Century Wings CW910362 USMC Grumman A-6E Intruder Attack Aircraft - ED405, VMFA(AW)-553 "Night Hawks", Shaikh-Isa AB, Bahrain, 1991 [Low-Vis Scheme] (1:72 Scale)
"In Hoc Signo Vinces." (Upon this Signal Conquer)."
- Motto of VMFA(AW)-553
The A-6 Intruder is a twin-engine, mid-wing attack aircraft built by Grumman Aerospace. In service between 1963 and 1997, the Intruder was designed as a replacement for the piston-engined A-1 Skyraider. A specialized electronic warfare derivative, the EA-6B Prowler, remains in service as of 2007. As the A-6 was slated for retirement, its precision strike mission was taken over by the now retired F-14 Tomcat equipped with LANTIRN, which has subsequently passed on the role to the F/A-18 Hornet.
The Intruder was developed in response to a U.S. Navy specification for an all-weather carrier-based attack aircraft to serve as a replacement for the piston-powered, World War II-era A-1 Skyraider. Grumman was awarded the contract in 1957, and the resulting A2F-1 made its first flight on April 19th, 1960. The jet nozzles were originally designed to swivel downwards, but this was dropped from production aircraft. The pilot sits in the left seat, while the bombardier/ navigator sits to the right and below. A unique CRT gives a synthetic display of terrain ahead which, with the additional crew member, enabled low-level flying in all weather conditions. The wing is very efficient at subsonic speeds compared to supersonic fighters such as the F-4 Phantom II, which are also limited to subsonic speeds when carrying a paylod of iron bombs. A very similar wing would be put on pivots on Grumman's later supersonic swing-wing F-14 Tomcat, as well as similar landing gear.
The Intruder received a new standardized DOD designation of A-6A in the fall of 1962, and entered squadron service in February 1963. The A-6 became the USN and USMC's principal medium and all-weather/night attack aircraft from the mid-1960s through the 1990s and as an aerial tanker either in the dedicated KA-6D version or by use of a buddy store. This role was served in the USAF by the F-105 Thunderchief and later F-111 which was also later converted to a radar jammer as the EF-111 Raven. The A-6 first saw combat in Vietnam and in later engagements in Lebanon and Libya. The Intruder saw further duty during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, as well as over Bosnia in 1994, but it was phased out of service quickly in the mid-1990s in a Navy move to reduce the Type/Model/Series aircraft in the carrier airwing. It was intended for replacement by the A-12 Avenger II, but that program was canceled. The Intruder was left to soldier on for a few more years before retiring in favor of the LANTIRN equipped F-14 Tomcat, which was in turn replaced by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Many questioned the shift to a shorter ranged strike force compared to the older generation planes, the availability of USAF tanking assets in all recent conflicts put a lesser premium on self contained range.
The last Intruders were retired February 28th, 1997. A number of retired A-6 airframes were sunk off the coast of St. Johns County, Florida to form a fish haven entitled Intruder Reef. However, contrary to popular belief, surviving aircraft fitted with the new wings were stored at the AMARC storage center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and not sunk as artificial reefs. Although the Intruder could not match the F/A-18's speed or air-combat capability, the A-6's range and load-carrying ability are still unmatched by newer aircraft in the fleet.
This particular 1:72 scale replica of a A-6E Intruder served with the US Marine Corps' VMA(AW)-553 "Night Hawks" during Operation Desert Storm. Limited production run of only 1,500 pieces.
Release Date: June 2011
Historical Account: "The Hawks" -Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 553 (VMFA(AW)-553) is a United States Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet squadron. Also known as the "Hawks", the squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 31 (MAG-31) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW).
The squadron deployed to Bahrain in December 1990 for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Following participation in those hostilities, VMA(AW)-533 returned home after an around the world deployment that lasted eleven and a half months.
September 1st, 1992 brought many changes to 533, most notably a change to the new F/A-18D Hornet, and with this its newest and current designation, and a move to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. This made them the first all-weather fighter attack squadron in 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. These techniques would soon be put to the test when VMFA(AW)-533 was deployed to Aviano Air Base in July 1993. They returned three times over the next five years, flying a wide variety of missions to support NATO operations. In 1999, the squadron supported Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia from Taszar Air Base Hungary and flew 111 combat sorties during the conflict. After the cease-fire of June 11th, 1999, the Hawks flew an additional 82 combat sorties to ensure Serb compliance with the withdrawal from Kosovo.