185th Restores Classic A-7 Corsair

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bill Wiseman
  • 185th Public Affairs
A piece of 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) history received a facelift courtesy of the 185th fabrication shop and the crew in the Air National Guard paint facility, here in Sioux City. An A-7K Corsair with tail 81-073 is now complete with new metal work and fresh paint making it look like it did in the height of the cold war when it flew in the mid 1980's. The A-7 has a lot of history with the unit, with Technical Sgt. Bruce Johnson's name on one side as the crew chief and Capt. Andy Erickson's name on the other side as the pilot.

The first stop for the historic jet's return to glory was the fabrication shop where it would get a facelift. According to Tech. Sgt. Pat Schroeder, 185th Fabrication Shop, the whole shop helped with the restoration. Schroeder said, "She was in pretty good shape considering that she sat for over 15 years."

The shop spent a little over a four months repairing the corrosion and prepping the old K model to be a proud representation of the Iowa National Guard's 185th Tactical Fighter Group as a static display. Schroeder went on to say that it was a lot of fun working on a vintage plane and "getting to see how all of the stuff worked" as he put it.

After the fabrication shop was done with their part, it was off to the Paint Facility where the staff started work on sanding and taping in preparation for a new paint job. The finished product displays the green and gray paint scheme from the height of the cold war era of the mid-nineteen-eighties and was one of five paint schemes that were applied to the jet over the years. This is not the first vintage aircraft to be painted here, they have painted numerous historic aircraft like the F-80, RF-84, F-86, F-100 and the F-4 among others.

With fresh paint making the Corsair look like it did when it came off the production line the two seat "K" Model is now waiting for a ride to its new home at the Iowa National Guard's Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa.

Originally a Navy aircraft, the A-7 was first used by the Air Force in 1965 to replace the F-105's. The most important difference from the Navy and Air Force versions is the Allison TF41-A-1 turbofan engine, which provided more thrust, and a considerable boost in performance.

The Air Force version also had a fixed high speed refueling receptacle behind the pilot that was created for the KC-135's flying boom, rather than the long probe the Navy required for aircraft. In addition a lot of improved avionics upgrades were added throughout the lifetime of A-7.

The Air Force A-7 was later updated to carry a laser spot tracker; this added the capability to drop guided bombs. A total of 459 A-7K's were built and assigned to tactical fighter wings like the 185th. Production of Corsairs continued through 1984, yielding a total of 1,569 aircraft built. By the end of the A-7 era the aircraft was flown exclusively by the Air National Guard.

In 1977 the Air Force began replacing the Corsairs of active duty squadrons. The A-7s were subsequently transferred to Air National Guard units. By 1981 all of the Corsairs were assigned to the Air National Guard.

Col Dave Simon the 185th Maintenance Group Commander and one time A-7 Bomb loader remembers when the A-7 became an exclusive Air National Guard aircraft, "Now when a unit wanted to do a 'local modification' they could send the change request to the Guard Bureau instead of the Air Force, it made the process much easier" said Simon. The autonomy of the more 'organic' Air National Guard served the air craft and the Air Force well by greatly extending the lifetime of the A-7 and keeping it a viable weapons system for many years.

The 185th Tactical Fighter Group flew the A-7 "Corsairs" from 1977 until converting to the F-16 Falcons in 1991. While flying the A-7s, the unit won the Spaatz trophy for the second time in its history in 1990, recognizing them as the best Air Guard unit in the Country. The 185th also earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit award five times - 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, and 1991. In addition, the 185th's Logistic Group also won its second Daedalian Trophy which recognizes the best maintenance team in the ANG. In 1989, the 185th won the 12th Air Force A-7 gunnery meet for the second time and in 1989, the 185th received the Gunsmoke A-7 Maintenance Team Award for its aircraft.

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