The Grumman A-6 Intruder (Jul 1965)

When the USS Independence sailed into the South China Sea on 5 June it introduced a new aircraft to the conflict in the shape of the Grumman A-6A Intruder, a two-seat night and all-weather attack bomber.  The aircraft was equipped with advanced avionics and radar and had a useful bomb load of some 15,000lb.  Its specialist role was low level interdiction, often at night and as a single or two ship operation without escort.  However, when the first Intruders deployed to Southeast Asia the aircraft’s DIANE (Digital, Integrated Attack and Navigation Equipment) suite of avionics was not yet fully functional nor totally reliable.  VA-75 flew its first operational mission into North Vietnam on 1 July but by the end of the month the squadron had lost three aircraft.  While the vagaries of the DIANE system were not responsible for the losses, the complicated avionics caused a much greater degree of aircraft unservicability than was normal for an attack squadron.  The problems with the avionics and radar were still not solved when the second Intruder squadron, VA-85, arrived on the USS Kitty Hawk in November. The technical issues were eventually solved and the A-6 provided the only really effective night interdiction capability in Southeast Asia until the introduction of the USAF’s F-111.