McDonnell Douglas TA-4K Skyhawk – NZ6254
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 The Skyhawks were withdrawn from service following the disbandment of the RNZAF’s Air Combat Force in 2001.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.
NZ6254 arrived aboard the USS Okinawa on 17 May 1970. It was one of six two-seater Skyhawks operated by the RNZAF as an advanced trainer, and spent most of its service life with No. 75 Squadron at Ohakea. NZ6254 was the first Skyhawk to fly in New Zealand skies after delivery, and was the first TA-4 to be upgraded under ‘Project Kahu’. It was also the first of two aircraft used to successfully test the new Maverick air-to-ground missile in 1989. NZ6254 was last flown on 19 October 2001, and was transferred to the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in June 2011.
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: