By the mid-1950s the US Navy was looking for a replacement for its main carrier borne attack aircraft the piston engined, single seat Douglas AD Skyraider. The navy didn’t just want to replace the Skyraider they wanted a much more capable aircraft and issued an operational requirement document in October, 1956 followed by a request for proposals (RFP) in February 1957 for an all-weather, two place, twin jet carrier-based aircraft capable of carrying a heavy bomb load. No fewer than eleven designs were submitted from eight manufacturers, Bell, Boeing, Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, Martin, North American, and Vought. On January 2, 1958 Grumman model G-128 was selected as the winner of the design competition and given the Navy designation A2F, in 1962 under the Tri-Service aircraft designation system the A2F Intruder became the A-6 Intruder.

       Grumman was awarded a contract for eight development YA2F-1 aircraft. The Intruder design team was led by Lawrence Mead Jr. whose experience with the computers and electronic on this aircraft would lead to him working on Lunar Excursion Module and the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. The two man crew consisted of a pilot and a bomber/navigator (BN), with the BN being seated to the right slightly lower and behind the pilot. All models except for the first prototype were fitted with a fixed refueling probe, for probe&drogue refueling, forward of the large two pane windscreen. The airframe had a wing with a moderate sweep(52 Degrees) that was designed for max performance at low altitudes while carrying the aforementioned heavy bomb load. Flight controls on the wing consisted of leading edge slats, a “flaperon”( capable of being used as both an aileron and a flap) on the rear edge of the wing and spoiler for roll control directly forward of the flaperon. For its time, the Intruder had a surprisingly sophisticated electronics suite named the Digital Integrated Attack Navigation Equipment (DIANE) system, featuring a cathode tube display in the cockpit that showed the terrain in front of the aircraft giving the Intruder all-weather capability. Also there was the Basic Automated Checkout System (BACE) self-diagnostic software. The original design had swiveling jet exhaust nozzles(up to 23 degrees downward) to aid in short take-off and landing (STOL) performance. The swivel feature was eliminated during flight testing with the exhaust being fixed with a slight downward angle. Another feature of the original design were the perforated dive brakes that were on the on the sides of the lower fuselage. During flight testing it was found that they caused instability and were wired shut and with the perforations being eliminated on early Intruders and eventually the panels were totally eliminated on later models. However all models of the Intruder had “decelerons” or “boards” these were panels, one opening up and the other down that were located on each wingtip.

       On April 19, 1960 the first YA2F-1 Intruder prototype took flight. Deliveries to the US Navy began in February, 1962 and the Intruder became operational with the fleet in 1963. The Grumman A-6 Intruder was only operated by the US Navy and Marine Corps. The last A-6E Intruder left U.S. Marine Corps service on 28 April 1993, 37 years after its first flight and 693 Intruders later in February 1997 the Intruder was retired from service with the US Navy. The A-6 Intruder was never exported beyond American shores. The EA-6B Prowler variant served with the US Navy until June, 2015 and 48 years after the first flight of the A-6 series of aircraft the last EA-6B Prowler was retired from service with the US Marines in March of 2019.

• A-6A - Initial production model designation of which 482 were produced; fitted with 2 x J52-P-8A/B engines; increased rudder size; digital navigation and attack systems integrated.

• A-6B – The 19 A-6B variants built were originally meant to be a simplified clear air model of the A6A but were instead adapted to perform the air defense/surface-to-air missile (SAM) defense role, or in Navy parlance, Iron Hand missions.

• A-6C - Night Attack Variant fitted with forward-looking infrared systems and low-light TV sensors; 12 produced. The 12 A-6C variants built were fitted with the Trails Roads Interdiction Multi-sensor (TRIM) mounted in a mid-bottom fuselage location. This early version of a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) and Low Light-Level Television (LLLTV) set was capable of detecting vehicles, trains, and other targets at night, turning the A-6C into a night hunter. The A-6C also carried the “Black Crow” engine ignition sensor for truck targeting. The first squadron to fly the A-6C in combat was VA-165 Boomers with CVW-9 aboard USS America (CVA-66). The A-6Cs were all eventually reworked to the A-6E specification, but the TRIM-equipped A-6Cs blazed a trail for the A-6E TRAM to follow.

