VA (L) Competition - alternatives to the A-7

overscan (PaulMM)

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27 December 2005
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Design 128G-12

When BuWeps requested proposals for the VA(L) light attack aircraft in June 1963, it specified that manufacturers should only submit designs which were minimum change modifications of existing designs as low cost and early availability were of prime importance. Accordingly, in August 1963 Grumman submitted its Design 128G-12, a derivative of the A-6A. As the VA(L) was intended for day operations in clear weather, the complex integrated navigation and bombing system of the A-6A was replaced by a simpler multimode radar, and a single-seat-on-centreline cockpit was substituted for the two-seat cockpit of the A-6A. The only other significant change was the incorporation of a folding horizontal tail to increase by one third the carrier spotting factor. The Navy finally selected the smaller lighter LTV proposal even though the resulting A-7A had much less commonality with the F-8.


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The three view drawing is something I've never seen before.

I wonder how the performance of this proposal, with less frontal area than the original A-6, would have compared to the contemporary Buccaneer S.2?

The Douglas A4D-6, an A-4 enlarged around the TF-30 turbofan, was the other VA(L) competitor. Since the TF-30 was not only physically larger than the J-52 (or the later F404 used by Singapore), but had far greater massflow requirements, the A4D-6 would have looked substantially different than the garden variety "Scooter."
The drawing is from a Puttnam book on Grumman, presumably

Francillon: 'Grumman Aircraft since 1929' Putnam Aeronautical series Naval Institute Press, 1987

Is a question that I have always asked myself on this model on the function of the small notch under the muzzle somebody has knowledge of its reason of being?
Is a structural remainder of the assembly of the radar of pursuit of the land
of the A-6?
The holder of some type of optic sensor?
An aesthetic concession of the designers for those who like of adorning their airplanes with shark fauceses? ;D

Do drawings or models of the other discarded proposals exist for the VA(L)?
Its probably avionics related, but with such a small picture its impossible to tell the function.

There was a fourth contender for VA(L), North American proposed an upgraded FJ-4B Fury with enlarged fuselage for the TF-30 engine and strengthened wing to carry the 15000 lb payload.

  • Al Adcock, A-7 Corsair in Action Squadron-Signal
VA(L) according to Vought

In 1962, the Navy conducted studies to determine the best route to realize its desires for a close support aircraft that could carry a very heavy weapon load and achieve a radius of action well beyond anything previously considered. Cost-effectiveness was a major consideration and modification of an existing airframe was the Navy's choice to meet all of the technical and cost requirements. When the Navy was casting about for suitable candidates, the Douglas A-4, modified to accept the TF-30 turbofan engine, already in use with the F-111, seemed to be the answer. Thus, the program was headed toward a sole-source procurement from the Douglas Aircraft Company, maker of the A-4. The designation was to be the A4D-6. No doubt, the very fine marketing apparatus of the Douglas Company played some role in this decision.

The VA(L) Competition

Vought would have none of this, and through an outstanding counter-marketing effort, led by the brilliant Connie Lau, Chief of Advanced Systems at Vought, a competition was forced. It was known as VA(L), Navy Attack Bomber, Light. In late June 1963, the VA(L) Request For Proposal (RFP) was received by industry and the battle began. Four competitors responded, Douglas, Grumman, LTV, and North American.
The Navy's VA(L) was to be a single-seat, single-engine attack airplane with an overload mission of 12 Mk 81 (500-lb) Snakeye bombs delivered at a radius of 600 nautical miles. Another key requirement was that it be "a modification of an airplane currently in the Navy inventory." The payload/range implied the use of the Navy's new TF30 engine.

Grumman considered proposing either a TF30-powered F11F or a single-seat modification of its A-6 Intruder with a single seat but the existing engines. The latter's size enabled it to easily exceed the payload/range requirement even though it did not have the fuel-efficient turbofan engine. Grumman decided to offer the A-6 derivative, believing that the low development cost and commonality with an existing airplane in the air group would trump the somewhat higher unit cost.

