Flying the A-4 and A-7 with Captain Bo Smith

Welcome to the seventy-seventh episode of the Lessons from the Cockpit show with your host retired Lt Col Mark Hasara, KC-135 pilot and Air Force Weapons School graduate.

I was turned on to a great memoier website by my good friend Scott Brown. Navy Captain Bo Smith is responsible for helping create the Navy’s IRON HAND Surface to Air Missile or SAM supression procedures during the Vietnam War. His unit went from flying the A-4 Skyhawk with iron gunsights to the fabulous smart airplane the LTV A-7 Corsair II. In this first of a two part series, Bo tells us what it’s like flying the A-4 and A-7 on DIXIE Station to flying the F-105 Wild Weasel at McConnell during an exchange tour with the US Air Force.

This episode of the Lessons from the Cockpit show is financially sponsored  by Wall Pilot, custom aviation art for the walls of your home, office, or hanger. Wall Pilot sells four, six, and eight foot long profiles of famous aircraft printed on vinyl you can peel off and stick on any flat surface.

Bo’s first assignment flying attack aircraft was in the Douglas A-4C Skyhawk, known as Heinemenn’s Hotrod after Ed Heinemann the famous Douglas engineer, because you literally wore the small attack jet. Bo flew with VA-15 Golden Valions and this is his plane during the first Vietnam Cruise of 1966.

During the LINEACKER campaign over Vietnam, Bo flew with Attack Squadron VA-82 Marauders. This VA-82 Mauraders A-7C is loaded for an Iron Hand mission he spoke of during the show carrying Mk20 Rockeye cluster bombs and AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missiles. Here is another Iron Hand A-4F Skyhawk assigned to VA-55 Warhorses.

The Marauders were chosen for the famous Thanh Hoa Railway Bridge strike on 6 October 1972 carrying AGM-62 Walleye tv guided bombs. Walleyes launched by LCDR Leighton “Snuffy” Smith and his wingman Lt(jg) Marv Baldwin destroyed the center pillar supporting the Thanh Hoa bridge causing the center span to collapse. LCDR Leighton Smith retired as a four star Admiral and commander of all Naval Forces in Europe.

During an exchange tour with the Air Force, Bo flew the Republic F-105F and F-105G Wild Weasel Thunderchief. This F-105G from the 333rd Tactical Fighter Squadron flew missions over Vietnam and is credited with three North Vietnamese MiG kills, one by dropping a bomb rack off the jet which hit the MiG chasing it.

The last comat cruise for LTV A-7E Corsair IIs was during Desert Storm. VA-46 Clansmen and VA-72 Blue Hawks were part of the USS John F Kennedy airwing. This VA-72 A-7E was the Squadron Skipper Commander JR “Shooter” Saunders jet armed for a Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses or SEAD mission into Iraq.

Please go by Bo Smith’s fantastic website, an electronic journal of his exploits flying missions in the A-4 Skyhawk and A-7 Corsair II over Vietnam. He even has some of the charts of his targets showing the triple A gun sites and SAM sites on the maps! This is probably one of the best Vietnam War websites you will come across at Bo Smith. He does update the wesite when he finds new information.

The second episode with Captain Bo Smith will be out next week. Thanks for downloading and listening to this and previous episodes of the Lessons from the Cockpit show. We are over 25,000 downloads now. This and previous episodes can be found on the new Lessons from the Cockpit website at  

Mark Hasara

Have a great Day!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here, I read them all.

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