Scooters of South America
Some 3,000 A4D/A-4 Skyhawks were produced between 1954 and 1979, and the type flew with under no less than nine flags. While an estimated 300 are in static displays around the globe and another 50 airworthy examples are in private hands, often flown on contract dissimilar training duties by groups like Draken Intl, Ed Heinemann’s vaunted “Scooters” are today only seen in active military service in Latin America.
Argentina, a huge operator of the Skyhawk, purchased over 130 A-4s in the 1960s and 70s. Famously, about half of these were deployed against the British in the Falklands and no less than 22 lost in combat through clashes with Harriers, AAA of all flavors, and SAMs.
Today, the Argentines currently have 33 “A4AR Fightinghawks” (upgraded ex-USMC A-4M/TA-4F) airframes in their Air Force, operating in two ground attack squadrons of the 5th Air Brigade, with just 12 aircraft believed in service. The Argentine Navy, which used to fly ex USN A4A-4Bs from their WWII-era British-built carrier, ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (V-2), now only operates a squadron of increasingly unsupportable Super Étendards from shore as their sole combat jet.
In a different take, the Marinha do Brasil purchased 23 former Kuwaiti A-4KU/TA-4KU Skyhawks in 1997 after the former owner upgraded to F-18s. Just four years later, the Brazilians were successfully operating the type from their former ASW-only aircraft carrier, NAeL Minas Gerais (A-11), a sistership of Veinticinco de Mayo. The Skyhawks continued to be used on Brazil’s follow-on flattop, NAe São Paulo (A12) after that ship was purchased from France.
Sao Paulo proved to be something of a lemon for Brazil and the high-mileage French ship spent very little time at sea before she was finally decommissioned in 2018. Today, the country has switched to operating the former RN assault ship HMS Ocean, as NAe Atlantico, which cannot run the good old Skyhawk.
Nonetheless, the Aviação Naval Brasileira still runs their A4s, flown from shore by the “Falcos” of VF-1, with less than a dozen airframes considered active.
And they remain beautiful aircraft.