McDonnell Douglas A-4K Skyhawk – NZ6205
First produced in 1954, the Skyhawk was one of the world’s longest-serving attack aircraft. It was also the RNZAF’s longest-serving combat aircraft, as well as its last, with an operational life spanning more than 30 years.
The A-4 Skyhawk was a jet-powered, light-weight attack aircraft, originally developed in the early 1950s by the Douglas Aircraft Company (later McDonnell Douglas) for the US Navy and Marine Corps. It served in the Vietnam, Yom Kippur and Falklands Wars, and was acquired by a number of countries, including Australia and New Zealand.
The RNZAF purchased 10 brand new A-4K and four two-seater TA-4K Skyhawks from the United States in 1970. A further 10 surplus Skyhawks were procured from the Royal Australian Navy in 1984. The Skyhawks served largely with No. 75 Squadron at Ohakea, and later, with No. 2 Squadron at Nowra in Australia, as a multi-role aircraft capable of conducting fighter ground attack, battlefield interdiction, air-to-air and maritime strike operations. The fleet underwent an extensive upgrade in the late 1980s under ‘Project Kahu’ to improve its operational capabilities. The Skyhawks were withdrawn from service following the disbandment of the RNZAF’s Air Combat Force in 2001. After a lengthy period in storage at Woodbourne, most of the surviving Skyhawk fleet was sold to Draken International in 2012, with several being reserved for museum collections in New Zealand and Australia.
NZ6205 was manufactured at the Douglas aircraft factory in California in 1969 and arrived in Auckland aboard the USS Okinawa on 17 May 1970. It went on to serve most of its operational life at Ohakea with No. 75 Squadron. It was the first RNZAF A-4 to be upgraded under ‘Project Kahu’, and was one of the first two aircraft used to successfully test the new Maverick air-to-ground missile in 1989, the other being NZ6254 (see below). On 30 July 2004, NZ6205 made the final flight by a Skyhawk in RNZAF service when it was flown from Ohakea to Woodbourne for storage. NZ6205 was subsequently transferred to the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in October 2012.
This aircraft is on long-term loan from the United States Navy (USN) in an agreement arranged by McDonnell Douglas in 1987. Originally an A4D-2N model, it had been upgraded to A-4L specifications while in USN service. It was sourced from the storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and transported to New Zealand in January 1988. Considerable work was carried out by the Air Force Museum of New Zealand to reconfigure the aircraft to early A-4K specifications, as operated by the RNZAF in the early 1970s. It was given the display identity of NZ6207, which was the first RNZAF Skyhawk to be lost, written off in a crash following an engine failure at Ohakea in October 1974. It is currently in storage in No. 2 Hangar.
The Museum has seven other A-4K Skyhawks, two of which are on site at Wigram (‘NZ6205’ and ‘NZ607’), and the remaining five are on loan to other institutions around New Zealand: