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BOOK REVIEW


The Vought A-7 Corsair: A Comprehensive Guide
SAM Publications



There’s something about the A-7 Corsair II – it was a tough, effective, and beautiful-ugly ground attack aircraft that made its mark from Vietnam to the 1991 Gulf War.  I’ve been drawn to the jet since I was young when I watched Ohio ANG A-7Ds shoot landings at Wright-Patterson AFB in the summer of 1988.  Simply put – those A-7s were cool.  Starting out as a more robust and decidedly squat derivative of Vought’s sleek F-8 Crusader for the U.S. Navy, the A-7’s development was smooth with its first flight in 1965 and initial operational capability reached in 1967.  The A-7 incorporated various advances, such as a digital fire control computer allowing for more accurate bombing further from a target, a modern HUD, a navigation system integrated with an all-axis autopilot and a projected map display along with data link capabilities that included a "hands-off" carrier landing capability.  It could also haul a significant bomb load on six external underwing hardpoints while retaining a self-defense capability with two fuselage-mounted AIM-9 Sidewinders.  In all, 15 variants were produced amounting to over 1,500 airframes.  In addition to the U.S. Navy and Air Force, Greece, Portugal, and Thailand also operated the jet.

Nicknamed the SLUF (look it up if you don’t know!), the A-7 was also acquired by the USAF – reflective of Robert MacNamara’s doctrine of inter-service commonality doctrine.  In both Navy and Air Force operations in Southeast Asia, the A-7 distinguished itself as a solid ground attack jet, taking out targets (sometimes in legendary fashion) such as the Thanh Hóa Bridge and providing support for Sandy (search-and-rescue) missions.  In the hands of the USAF, the A-7 was second only to B-52 in the amount of ordnance dropped on Hanoi and it dropped more bombs with greater accuracy than any other American attack aircraft.  After Vietnam, Navy A-7s continued to operate from carriers, while Air Force A-7s were shifted out of TAC to become one of the backbones of the Air National Guard.  In the 1980s, the SLUF was progressively replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet and the F-16, but the jet still participated in key deployments, including the actions in Grenada and Libya.  Its final combat deployment with the Navy was perhaps the high point of its career in 1991 with Operation DESERT STORM where it thrived in both deep interdiction missions and as a HARM-shooting SAM killer.  In Greek, Portuguese, and Thai service, the A-7 soldiered on.  Its final flight with the Greek Air Force in 2014 marked the close of a 49 year-long career.  

In this recent SAM Publications volume, authors Andy Evans and Andy Renshaw take a look at this great airplane, exploring the background, history, and technical details of the Corsair II.  The book also includes several builds of scale models of the A-7 and detailed walk-arounds of the jet.

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Evans and Renshaw’s 200-page book on the Corsair II is quite substantial in terms of its depth and subject matter.  In fact, I would say this is one of the best reference books on the A-7 that’s been produced to date.  Printed in full color on high-quality paper, there’s not a wasted inch of layout on any page, and the book is rich in detail and content.  The text is divided into six chapters (Introduction, Design, Development, and the A-7A, U.S. Navy Corsairs, U.S. Air Force Corsairs, Corsairs in Foreign Service, Walk Arounds and Weaponry, and Modeling the A-7 Corsair in Popular Scales). Inserted between Chapters 4 and 5 is a series of 30 full-color profiles drawn by Chris Sandham-Bailey/Inkworm of Corsairs in diverse color schemes.  Each of these chapters is replete with detailed information on the history, development, systems and components, variants, and a chronicle of the airplane’s role in history.

Across these chapters, I especially enjoyed the excellent write-up on the development of the A-7A and the excellent photographic coverage of the early preproduction as well as later Navy testbed jets from the NATC and VX-5, for example.  This section also covers the A-7B, A-7C, A-7E, TA-7C, and EA-7L from the first introduction to the fleet to the final days of DESERT STORM.  The coverage of USAF A-7s parallels and complements that of the Navy jets, covering the A-7D, A-7K, and the promising but cancelled YA-7F (what probably would have been dubbed the “Super Corsair II”).  Differences between the Navy and Air Force A-7s are systematically reviewed, and the history of A-7 with TAC and ANG units including its combat history are described.