It didn't.


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I doubt that the F11F model accurately represents the TF30 powered derivative under consideration. I would have expected a bigger wing and fatter fuselage.

Picture courtesy of Grumman Aircraft History Center


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carolm said:
The VA (L) was mentioned in the A-6 thread as having a TF30 turbofan equipped A-4. Does anyone have any pics of this??

From my forthcoming book on carrier-based attack aircraft:


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Tailspin Turtle said:
carolm said:
The VA (L) was mentioned in the A-6 thread as having a TF30 turbofan equipped A-4. Does anyone have any pics of this??

From my forthcoming book on carrier-based attack aircraft:

I can't thank you enough for the drawing. It very nicely illustrates the substantially expanded dimensions of the A4D-6.

Here's the link to the thread on the 1966 "Spey A-4" proposal, which surprisingly, shared very little with the A4D-6:,2144.0.html

I do think that the estimated weight (11,150 lbs, empty) for the A4D-6 was hopelessly optimistic, considering the increased dimensions and additional weight of the TF30.

In hindsight, it was entirely proper that the VA(L) requirement was opened up to competitive bidding, as the A4D-6 was hardly a simple modification of an existing type. Oddly enough, before I read the SAC, I had assumed that the A4D-6 was very similar to the later "Spey A-4," and would have been very much a standard A-4 with much larger intakes for the greater mass flow of the TF30. Obviously, the changes were very much more extensive, and the development risks were most like as great as those of the A-7.

This was one of the last illustrations cut from Strike from the Sea to make the limit. Provided by the Grumman Historical Center, it depicts a single-seat A-6 providing close air support to the Marines. The proposal was in response to a 1962 Navy requirement to replace the single-seat Douglas A-1 (AD) Skyraider. (The two-seat A-6 had replaced the A-1E (AD-5N) night attack variant.)

Unfortunately, the Navy had in mind not only a variant of an existing aircraft, but one powered by a single TF30 turbofan engine, which not coincidentally at the time was also the basic powerplant for the nascent Grumman/General Dynamics F-111B. Grumman management was forced to choose between full compliance, a TF30-powered F-11 (F11F) Tiger—don't scoff, the winner of the competition was Vought's proposal, which closely resembled the Vought F-8 (F8U) Crusader)—and a proposal that they hoped the Navy would realize was a better deal than an all-but-new design powered by a new engine. They were wrong, although their Attack Tiger would probably have lost to Vought's excellent proposal anyway, as did Douglas' proposal of an A-4 (A4D) Skyhawk on steroids. For more, see chapter nine in Strike from the Sea, which will be available in July.


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Tailspin Turtle said:
carolm said:
The VA (L) was mentioned in the A-6 thread as having a TF30 turbofan equipped A-4. Does anyone have any pics of this??

From my forthcoming book on carrier-based attack aircraft:
I find it curious that the center-sheet rudder of the A-4 was preserved, since that was (as I recall) a flight-text-expedient and certainly wasn't ideal. Is there any reason to believe a (resized and reshaped!) tail of similar construction would live on in an A-4-30, or was that just an artist copying the current vehicle?
Has there been any luck in finding a good 3-view of the NAA proposal? My understanding is that it was based on the FJ-4B but enlarged to take a TF-30. Undoubtedly the fuselage was deeper to accommodate the new engine, but the airframe was likely lengthened as well.
G-12A model pics from Ebay.


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overscan said:
G-12A model pics from Ebay.

ääähhhhmmm ... I never knew that such a model was proposed to the USAF ? ???

Info from the Ebay seller

Model is made of some type of dense plastic or resin material. Finish is silver with blue stencilled and sprayed canopy areas. Wingspan is 13 inches. Length is 14 inches. There is age cracking visible around the cockpit/nose sub-assembly. There is also an area on the bottom of the fuselage where the silver paint has chipped off.

The underwing ordnance needs restoration. Each wing hard point has a rail with 6 bombs attached. All the rails and their bomb loads need to be reattached to the wing. Also, two of the rails have snapped in half and need to be reglued. Also, the centerline rail is also broken and a section with 3 bombs is missing.

