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Rare Footage of Aussie A-4 Skyhawks On The Smallest Carrier To Ever Operate The Jet

The Australians Heavily Modified Their Carrier HMAS Melbourne To Accomodate Trackers and Skyhawks

Official US Navy Photograph

When the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) made the recruiting film “Sea Eagles” in 1980 aboard the Australian Navy’s aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21), Douglas A-4G Skyhawks, Grumman S-2G Trackers, and Westland Sea King Mark 50 and Wessex HAS31 helicopters were operating from the ship. They were able to do so because the carrier went through several lengthy and extensive refits during the late 1960s and 1970s that added or improved her flight deck, catapults, and arresting gear. Even so the Melbourne was one of the smallest carrier ever to operate jet aircraft from her deck. Thanks to the YouTube channel of the Royal Australian Navy for uploading this look at carrier aviation Royal Australian Navy-style.

The Douglas A-4G Skyhawk was modification of the A-4F variant without the avionics hump but with the ability to employ AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles. A total of 16 A-4Gs were configured by Douglas for the RAN, entering service in 1968.

They were later modified more extensively and sold to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as A-4Ks. The Grumman S-2E Tracker entered service with the RAN in 1968. During nearly 17 years of Tracker operations at sea the RAN lost only a single S-2E Tracker. But a December 1976 hangar fire at Naval Air Station Albatross near Nowra in New South Wales destroyed nine of the 12 S-2E Trackers in RAN service. They were replaced in 1977 by US Navy S-2G variants.

Official US Navy Photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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