Legends of Vietnam: The Grumman A-6 Intruder

On a May afternoon in 1972 a flight of four Grumman A-6 Intruders, the lead elements in an air wing strike, flew a hundred feet above North Vietnamese rice paddies west of the Gulf of Tonkin, about 25 miles south of Hanoi. Loaded with Mk 20 Rockeye bomblet canisters, the jets were headed toward Bai Thuong, an enemy airfield. Navy pilot and air group commander Roger Sheets flew the lead Intruder. He and his bombardier/navigator Charlie Carr, a Marine Corps captain, used the aircraft’s radar and visual cues to guide them to Bai Thuong. “The A-6 was the all-weather attack aircraft,” says Carr. “Monsoon season never affected our operations.” But that day was clear; Sheets and Carr were getting a good look at North Vietnam, and any other aircraft sharing that patch of sky could get a good look at them. As the Intruders approached their target, they climbed to 200 feet. From the right seat, Carr spotted enemy MiGs above. They looked like little arrowheads circling watchfully about 1,500 feet up. He threw a switch and informed Sheets that the A-6’s three-plus tons of ordnance were now armed.
Left side air-to-air view of an A-6E Intruder aircraft from Medium Attack Squadron 52 (VA-52).

Left side air-to-air view of an A-6E Intruder aircraft from Medium Attack Squadron 52 (VA-52).