Clear acrylic stand base reads "G-12A Two Seat Version" and has the Grumman logo. Stand base measures 8 1/4 inches long. The stand upright has separated from the base and needs to be buffed out and reattached. The model attaches to the upright by 2 brass locating grommets.

The Grumman G-12 was designed in response to a 1964 U.S. Navy Competition for a replacement for the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft. Grumman, Vought, North American and Douglas submitted designs. All the designs had to based around existing airframes to maximize commonality of parts and reduce costs and development time. The Grumman G-12 was based on the A-6A Intruder, and featured a single seat on centerline cockpit, simplified radar, and folding horizontal stabilizers to increase the number of aircraft that could be spotted on a carrier deck. The LTV proposal (based on the F-8) won the competition, and resulted in the A-7A attack aircraft.

The Grumman G-12A model offered here is a 2-seat variant of the G-12 which was submitted to the USAF.
Model of Grumman Model 128 G-12 found on eBay.


Seller's description:
Hard to find Grumman model 128 G-12 (A-6 Intruder) concept model of plane made for 1963 Navy VAL light attack squadron competition. This is the single pilot version of the successful A-6 Intruder aircraft. This plane was never actually built. Model was purchased from same estate as another concept model from the Grumman archives I previously sold on ebay. Guaranteed from the 1960's and not a new model. Model is very nicely detailed. The plane came with a Grumman A-6E stand that it fits on. Measures about 14" in length with a 13" wingspan. The only flaw I can find is a crack on the underside of the fuselage measuring about 3" long (see close up pic). I believe that when they drilled the holes so they could insert 2 metal rings so that the plane would fit nicely on the stand it probably weakend the area. One of these small metal rings has fallen inside the plane so when it is placed on the stand it sits at a slight angle. Plane displays great and is a rare find for the serious collector.


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An interesting weapons hardpoint/pylon arrangement carrying the Shrike and Sidewinder!
A pity such an arrangement was not incorporated to the actual A-6 Intruder to give them a self defence capability without loss of offensive load!
Does anyone know if 'self-defence' AAM were specified in the US Navy's 'VAL' RFP?

Great find and great pics
I would love some of these great models in my collection, due to me being a model nuffer.

Just reading through George Spangenberg interview about the VAX.

Spangenberg states that - 'Northrop was playing around too.....................
'I think we had only those four (Grumman, Vought, North American, Douglas) manufacturers, Northrop dropping out'.

'Vought got the contract as you know but the competition was extremely close from the technical standpoint between North American (FJ-?) and Vought. Their two airplanes were almost the same on payload range which was the real criteria in the competition'.
I could not think of the derivitive of the FJ-4 carrying anywhere near as much payload as a A-7 Corsair II

'On the other hand, Vought and Douglas were almost identical in cost but with Vought having a substantial payload radius advantage. Why Douglas wasn't a heck of a lot more competitive on price I think was the thing that bothered me the most at the time because what they had done, as I recall now, you know its been a while, they split the wing and added span to it in order to make it become aerodynamically closer to what it should be'.

So we have a Northrop design to consider and find by the looks of it! ;D

Model of Grumman G-12 Model 128 found on eBay.


Seller's Description:
Here is a very unusual Grumman Contractor Model based off the Precise Models or Topping Models 1/48 scale A6 Intruder Model. This was a Grumman Proposal for a subsonic, daylight, visual attack aircraft. The second seat and large radome that are so characteristic of the Intruder are absent here, and there appears to be some sort of sensor blister on the chin about where the TRAM turret on later A6's would be installed. This comes fully loaded, with 12 freefall bombs, two Sidewinders and two HARM missiles in addition to a large centerline fuel (?) tank. Probably done in the Grumman Company Model Shop by hand, and doubtful there could be any more than 2 or 3 in the world...if even THAT many...Excellent shape and no decal loss...


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Additional images of Grumman G-12 Model 128 model.


