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A-4G Skyhawk in Royal Australian Marines service, New Guinea, 1978

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A-4G Skyhawk in Royal Australian Marines service, New Guinea, 1978


The McDonnell Douglas A-4G Skyhawk is a variant of the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft developed for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The model was based on the A-4F variant of the Skyhawk, and was fitted with slightly different avionics as well as the capacity to operate AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The RAN received ten A-4Gs in 1967 and another ten in 1971, and operated the type from 1967 to 1984.


In Australian service the A-4Gs formed part of the air group of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne, and were primarily used to provide air defence for the fleet. They took part in exercises throughout the Pacific region and also supported the training of RAN warships as well as other elements of the Australian military. The Skyhawks did not see combat, and a planned deployment of some of their pilots to fight in the Vietnam War was cancelled before it took place. Ten A-4Gs were destroyed as a result of equipment failures and non-combat crashes during the type's service with the Navy, causing the deaths of two pilots.


The RAN had no need for most of its fixed-wing aircraft after Melbourne was decommissioned in 1982.  The remaining A-4Gs were assigned to the Royal Australian Marines air wing.


In 1975, the Royal Australian Marines also adopted the A-4G Skyhawk as their standard Close Air Support aircraft.  Armed with a mix of Sidewinders, rocket pods and bombs, the A4-G was an able aircraft for use in supporting the Marines ashore.  Able to be flown from small, forward airstrips and carriers, off shore, the A-4 was considered exactly the right sized platform for the Marines’ needs.


In 1978, the Marines were assigned to Papua-New Guinea’s defence against the Indonesians who occupred the western half of the Island, a legacy of the Dutch who had resigned their role as Colonists in 1964.  Indonesia, under a Communist regime since 1965 had been antagonistic towards Australia in a “Cold War” like situation, ever since that country and the UK and New Zealand defended Malaysia during the Borneo Confrontation period.


Basing their new A-4Gs in small forward operating airstrips in the Owen Stanley valleys, the Marines undertook aggressive patrol along the border with West Irian, as the Indonesians called their half of the island.   Occasional encounters occurred between the Indonesian special forces and the Marines and the A-4Gs proved their worth, carrying 500lb bombs, rocket pods and Sidewinder missiles for self-defence.  Bombs and rockets were occasionally used in support of Marine ground patrols on the PNG side of the border but there were no reports of Marine air units crossing the land border with West Irian.




The Model


The model is a venerable Esci A-4E/F model in 1/72 scale.  It has been brush painted in a hypothetical camouflage finish and decals came from the spares box, as did the two Sidewinder missiles on the outer wing pylons.

Edited by rickshaw

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