague, Virginia, in July 1958. In January 1959, the squadron was transferred to US Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The squadron was re-designated Utility Squadron EIGHT in 1960 and received it’s present designation in 1965.
The TA-4J Skyhawk missions include adversary air combat, towing banner targets, launching AQM and BQM drones, electronic warfare, missile profiles, raids, close air support, dissimilar air combat training, air intercept control, and radar calibration. In 1997, VC-8 obtained Level II Adversary Qualification, becoming the US Navy’s only Active Duty Adversary squadron. The squadron has been awarded the Battle “E” for Operational readiness (seven awards), the Meritorious Unit Commendation (three awards), the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation (two awards), and the Humanitarian Award (two awards). Most recently the command was named by the CNO as the overall Search and Rescue Award winner.
The VC-8 TA-4Js were retired from active service in May 2003. The active duty life of the venerable Skyhawk in U.S. Navy fleet service began in late September 1956 and spanned more than 47 years.
This aircraft was one of the last active Skyhawks in service. Her last flight was April 8th, 2003, flying from NAS Roosevelt Roads, VC-8, Puerto Rico, to Alaska Airlines maintenance facility, Oakland, CA and was subsequently towed to the USS Hornet Museum.
- Length: 42’ 7”
- Wing Span: 27’ 6”
- Height: 14’ 11”
- Empty Weight (lbs.): 10,602
- Maximum Takeoff Weight (lbs.): 24,500
- Maximum Level Speed (m.p.h.) 675
- Engine: Pratt & Whitney J52-P6A – 8,500 lbs. thrust
- Maximum External Load: 6,200 lbs.
This aircraft is currently on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
The USS Hornet Museum would like to thank the following who helped make this aircraft display possible:
- United States Navy, Fleet Composite Squadron EIGHT (VC-8),
- Bay Area Tailhook Ready Room, A-4 Skyhawk Association,
- Alaska Airlines Oakland, Oakland International Airport,
- Port of Oakland, Operating Engineers, Local 3,
- Alameda County Sheriff, Alameda Police Dept., Holiday Inn.