Northrop YA-9A

  Base model:A-9
  Designation System:U.S. Tri-Service
  Designation Period:1962-Present
  Basic role:Attack

Not Yet Available

Known serial numbers
71-1367 / 71-1368

Examples of this type may be found at
Castle Air MuseumAtwaterCalifornia
March Field Air MuseumRiversideCalifornia

YA-9A on display

Castle Air Museum

March Field Museum


Recent comments by our visitors
 Mac Attack
 Fort Worth, TX
Wow, I get to come back and clear the air a year AFTER a hubris-ridden post gets laid in the punchbowl a year AFTER I posted some observations?

Hey 'Slo-Mo Troll' Mark M.! Listen up child. My engine quote was from the 1979 Tactical Fighter Weapons Center environs. How many times do you think the maintenance philosophy has changed since then? I count FIVE if you care about anything less than a complete overhaul, three if you do. Look up "Three-level maintenance" kid: things change. You now have one AFSC (or MOS if you like) that in my day was covered by two-three or even four specialties: more if you counted shredouts.
Heck, maintenance has even always varied by unit. I work with a young engineer who was An A-10 crew-dog until a couple of years ago and he had to do all the engine maintenance himself, what he was allowed to do anyway - anything big and his unit just R&R'd and shipped it out to Depot.

Your assertion reflected a narrow and inexperienced view. Your willingness to 'share' it reflected something else. It reminded me of a paper I wrote for SNCOA titled "RM&A 2000 vs Quality Force" warning of the dangers to the latter if we proceeded with the former.

RE: A-9 FOD hazard. While just about anything has a bigger engine FOD problem than the A-10, the A-9 only looks like it hugs the ground because of the planform design. the bottom of the intake is about three feet off the ground - hardy Hoover country even for a high-bypass turbofan.

To all, I highly recommend "Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate". I consider it the 95%-definitive work on the topic. I still believe the A-9 won the flyoff and lost the political decision that kept Fairchild-Republic solvent. But I also believe the A-10 was the only plane that could have survived all the internal and external politics of CAS. While it's heyday at the FEBA/FLOT is long gone, it will remain an excellent LIC/peacekeeper tool for years to come.

10/28/2008 @ 19:20 [ref: 22942]
 Kurt Plummer
 , CO
Both aircraft were terrible mistakes as indeed the 'slow CAS' A-X program itself was dated by the death of the AAFSS and the SA-7s that started appearing in SEA as early as 1970.

If you wanted a decent CAS airframe, the aircraft to model on were the YOV-10D and YO-3A as these were the only aircraft with the slant-to-vector independent weapons, sensor systems, loiter, securecommo and signature to remain in the environment long enough to matter.

At night.

We still 'nearly got there' with Amber/Aquila and the Hornet/TGSM programs before the USAF fighter pilot community stepped in to waggle their fingers on deep attack.

But neither the A-9 nor A-10 were anywhere's close.

That said, while the A-9s pylons were compromising in terms of total separation of stores and racks clearances, they remain capable of carrying a substantial parent-loaded number of Mk.82/.83 class weapons (which, at the time, was the only weapon we had 'in depth' in the weapons stockpiles) at vastly lower tunnel drag penalty than even an F-16 TER can achieve.

Something to be considered when you realize that the A-10 remains a 'both Maverick today!' weapons system because of inherent (electrical), weight:drag and station related (sponson burnoff) issues on the LAU-88.

Low drag with simple weapons and fast turns also being important when you are hoping to do cross-FLOT activities in a platform that struggled to exceed 350 knots.

By comparison:

1. The A-10 as it originally went to Europe in 1979 had no INS, no Autopilot, no TISL, no Targeting Pod, no working PGM and no secure/digital comms to take offboard targeting. It _still_ has no TFR radar and no real T/A, today. Try working out of one of the German FOLs when the sign at the base entrance has only three weather conditions: 'icey, sleet, and snow' for much of the winter. The A-9 would admittedly have been little if any better for avionics but if the Su-25 (a supersonic platform if you give it enough time) is any indication, it might have at least served as a BAI asset from 'someplace else'.

