The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II is a carrier-based subsonic light attack aircraft. The A-7 airframe design was based on the successful supersonic F-8 Crusader produced by Chance Vought. It was one of the first combat aircraft to feature a head-up display (HUD), an inertial navigation system (INS), and a turbofan engine.
The YA-7A made its first flight on 27 September 1965, and began to enter Navy squadron service late in 1966. The A-7 enjoyed the fastest and most trouble free development period of any American combat aircraft since World War II. The first Navy A-7 squadrons reached operation status on 1 February 1967, and began combat operations over Vietnam in December of that year. In the following months, VA-147 flew around 1,400 sorties losing only one aircraft. The USAF A-7D flew a total of 12,928 combat sorties during the war with only six losses the lowest of any U.S. fighter in the theater. The aircraft was second only to B-52 Stratofortress in the amount of ordnance dropped on Hanoi and dropped more bombs per sortie with greater accuracy than any other U.S. attack aircraft. A-7Ds from Korat flew combat operations over Vietnam until mid-January 1973, in Laos until 22 February 1973, and in Cambodia until 15 August 1973. The last shot fired in anger by United States military forces in Southeast Asia was fired by an A-7D of the deployed 345th TFW / 353 TFS assigned to Korat RTAFB on 15 August 1973.
Navy A-7E squadrons VA-15 and VA-87, from the USS Independence, provided close air support during the Invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, in October 1983.
Navy A-7s also provided air support during the U.S. mission in Lebanon in 1983.
On 24 March 1986, during the Gulf of Sidra dispute with Libya, Libyan air defense operators fired SA-5 missiles at two Fighter Squadron 102 (VF-102) F-14s from USS America that were orbiting in international air space on a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) station. The next day, a Navy A-7E aircraft accompanied the fighters and responded to the SA-5 radar emissions by firing the first AGM-88 HARM missiles used in combat and destroying the Libyan radar. In April 1986, Navy Sixth Fleet A-7Es from VA-72 and VA-46 aboard USS America (CV 66) also participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the retaliatory attack on Libya using HARM and Shrike anti-radar missiles.
While USAF A-7s stayed home in favor of A-10s, the US Navy deployed two of their last A-7E squadrons to Operation Desert Shield in August 1990 aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), the only carrier of six deployed to Desert Storm to operate the A-7. VA-46 and VA-72 made the last combat sorties of the A-7 in Operation Desert Storm flying from the Red Sea to targets throughout Iraq. The A-7 was used both day and night to attack a wide range of heavily defended deep interdiction targets in Iraq as well as "kill boxes" (geographically defined kill zones) in Kuwait, employing a variety of weapons including precision-guided munitions (PGM's), such as the TV-guided Walleye glide bomb, unguided general purpose bombs, and High Speed Anti-Radiation missiles (HARM). The A-7 was also used as a tanker in numerous in-flight refueling missions.
The A-7 Corsair II was tagged with the nickname "SLUF" ("Short Little Ugly Fucker") by pilots.
Production of Corsairs continued through 1984, yielding a total of 1,569 aircraft built. The A-7 Corsair has the distinction of being the only United States single seat jet fighter-bomber of the 1960s that was designed, built, and deployed directly into the Vietnam War.