Hobby Master HA2915 USAF Douglas A-1H Skyraider Attack Aircraft - "The Good Buddha", 1st Special Operations Squadron, 56th Special Operations Wing, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, 1968 (1:72 Scale)
"My program is unique in the military service in this respect: You know the expression 'from the womb to the tomb'; my organization is responsible for initiating the idea for a project; for doing the research, and the development; designing and building the equipment that goes into the ships; for the operations of the ship; for the selection of the officers and men who man the ship; for their education and training. In short, I am responsible for the ship throughout its life from the very beginning to the very end."
- Admiral Hyman Rickover, "Father of the Nuclear Navy"
The Douglas A-1 (formerly AD) Skyraider was an American single-seat attack bomber of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. A propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age, the Skyraider had a remarkably long and successful career well into the space age, and inspired a straight-winged, slow-flying, jet-powered successor which is still in front line service today, the A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog).
It was operated by the United States Navy (USN), the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and the United States Air Force (USAF), and also saw service with the British Royal Navy, the French Air Force, and the Air Force of the Republic of Vietnam (VNAF), among others.
The piston-engined A-1 was designed during World War II to meet requirements for a carrier-based, single-seat, long-range, high performance dive/torpedo bomber, and was a follow-on to earlier dive bombers and torpedo bombers used by the Navy such as the Helldiver and Avenger. Designed by Ed Heinemann of the Douglas Aircraft Company, prototypes were ordered on 6 July 1944 as the XBT2D-1. The XBT2D-1 made its first flight on 18 March 1945 and in April 1945, the USN began evaluation of the aircraft at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC). In December 1946, after a designation change to AD-1, delivery of the first production aircraft to a fleet squadron was made to VA-19A.
The AD-1 was built at Douglas' El Segundo plant in Southern California. In his memoir The Lonely Sky, test pilot Bill Bridgeman describes the routine yet sometimes hazardous work of certifying AD-1s fresh off the assembly line (quoting a production rate of two aircraft per day) for delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1949 and 1950.
The low-wing monoplane design started with a Wright R-3350 radial engine, later upgraded several times. Its distinctive feature was large straight wings with seven hard points apiece. These gave the aircraft excellent low-speed maneuverability, and enabled it to carry a tremendous amount of ordnance over a considerable combat radius and loiter time for its size, comparable to much heavier subsonic or supersonic jets. The aircraft is optimized for the ground-attack mission and is armored against ground fire in key locations. This was unlike faster fighters adapted to carry bombs such as the F4U Corsair or P-51 Mustang, which would be retired by U.S. forces long before the 1960s.
Navy A-1s were initially painted dark blue, but during the 1950s following the Korean War, the color scheme was changed to gray and white. Initially using the gray and white Navy pattern, by 1967 the USAF began to paint its Skyraiders in a camouflaged pattern using two shades of green, and one of tan.
Used by the USN over Korea and Vietnam, the A-1 was a primary close air support aircraft for the USAF and VNAF during the Vietnam War. The A-1 was famous for being able to take hits and keep flying. Battle damage images from the Korean and Vietnam wars speak for themselves. There was added armor plating around the cockpit area for added pilot protection. It was replaced in the early 1970s by the A-4 Skyhawk as the Navy's primary light attack plane.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a USAF Douglas A-1H Skyraider attack aircraft that was nicknamed "The Good Buddha", and attached to the 1st Special Operations Squadron, 56th Special Operations Wing, then deployed to Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, during 1968.
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Historical Account: "1st Special Operations Squadron" -The 1st Special Operations Squadron was originally constituted as the 1st Air Commando Squadron, Composite, and activated on June 17th, 1963, under Pacific Air Forces. It organized on July 8th, 1963, at Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam, and was assigned to the 34th Tactical Group. It was reassigned the following year, on July 8th, to the 6251st Tactical Fighter Wing (although attached to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing after November 21st, 1965). Relocating to Pleiku Air Base, South Vietnam, it was reassigned to the 2nd Air Division on February 18th, 1966, and reassigned again to the 14th Air Commando Wing on March 8th, 1966. Redesignated the 1st Air Commando Squadron, Fighter, on August 15th, 1967, it was reassigned on December 20th, 1967, to the 56th Air Commando Wing (redesignated the 56th Special Operation Wing in August 1968), and moved to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Navy Base, Thailand. On August 1st, 1968, the 1st was redesignated as the 1st Special Operations Squadron.
The 1st saw extensive combat in Southeast Asia, from July 8th, 1963 - November 7th, 1972, and from December 15th, 1972 - January 28th, 1973. In its early years in Southeast Asia, the squadron flew a variety of aircraft, beginning with the Douglas B-26 Invader and North American T-28 Trojan in 1963 and 1964, both aircraft used for close air support. While at its initial home base at Bien Hoa AB, aircrews of the 1st Air Commando Squadron performed the first combat tests of the famous Douglas FC-47 gunship, beginning in December 1964. In 1964, the 1st began flying the Douglas A-1 Skyraider, the aircraft with which it is most closely associated, but continued to fly other types into 1966. Its primary mission after the move to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB was interdiction along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but its pilots and planes also flew cover for pilot rescue missions, and it continued to fly close air support missions for U.S. and Vietnamese ground forces. It also trained Vietnamese Air Force pilots in counterinsurgency operations, from July 1963 - November 1972. Aircraft flown by the 1st were the B-26 (1963-1964); North American T-28 Trojan (1963-1964); Helio U-10 Courier (1963-1966); Douglas C-47 Skytrain (1963-1966); RB-26 (1963-1964); A-1 (1964-1972); FC-47 (1964-1965); AC-47 (1965); and the C (later MC)-130 beginning in 1972.