There’s even some attention given to the “Goat Suckers” which is probably the “blackest” chapter of the A-7’s history.  These were the 4450th TG jets which supported F-117 development at Tonopah by helping maintain pilot currency and serving to further hide the stealth program with their bogus “atomic anti-radar pods” that were nothing more than a deceptively painted napalm canister with a flashing red light. This deception worked quite well, fooling the Soviets and U.S. personnel not part of the stealth fighter program into thinking that they were the focus of all the top secret activities at Tonopah and drew attention away from the F-117.  Coverage is also given to export Corsairs, and this is largely focused on Greek and Portuguese jets.

The walk-arounds span the distinctive Hellenic Air Force Pirate and Tiger schemes (photos taken during the operational lifetime of these jets), and a two-seat Portuguese TA-7P and a USAF A-7D preserved in museum settings.  Gear well, cockpit, wingfold, pylon, and many other airframes features are pictured here in detail, and along with various photos interspersed throughout the preceding chapters, the reader gets very solid coverage of the A-7, inside and out.  A subsection of the walk-around photography covers munitions, from test rounds to regular warloads, weapons loading, the AN/AAR-45 FLIR pod, and informative reprinted sections from flight manuals.          

The section on scale modeling is particularly valuable, and the authors recruited some really talented contributors here.  Angel Exposito does a great job on the venerable 1:72 scale Fujimi A-7D, though for some tastes, the use of black pre-shading of panel lines might be a bit too overstated.  For those familiar with J.M. Villaba, you know his work is among the best in the world, and he blows away the reader with his breathtaking superdetailed 1:72 scale Fujimi A-7E.  Jezz Coleman takes on the Hobby Boss 1:48 scale A-7E from VA-86.  The Hasegawa 1:48 scale A-7E gets the VA-72 desert camouflage treatment by George Roidis.  The 1:72 scale Hobby Boss TA-7C is built by Rene Van Der Hart in Greek markings and by Vitor Costa as a Portuguese trainer.  Given my time spending childhood summers in Dayton and later my connections to the former 178th FW, I very much enjoyed James Ashton’s 1:48 scale Hobby Boss A-7 in the markings of the Ohio ANG’s famous “Scrappy,” and due to its tail number, it was also affectionately known as the “Triple Deuce Coupe.”  Each of the builds provides a very useful range of tips, techniques, and ideas for the scale modeler.

The book wraps up with a set of five extensive appendices.  Appendix 1 features a comprehensive annotated and illustrated list of Corsair squadrons and users (U.S. and export).  Appendix 2 includes a full list of A-7 BuNos and serial numbers for all the production blocks and variants.  Appendix 3, technical diagrams, provides a slew of illustrations reproduced from A-7 flight manuals depicting doors, panels, wingfold mechanisms, antenna locations, ground power and air hookups, ESCAPAC ejection seat diagrams, and cockpit line drawings.  Appendix 4 provides a series of comparative profile-view line drawing of all the single-seat Corsair IIs.  Appendix 5 provides a complete “kitography” that lists all the kits, aftermarket decals, and aftermarket accessories ever produced for the airplane.  The book concludes (literally) with large fold-out 1:72 and 1:48 scale four-view plans and cross-sections of the A-7. 

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There’s very little that could be added to make this book better. I’ve got only two points.  I find anything associated with the “dark art” of electronic warfare to be immensely interesting, and I really wish the book could have include more than three brief sentences on the EA-7L which can be considered one of the most fascinating of all the Navy adversary roles.  There’s also very limited coverage of the surplus A-7s in Thai service beginning in 1995, again only served by a short paragraph and one photo.    

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Overall, this is an outstanding volume on the A-7 and an excellent reference of the jet that resonates with multiple audiences.  It is very well written and a pleasure to read.  Every single photo and illustration is great.  These SAM books really have knack at including awesome photos, with every image telling a story or being otherwise highly informative.  In other words, this book “must-have” for all fans of the SLUF and those interested in any and all related subject matter.  It is also an invaluable reference to any scale modeler building any kit of the A-7, and I think it has pushed me a little further toward working on my planned project involving the Trumpeter 1:32 scale A-7D in Ohio ANG markings.  

Many thanks to SAM publications for the review sample of this book. You can find them on the web at http://www.sampublications.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SAMEditor1.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale


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