While the F 105 Thunderchief was the USAF's principal strike weapon during the Rolling Thunder campaign, the US Navy relied on the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk for the majority of its strikes on North Vietnam. The Skyhawk entered service in 1956 and remained in continuous production for 26 years. Throughout Operation Rolling Thunder it was the US Navy's principal day time light strike bomber, remaining in use after its replacement, the more sophisticated A-7 Corsair II, began to appear in December 1967. During the 1965-68 Rolling Thunder period, up to five attack carriers regularly launched A-4 strike formations against North Vietnam. These formations faced an ever-expanding and increasingly coordinated Soviet-style network of anti-aircraft artillery missiles and fighters. Skyhawk pilots were often given the hazardous task of attacking anti-aircraft defences and to improve accuracy, they initially dropped ordnance below 3000 ft in a 30-degree dive in order to bomb visually below the persistent low cloud over North Vietnam, putting the aircraft within range of small-arms fire. The defenders had the advantage of covering a relatively small target area, and the sheer weight of light, medium and heavy gunfire directed at an attacking force brought inevitable casualties, and a single rifle bullet could have the same effect as a larger shell. This illustrated title examines both the A-4 Skyhawk and the Vietnamese AAA defences in context, exploring their history and analysing their tactics and effectiveness during the conflict.
AUTHOR: Peter E. Davies has written extensively on modern combat aircraft, America's experimental X-planes and the Vietnam War, with a particular focus on the US Navy's use of the F-4 Phantom II. All his books on this topic have contained extensive input from interviews with more than 100 former Phantom II aircrew, maintainers and mission planners. He is also a regular contributor to Aeroplane's Database series. He is based in Bristol, UK. Jim Laurier attended Paier School of Art in Hamden, Connecticut, from 1974-78, and since graduating with Honours, he has been working in the field of Fine Art and Illustration. He has been commissioned to paint for the US Air Force and has aviation paintings on permanent display at the Pentagon. He lives in New Hampshire, USA. Gareth Hector is a digital artist of international standing as well as an aviation history enthusiast. Gareth completed the battlescene and cover artwork in this title. He lives in Perthshire, UK.