2. AGM-65C/D Maverick was tested from 1978 through 1982 and then vanished. The C never to return and the D only to arrive in 1986, at least two years after it didn't matter. Meanwhile, AGM-65A/B was such a poor performer that, absent a zot to cue the optics, by the time you got it locked on in typical grey-day NATO, you were /inside the minimum/ for guns. That's 2,500ft for a 'standoff precision strike' weapon people. Ridiculous.

3. The A-10 has lousy night-avionics capabilities. In addition to the absent external sensorization, the center windscreen panel was so thick and so highly leaded that it inhibited Gen-2 NVG performance. The initial lighting (not fixed until the mid-90s NVIS effort) was red and cast reflections all over the canopy. There was -and remains- no UFC controller to ease comms channel switching or adjust HUD modes and brightness in a single glance. The Maverick display also bloomed out NVG. Without rapid-scan dogfight radar, there was little or no ability to check the airspace over the target area on ingress and thus orient yourself by your friends as much enemies in deconfliction.

4. Anyone who has ever flown serious night CAS (mixed and/or elevated terrain with heavy wire as much as 'fluid' threat presence) knows that single seat is just plain impossible for anyone person to do with a 1:10 map spread out over their lap. So the Night Owl saying goes: "One head in, one head out, at all times..."

That means that the single time the A-10 -as an airframe- might have survived the threat environment (with the GSFG coming on regardless as a 24hr threat force by the 1980s) it was not suitable as a task saturative platform to fly let alone employ as a weapons system.

The N/AW showed a possible solution here but was competitive with LANTIRN and the fastjet community which of course doomed it. A class prejudice I doubt the YA-9 would have overcome any better.

5. The GAU-8 is vastly overrated. Sure, it will kill anything out to about 6,000ft and do softskins to 2 and 3 times this range. But check the slants. We're talking 5-10,000ft and higher. Against a radar threat with low running scud typical of German everyday weather, that's insanity. Particularly as it comes a gyromode gunsight that instantly moves you to about a 10th percentile of your pilots as having the ability to score well, especially on moving targets, while dancing a threat envelope they will likely _never even see_.

6. The latter is particularly critical because when we rollplayed out at Ft. Riley and later Bicycle Lake and Irwin, the threat the A-10s consistently died to were Chaparral and M163 plus Redeye teams standing in for their Red Force counterparts /well away from/ the target area in the IP routes. The Hogs would blunder in, pop up for a preview and get nailed because they had no Moving Map (nor a way to keep it updated) and the opfor could read the terrain as well as they could. Add to this the Soviet penchant to leap frog air mobile forces ahead of and around every major incursion or breakout with huge HIND commitments to 'holding the high ground' and you are in _serious_ trouble if you fight in the daylight under 500 knots.

The sad reality is that the YA-9 and A-10 were born of a concept best depicted in initial artists impressions as being a jet powered Skyraider toting multiple-MER worth of Mk.82 over a fireball exploding out of the jungle.

That /warfighter paradigm/ was instantly and irrevocably dated when MANPADS and the switch back to a conventional AT mission in Europe brought with it limited airspace security over even the 'road base' network (just where you want to be with 50,000 howling-mad Russians coming at you, led by 5 million screaming German civilians), horrible weather and a 24hr capable threat which had a plethora of densely overlapping IR and radar S2A down to the battalion level.

The A-7D, with suitable upgrades (particularly in the Assault Breaker munition classes and HVM) might have been able to do the job, not least because it was a 400 knot, 550nm radius, platform and thus could afford to come from France or England.

