Remembering the EA-7L, the SLUF variant that played the role of adversary aircraft

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Remembering the EA-7L, the SLUF variant that played the role of adversary aircraft
A pair of Vought EA-7L Corsair II aircraft from VAQ-34 on the ramp during the U.S. 3rd Fleet North Pacific Exercise (NORPACEX) at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska (USA) on Nov. 8, 1987. VAQ-34 operated as adversary squadron, hence the Soviet star and the red numbers on the planes

The EA-7L was used to simulate Soviet aircraft, often carrying a variety of jamming and ECM pods

Built by LTV Aerospace Corporation (the same company that produced the iconic F-8 Crusader), the A-7 Corsair II replaced the A-4 Skyhawk as Naval Aviation’s front line light attack aircraft. The A-7 performed its maiden flight in Sep. 1965 and resembled the F-8 Crusader especially in the single jet intake gaping beneath the nose.

However the short and stubby silhouette of the Corsair II embodied ruggedness and left little question that it was designed to carry bombs. The SLUF (Short, Little, Ugly, Fucker as the A-7 was nicknamed by her aircrews) in fact evolved into arguably the most successful tactical jet bomber of the Vietnam Conflict.

Remembering the EA-7L, the SLUF variant that played the role of adversary aircraft
A U.S. Navy Vought EA-7L Corsair II aircraft from VAQ-34 on the ramp during the U.S. 3rd Fleet North Pacific Exercise (NORPACEX) at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska (USA) on Nov. 8 1987

What the SLUF wasn’t supposed to do was the adversary aircraft a role that played the one of a kind EA-7L variant.

Remembering the EA-7L, the SLUF variant that played the role of adversary aircraft
A Vought EA-7L Corsair II aircraft (BuNo. 156794) of the Pacific Missile Test Center (PTMC) parked on the flight line at Naval Air Station Point Mugu (California, USA) on Dec. 30, 1991

Because of a shortage of TA-4 Skyhawks, eight TA-7Cs were modified into EA-7L. These jets were used by Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34) ‘Electric Horsemen’ within the Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group (FEWSG) to simulate Soviet aircraft, often carrying a variety of jamming and ECM pods.

Remembering the EA-7L, the SLUF variant that played the role of adversary aircraft
U.S. Navy Lieutenants Lori “Wrench” Melling (left) and Laura “Moose” Mason from VAQ-34 pose for a picture in front of their EA-7L Corsair II aircraft during the U.S. 3rd Fleet North Pacific Exercise (NORPACEX) at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaksa (USA), on Nov. 8, 1987.

The EA-7Ls were upgraded to A-7E standard while retaining twin seats in 1984. The aircraft were retired in 1991.

Today only few pictures of this forgotten variant of the mighty SLUF remain.

Remembering the EA-7L, the SLUF variant that played the role of adversary aircraft
Looking suitably pleased with themselves after completing a harrowing cross-country from NAS Pensacola, Lt Anne Kruger (pilot) and Lt Jackie Maher (Naval Flight Officer) pose for the camera. Described by them as the worst flight of their lives, the crew had flown into a thunderstorm in their ‘unmanned’ EA-7L Corsair II, the aircraft’s generator failing after it received a lightning strike. Flying without instruments or radio communications, the crew somehow managed to link up with an A-3 from Key West and recover to base ‘stuck’ to the Skywarrior’ wing tip. (Picture from the book Superbase 24 KEY WEST ‘Top Guns’ of the East Coast, 1991 Osprey Publishing, George Hall)

Photo credit: PH2 Bruce Trombecky / U.S. Navy and Sgt. W. Thornton / U.S. Air Force

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