• KA-6D - In-flight Refueling Tanker Variant. 78 A-6As and 12 A-6Es were reworked for use as KA-6D tanker aircraft.

• A-6E – A-6Es first deployed to the fleet on December 9th 1971 with improved engines and improved systems throughout; solid-state electronics replaced 1950s and 1960s era circuitry. The A-6E was the most capable version of the Intruder. The two radars in previous variants were incorporated into a single multi-mode radar. The DIANE navigation system was also upgraded to the more accurate Carrier Airborne Inertial Navigation System (CAINS). The A-6E continued to be improved thru its service life. All fleet A-6Es were upgraded to A-6E Tram(The Target Recognition Attack Multi-sensor. As the A-6Es got on in the service years their wings began to show signs of fatigue and roughly 85 percent had their wings replaced new graphite/epoxy/titanium/aluminum composite wings. In 1990 the Navy made the decision to end production of the Intruder. A-6E model production was 445 airframes. 240 of them were reworked from earlier A-6As, A-6Bs, and A-6Cs.

• EA-6B "Prowler" – Carrier Based Electronic Warfare Model for the United States Navy. Early in the development of the Intruder the Navy expressed interest in an electronic countermeasures (ECM) variant of the A2F-1, which Grumman agreeably drew up as the "A2F-1Q" (Later EA-6A). The mission that this dedicated EWA version of the Intruder family was asked to perform required the addition of two electronic warfare officers. The fuselage of the Intruder was lengthened to accommodate a 4 person crew and the EA-6B Prowler was born. Radar, processing systems, jamming and navigation were all enhanced. Besides the lengthened fuselage Prowlers can be identified by large equipment pod mounted on the top of the tailfin.170 Prowlers were built between 1971 and 1991.

       The ongoing war in Vietnam was the A-6s first call to action. The Intruders all-weather capability and heavy payload carrying ability meant that it was called upon quite often to bomb targets. The A-6A performed its first combat sorties over Vietnam on 1 July 1965, with aircraft hitting targets south of Hanoi. Very often its mission low altitude mission profile made it vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire, with 84 aircraft being lost to all causes while accomplishing 35,000 sorties between 1965 and 1973.

       Normal paint scheme were typical US Navy light gull gray on top and white on the bottom.

       Nobody could describe the Intruder as a pretty aircraft with its side by side seating for the crew and tapering fuselage it looked like a big tadpole, but it could be counted on to deliver its payload in bad weather or at night, the daytime clear weather close air support mission being better left to the venerable A1 Skyraider.

       The Intruder carried no internal armament, but it did have 5 external pylons capable of carrying 18,000 lbs. of stores. Maximum bomb load was six 500 Lb. bombs on each pylon. The pylons were all plumbed so that they could carry fuel tanks. The A-6 would eventually see a career carrying combinations of Mk-82 and MK-84 iron bombs, Cluster Bombs, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, AGM-130 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation / anti-radar missiles, AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-27 Paveway III laser-guided bombs and was capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.

