Century Wings CW588196 US Navy Grumman KA-6D Intruder Refueling Tanker - AJ520, VA-35 "Black Panthers", USS Nimitz (CVN-68), 1978 (1:72 Scale)
"Obsolete weapons do not deter."
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
The KA-6D was a tanker version of the Intruder, created by conversion of existing Intruder airframes. Grumman had tried out a buddy midair refueling pod underneath a conventional A-6A (BuNo 147865). In addition, Grumman fitted an internal refueling package into Bureau Number 149937. But these projects never proceeded any further because of a lack of any perceived need for a tanker Intruder.
However, in 1968 the Navy changed its mind and Grumman was finally given authority to proceed with a tanker version, designated KA-6D. The first KA-6D was obtained by modifying BuNo 151582. It first flew on April 16, 1970, crewed by Chuck Sewell and D. R. Cooke.
The KA-6D was fitted with an internal hose-and-reel refueling package, with the drogue fairing protruding from underneath the rear fuselage. It could also carry a D-704 refueling pod on the fuselage centerline. The D-704 acted as a backup to the internal refueling system, and provided its own power via a ram air turbine mounted on the front. The radar and most of the DIANE equipment was removed, but the KA-6D still retained a visual bombing capability (which was seldom exercised). There were only minimal controls provided for the second crew member, whose duties were now navigation and the monitoring of the refueling operation.
A total of 90 KA-6Ds were produced by modifying existing Intruder airframes. Although all of the planes used airframes that were originally built as A-6As, 12 of them had previously been upgraded to A-6E standards. When rebuilt from A-6As, the KA-6Ds received all new fuel tanks, with two fuselage bulkheads being replaced. There was extensive rework of the outer wing panels. The aircraft was completely rewired. The Omega global inertial navigation system was fitted, with the entire suite being controlled by an ASN-41 navigational computer. For typical missions, the KA-6D caries four fuel tanks on the wing pylons. The D-704 is sometimes carried as a backup to the primary hose-drum unit, or as a means of ferrying the pod to other units.
The first deployable Intruder squadron to receive the KA-6D was VA-176, which received its first tankers on September 25th, 1970. Each deployed Intruder squadron typically had 3 or 4 KA-6Ds assigned to it for the tanker mission.
There was always the ever-present danger that the refuelling hose could become stuck in the deployed position after a refuelling operation and could not be reeled in. While the refueling hose is deployed, the carrier arrester hook could not be extended and it would be impossible to land on a carrier. The unfortunate aircraft would have to find a land base very quickly or the crew would have to eject. In order to prevent this from happening, there was an emergency explosive cutter which severed the hose and allowed it to drop into the sea.
This particular 1:72 scale replica of a KA-6D in-flight refueling tanker Intruder served with VA-35 "Black Panthers" during 1978, as seen in the feature film, "Final Countdown". Limited production run of only 2,000 pieces.
Wingspan: 8.75 inches
Length: 9.25 inches
Release Date: September 2007
Historical Account: "Fill 'er Up?" - In the early 1970s some 78 A-6As and 12 A-6Es were converted for use as tanker aircraft, providing aerial refueling support to other strike aircraft. The DIANE system was removed and an internal refueling system was added, sometimes supplemented by a D-704 refueling pod on the centerline pylon. The KA-6D theoretically could be used in the day/visual bombing role, but it apparently never was, with the standard load-out being four fuel tanks. Because it was based on a tactical aircraft platform, the KA-6D provided a capability for mission tanking -- the ability to keep up with strike packages and refuel them in the course of a mission.
A few KA-6Ds went to sea with each Intruder squadron, and the retirement of the aircraft left a gap in USN and USMC refueling tanker capability. The USN S-3 Viking also has an aerial refueling capability, but its performance and fuel capacity effectively limit it to the role of recovery tanker.
The loss of mission tanking capability was only later remedied by the new F/A-18E Super Hornet, which can act as a mission tanker. (courtesy: Wikipedia)