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The A-7 Attack Jet's Heads Up Display Was A Revolution In Air Combat Tech [3/5] - A-7s carrying TRAM FLIR pods.png (1/1)
The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II wasn't sexy, it looked like a fat version
of the F-8 Crusader from which it drew its lineage, but it sure was smart. It
featured a slew of advanced avionics that would make its single pilot's job
easier and their attacks far more precise. One of these features was central to
the leap in combat capabilities the stubby aircraft represented—the Heads Up
The A-7 was the first operational American combat aircraft to get a fully
instrumented HUD as we understand the concept today. This new addition was a
monumental revolution in technology that changed air combat forever.
Before the A-7, tactical jets were receiving increasingly complex holographic
gunsights with simple symbology, but nothing was tied directly to computers that
worked to present all the key weapons delivery and primary flight information
right up in front of the pilot's eyes as they peered through the windscreen.
Looking back at the A-7's AN/AVQ-7(V) HUD, which was made by Elliott Flight
Automation along with Marconi, it is amazing what they pulled off in the
mid-1960s. Much of the HUD's general layout and symbology is still in use today,
and just how deeply integrated the HUD was with the jet's radar, navigation, and
other systems is absolutely remarkable. Flight data 'tapes,' velocity vector,
pitch ladder, steering cues, targeting points, bomb azimuth guides, AoA
E-bracket, and much more are all there, just as they remain on so many tactical
aircraft HUDs today.
The aircraft's HUD and the avionics and sensors that were tied into it greatly
helped the A-7 become renowned as an incredibly precise weapons delivery
platform in an age that predated the widespread use of precision-guided weapons.
Various reports state that the A-7 improved the accuracy of weapons delivery by
a multiple over the aircraft that came before it, most notably the plane it was
meant to initially replace within the U.S. Navy, the A-4 Skyhawk. The A-7 would
go on to serve in the USAF and Hellenic Air Force, as well as with Portugal and
Check out the absolutely awesome time capsule-like industry videos below that go
over the symbology and functionality of the Corsair II's revolutionary HUD:
The A-7 would continue to make history in terms of pilot visual and targeting
aids with the introduction of the first raster scan/CRT HUD that allowed for
video imagery, as well as HUD symbology, to be projected in front of the pilot.
As such, video from a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) pod could be projected
into the pilot's forward field of view, giving them a degree of night vision.
When tied to terrain-following radar, precision all-weather, day-night attack
capability was had. The FLIR pods could also be used to verify targets via a
zoom function. This program was known as the A-7E Target Recognition Attack
Multisensor (TRAM) configuration.
Roughly over a decade and a half later, this capability would become a staple on
many U.S. fighters, especially those that used the LANTIRN system, such as the
Block 40 F-16C/D and the F-15E. The F/A-18 Hornet also had this capability via
its AAS-38A/B Nite Hawk pod and its raster-scan HUD.
In many ways, the A-7 was ahead of its time, with its incredible mix of extreme
range, payload, avionics, and overall efficiency. What it didn't have going for
it was looks or speed, which can be a deadly mix of deficiencies for a tactical
jet trying to survive in a fighter pilot-Pentagon. I often muse that such an
aircraft in updated form would have been extremely valuable during the Global
War On Terror. And of course, the A-7 could have turned into a
higher-performance, even more advanced machine via the A-7F Strikefighter, but
this never came to pass. It turned out to be yet another instance of 'what could
have been.' You can read all about it in this prior feature of mine
Regardless, one has to hand it to Elliott and Marconi, as well as the entire A-7
team, for getting the HUD so right on its first try. They truly changed air
combat forever in the process.
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