      In January of 2019 the Granite State Modelers were contacted by veteran of the Vietnam War who had been stationed at Marine Corps Air Base (MCAB) Nam Phong AKA “The Rose Garden” . Originally constructed as Royal Thai Air Base Nam Phong in 1966-1967 it was taken over in 1972 as a base of operations for the 1st Marine Air Wing of Marine Air Group 15. Accommodations and facilities were pretty bare bones and newly arriving personnel to the base were quoted a lyric from a popular song of the day “we never promised you a rose garden”, a nickname for the base was thus formed. The request was to have a 1/48 scale model of the Grumman A6 Intruder built as it would have appeared while based at the Rose Garden. He would provide a Hobby Boss A6 Intruder and supply a decal set 48-001 from AOA Decals entitled “Intruders From the Beach – USMC A-6A Intruders In the Vietnam War”. The decal set includes markings for VMA(AW)-225 Vikings at DaNang 1969-71, VMA(AW)-242 Batmen at DaNang 1966-70 and VMA(AW)-533 Hawks based at Chu Lai 1967-69 and Nam Phong 1972-73. Also provided were several photographs of Intruders at Nam Phong. It was requested that the model be marked as an aircraft in one of the photos. This was easy to accomplish because the decal set provides all the necessary markings for every aircraft in every squadron listed. BuAer # 155706 was chosen as the subject of this build. This decal sheet is so involved that there are two options for 155706, I chose option 533-17A ED-4(155706)-1972. The decal sheet even tells how to convert Hobby Boss Kit #81709 A6E Intruder into an A-6A. Also requested was that the underwing stores include 18 Mk. 82 500 Lb. bombs, 6 each on the centerline and outer pylons and fuel tanks on the inner pylons, that the wings be folded and that the boarding ladders be in the down position and that the flaps, slats and air brakes all be closed.

       Hobby Boss Kit 81709 is the most detailed kit I have ever built, it seems every node, fairing antenna and strut is represented in this kit. Assembly begins with the ejection seats and proceeds thru the cockpit. Plenty of photoetched detail here. Next is the landing gear which involves trapping white metal struts in between two injection molded plastic halves, this makes for very strong support for a model that has some weight to it. Next were details needed before the fuselage halves were assembled. The engine intakes were painted assembled and located in their respective sides. From my reading I knew that most Intruders had the fuselage dive brakes made inoperative, so I didn’t bother with any of the detail here and glued the brake panels shut. Since the nose radar was not going to be open to view step 9 was skipped. Next, the inboard wings are assembled with the engine exhausts inside them and a choice(Step 11 or Step 12) must be made were to position the inboard leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps. I next joined the inboard wing assemblies with the fuselage assembly, leaving the landing gear doors off, and put this aside waiting for paint. The outer wing sections are the next set and again a choice must be made as to the position of the slats and flaps and the wingtip dive brake. The last step before painting was to join the tailplanes with the fuselage.

       To meet the request for 6 bombs on all three pylons I had to use 6 from Hasegawa Aircraft Weapons: A Kit # 36001. These were individually painted and decaled and then mounted on their respective pylons and then put aside for the final assembly stage.

      Testors Model Master paints were used throughout this model except for Tamiya Rubber on the tires. Dark Gull Grey was applied for the anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit and for the walkways on the wings and fuselage. After these areas were masked off white was applied to the upper control surfaces and bottom of the model. After masking off the white flaperons the upper fuselage and wings were painted Light Gull Grey. A couple of small areas such as the black intake lips, the navigation lights and the Pitot tube tip were painted their appropriate colors.

       Testors’ Clear Gloss Lacquer was applied and then decaling began. I had some trouble with the hawk decal on the tail splintering, but after applying some Microscale Liquid Decal Film to the remaining decals the problem went away. All of the maintenance stencils took a lot of time to apply but they look great. A final coat of semi gloss clear on the bottom surfaces and then clear flat on the upper surfaces and the painting was done.

       It took quite a bit of time to assemble and I must confess I spent a fair amount of time on my knees looking for small parts on the floor. My one issue with the kit is that the instruction sheet does not match the complexity of the model, many times I was left guessing on the exact placement of parts. I am happy with the final outcome.

Bibliography:

       Detail & Scale #24 A-6 Intruder By Bert Kinzey ISBN 0-8306-8034-9

       Detail & Scale #46 EA-6B Prowler By Bert Kinzey ISBN 1-888974-22-2

       Wikipedia Article on the Grumman A-6 Intruder

       Military Factory Website - Grumman A-6 Intruder

       Avgeekery.com - Six things you probably never knew about the mighty A-6 Intruder

       Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum - Grumman A-6 Intruder

       Airvectors.net - The Grumman A-6 Intruder & EA-6B Prowler

       National Museum Of Naval Aviation - The Grumman A-6E Intruder

Photo GalleryModel Magazine DatabaseModel ProjectsEnthusiast's LinksHomeContact Us