The F-16 was almost as pathetic as the Hawg, lacking all the essential precision targeting systems it was MSIP promised with and not least because 'boys will be fighter pilots' being compromise by a swing role ability to run off and do A2A. Which is why 'fighters' are _the worst provider_ of CAS because you can simply never count on them _being there_, from hour to hour as the theater commander retasks them.

But for all this, the fact remains that neither of the specialized A-X prototypes, with massively overscaled gun system compromises 'designed in' to their noses, and lacking the systems (Hellfire alone would have been a miracle ATGW option) and workload acknowledgment to do the mission at night, in-weather, were in fact suitable to the Euro-CAS mission.

And the Hog remains largely so to this very day.

11/15/2007 @ 18:35 [ref: 18550]
 Mark M.
 , UT
"Jet engine troops would rather change two F-15 engines than one A-10 (direct quote from a prpulsion NCOIC)."

Seeing as how Jet Engine troups typically dont change engines, crew chiefs do I would ask them what they thought. I happen to have time on both airframes and I would MUCH rather do an A-10 engine change than an F-15. Reading all the responses about the A-9/A-10 flyoff has been interestin. Of course there are always folks that bring up sour grapes.
04/20/2007 @ 13:45 [ref: 16247]
 Colorado Springs, CO
According to the flight test folks involved, the A-9A also lost based on maintenance and logistics issues. The FOD problem was only one of the issues. The maintainers hated to work on the A-9A's gun, which was done lying on one's back on the ground or on a little roll-around dolly like working under a car. And the bomb loaders much perferred the extra room they had for loading under the A-10. Then there was the hardpoint problem. The A-X requirements specified at least 10 hardpoints (the A-10 had 11) There was no room on the A-9A under the nacelles or the fuselage, and to get that many pylons on a wing underside much shortened by the presence of the engine nacelles required they be very close together. They were too close together to allow use of the Air Force standard triple ejector rack. Northrop had to develop its own double-ejector rack to carry two bombs in tandem. This would have been a logistics headache. Notice that none of these concerns had anything to do with flying performance. The A-9A was better at that. But this was one case where the practical issues of FOD, logistics, and weapons access and loading carried the decision. By the way, to quantify the FOD issue, the testers developed the corn flake test. They sprinkled corn flakes on the ground in front of each airplane and then ran up the engines. Guess which plane could have doubled as a vacuum cleaner!
02/17/2007 @ 09:51 [ref: 15554]
 Mac Attack
 Fort Worth, TX
The main reason the AF chose the A-10 over the A-9 was that Fairchild would have gone out of business had the A-10 not been chosen. Powerful political interests determined the 'winner' NOT performance. The AF knew which aircraft would be easier to get funded by Congress. Northrop elected to spend political capital on the lightweight fighter competition (YF-17 cum F-18)in that timeframe. Fairchild had nowhere else to spend theirs. The A-10 engines were built in the district of a key House committee chairman. That political captital was still being used several years later when the AF overprocured the A-10 by about 100 airframes.

Both aircraft experienced difficulties in the so-called 'flyoff'. The A-9 during the first, less-critical contractor demo phase had problems with the engine lubrication systems that they were able to work around and fix without 'busting' a mission. The A-10 had more serious problems during the allegedly 'more formal' second (scoring) phase that had the A-9 team waiting at the end of runway for 2-3 weeks and held the 'flyoff' hostage until Fairchild could recover.

The two planes reflected two slightly different approaches to the same mission requirement. They would both have been extremely survivable. They both would carry the required payload at the required range and speeds. Given the A-9 was also lighter and thus required less thrust and yeilded a better payload/total weight ratio, one could surmise the Northrop design was more aerodynamically efficient.

One flew like a 'Ford' and one like a 'Chevy'(direct pilot quote). Maintenance was waist-high and easy on the A-9, even for the engines. Jet engine troops would rather change two F-15 engines than one A-10 (direct quote from a prpulsion NCOIC). The A-10 engine (TF-34) took 3 years after the competition to be certified in its civilian form, the A-9 engine was civilian certified in less than a year.

