A-6 Intruders of World War III
The A-6 Intruder was the primary all-weather attack aircraft of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps during the Third World War, and was even adopted as a wartime measure by the U.S. Air Force to make up for F-111 losses before the arrival of the F-15E. Postwar, the A-6F, EA-6B, and KA-6H continue to serve on U.S. Navy carrier decks.
A list of Intruders variants:
A-6A: First production version, equipped with DIANE nav-attack system. Only all-weather attack aircraft in Vietnam until F-111 arrived in force for LINEBACKER I in 1972. All surviving As converted to E standard under a CILOP (Conversion in Lieu of Procurement) program.
A-6B: 19 converted from As on the Grumman production line, fitted with equipment for SAM-suppression with AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-78 Standard-ARM anti-radar missiles. 14 Survivors converted to A-6E.
A-6C: 12 aircraft fitted with TRIM equipment for truck hunting on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 11 survivors converted to A-6E.
KA-6D: USN tanker version of A. Not issued to USMC, but loaned to Marine squadrons when Marine Intruder units made carrier deployments. Replaced in USN service by KA-6H.
A-6E: Successor to A-6A, fitted with new digital avionics, nav-attack system and radar. Upgraded with TRAM turret with FLIR and laser designator to allow for use of laser-guided bombs. Main wartime version, also used in numbers by the USAF, though AF aircraft were turned over to the Navy after the war with the arrival of the F-15E. Aircraft progressively retired with arrival of A-6F.
A-6F: Definitive USN version, with increase in wing and two stores stations for carriage of AAMs. New radar, nav-attack system, and ECM equipment, and nonafterburning F110 engine. In service with USN and USMC, with combat service in Cuba Intervention, Baja War, and the fall of the USSR. Offered to Royal Navy for Queen Elizabeth-class CVFs.
EA-6A: Initial Electronic Warfare version, used primarily by USMC. Transferred to USN as “electronic aggressor” as EA-6Bs became available. Some wartime service, until final replacement by EA-6B.
EA-6B. Main Electronic Warfare version used by USN and USMC, with some USAF to make up for shortfall in EF-111 procurement. Main wartime version was the ICAP (Improved Capability) version with AGM-88 HARM missile capabilities. USAF operated aircraft returned to USN postwar. Four-person crew.
EA-6C: Originally the EA-6B ADVANCAP version, redesignated EA-6C postwar. Same engines as A-6F, two dedicated HARM missile stations. All digital avionics and EW system. Still in USN and USMC service, with dedicated “Expeditionary” squadrons supporting USAF operations.
KA-6H: Tanker version of EA-6B. Originally proposed by Grumman in 1970s, canceled by Carter Administration in 1979. Revived after the war. EW system and rear crew space deleted to make room for additional fuel. Still in USN active and Reserve service.