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Sold! It could have been yours for $459.59 US.

TinWing said:
I do have to wonder if there is any relationship between the designs in question and the later, losing North American for an A-4 replacement? In the competition that lead to the A-7, North American was definitely a bidder, but nothing has been uncovered so far?

The North American proposal was a TF-30 powered variant of the FJ-4. There are at least two different models of it. This is one. There was another posted on Secret Projects in the last day or two.


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Got bombs ?


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Additional photos of the North American Aviation NA-295 / AF-1F / VAL factory presentation model -- the ultimate Sabre development. Absence of main landing gear doors is noteworthy.


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Abraham Gubler said:
Extremely nice pictures Circle Five.

Thank you Abraham. Of interest is the model's nameplate, which indicates the AF-1F was a Columbus Division project. NAA Los Angeles Division (at LAX / Mines Field) would have been my first guess.
circle-5 said:
Thank you Abraham. Of interest is the model's nameplate, which indicates the AF-1F was a Columbus Division project. NAA Los Angeles Division (at LAX / Mines Field) would have been my first guess.

Wouldn't NAA California be flat out with the XB-70? NAA Ohio would have come off the Vigilante with a good understanding of Navy attack and be well suited to the customer. Those bombs look like the 250lb Mk 81 which were finer (ratio) than the 500 lb Mk 82. But that's still 8,000 lbs plus the two Sparrow/Skrikes and Sidewinders (+1,200 lbs). The scabbed on wheel wells is likely because of the wider TF30 engine consuming most of the fuselage barrel. No covers saves weight and stores volume for a plane that has already added so much drag it would hardly notice the exposed wheels. The guns are scabbed on as well.
What's with the 'fat lip' air intake?
I'm assuming it's for the radar, but why at the bottom?
I would have thought they'd have have used a similar arrangement to the F-86D...

Several thoughts -

1) NAA Columbus Division had its own design staff although wind tunnel facilities and expertise were undoubtedly shared with LAD.

2) The radome appears to have been moved to the bottom of the intake so as to not adversely affect "over the nose" visibility (compared to the FJ-4) during carrier landing. However, what this radome would have done at higher AOAs to the airflow distortion pattern at the face of the TF30 engine...probably would have been very ugly, particularly as sensitive as the TF30 proved to be.

3) Do not think for a moment that the loadout displayed on the model could have been employed tactically in real life. Just by eyeballing it, there are several weapons release interference problems in ejecting the stores from the adjacent MERs.
IIRC, all the FJ swept wing series was engineered and manufactured at Columbus, I remember my brother working on the FJ-3 engineering there during the early 50s. Also the T2J, alias T-2 "Buckeye" (appropriate).

Artie Bob
Just a couple things caught my attention on the AF-1F model pics.

I'm looking at the model and I see bulges on either side of the intake. Is there any info on what gun armament it would've carried? I'm also curious about the slight bump in front of the canopy.

Also wondering which variant came first: the one with wingtip hardpoints or the version with landing gear fairings?

At Jared, would this Fury variant warrant an article?
XP67_Moonbat said:
Just a couple things caught my attention on the AF-1F model pics.

I'm looking at the model and I see bulges on either side of the intake. Is there any info on what gun armament it would've carried? I'm also curious about the slight bump in front of the canopy.

Also wondering which variant came first: the one with wingtip hardpoints or the version with landing gear fairings?

At Jared, would this Fury variant warrant an article?

1) This AF-1F stuff material should probably be merged with the VAL competition thread (,143.msg789.html#msg789).

2) The bulge on the side of the fuselage is for a 20 mm cannon. The bump in front of the canopy is probably a fairing over a retracted inflight refueling probe.

3) I don't know which came first, but my guess would be that it was the FJ-4 derivative (strictly speaking, the change in the designation system was yet to occur) with the forward retracting main landing gear. The competition favored a minimal change to an existing aircraft and lots of external stores capability, which suggests that the final proposal was the one with the inward retracting main landing gear and many stores pylons.
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