It all worked out in the end I suppose, as Fairchild was bought by Grumman, and Northrop merged with Grumman after that.

Sources (besides AvWeek):
1. Father was lead subcontractor Tech Rep on the A-9 team during the flyoff in 1972.
2. I was a shop NCOIC deployed from the TFWC (Nellis) during TASVAL '79 where the core A-10 tactics were developed. Among other things I helped keep the A-10s in the air and attended every mission debrief for the duration.
3. The test community is surprisingly small. I (informally) interviewed government civilian and military personnel who worked the program including pilots, maintenance officers, and engineers.
4. A good friend of mine (and now retired Colonel) was a Congressional Liason Officer under Secretary Hans Mark. He had to pitch the AF budget, including A-10s, to Congressmen and their staffers during his tour.
09/17/2006 @ 18:14 [ref: 14193]
 , NV
The main reason the Air Force chose the A-10 Over the A-9 , Was the powerplants set up high to rear, less chances of " FOD " during rough landings, and the A-10 can still fly with one half its tail section missing !
03/28/2006 @ 06:36 [ref: 12950]
 Edwards, CA
Mike, 11367 is at Edwards AFB in storage/pieces. I've been racking my brain trying to find photos/info on this airframe sitting here in the AFFTC storage yard. Started going thru the AEC photo gallery, and FOUND a old picture of 11367, posted that photo on Castle's A-9A here on AEC. I'll try to get a current pic of it up online here in AEC in near/immediate future.
07/13/2005 @ 16:38 [ref: 10744]
 Michael Witkowski
 Los Angeles, CA
The YA-9 at the Castle Air Museum was removed at least 5-6 years ago, presumably to go back to the USAF Museum in Ohio. Regards, Michael Witkowski
02/15/2005 @ 21:32 [ref: 9448]
 Vincent Hollier
 Los Angeles, CA
A 1/72 resin kit of the A-9A was just released (4-18-04) from a company in Hong Kong
This link shows the parts layout. It looks pretty good. I will report back when I build the kit


04/18/2004 @ 15:08 [ref: 7235]
 , CA
I worked at Northrop (now Northrop-Grumman) in the 1980s.
When I visited the March AFB/ARB Air Museum, I finally
got my first chance to see and touch one of the A-9A prototypes.

The most unusual variant of the A-9A proposed was a
desktop 1/48th scale model of a PROPELLOR version of
the A-9A. The propellor arrangement was a PUSHER
configuration, with 3 tail fins arranged in a Y shaped
configuration: 1 ventral fin, 2 angled dorsal fins.

I am not sure what they had in mind with that concept
model - perhaps a slower, Skyraider type attack craft.
I'll probably never know for sure, but the model was

The prototype A-9A had some rather unusual performance
capabilities that I have seen mentioned on other web sites
and on books that discuss the A-9/A-10 flyoffs.

The A-9A was a very good aircraft.

Despite the fact that the prototype was smaller than the
YA-10A prototype, both aircraft still more than met
the Air Force AX performance specifications.

Although the A-9's IR signature was probably larger due to
the traditional arrangement of its engines, the high mounted engines of the A-10A still have an IR signature
very much visible to any ground or air launched IR seeking missile of that era.

The high fuselage mounting of the A-10A engines also
is not optimal for lift and thrust - requiring larger engines, a larger aircraft and more fuel to keep the same level of performance and combat load. This is another reason why the A-10A is larger.

The A-10A is a terrific aircraft, but it also has a
reputation for being something of a Hangar Queen (very maintenance intensive).

There were very few aircraft in that day which could take
hits that would blow off half of an entire wing and still
keep flying. This actually happened in the 1991 Gulf War, and the A-10A's performance was actually better than expected. Pilots often did not know how seriously they were damaged until they landed at base.

It would have been interesting to see how the A-9A would have performed.

05/02/2001 @ 13:20 [ref: 2203]


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