For years, the TC-4C, a twin-engine turboprop plane derived from an executive transport, was used by the Marine Corps to train bombardier-navigators for the A-6 Intruder attack aircraft.
Officially, the TC-4C was nicknamed the Academe, but Marines often called it the “Tic.”
“The reason for the TC-4C was that, until very late in the A-6 program, there really was not a good simulator for the A-6,” said retired Col. Jim Henshaw, 60, of Clarksville, Ind., who piloted both planes and logged about 1,000 hours in the TC-4C.
“We needed to train the bombardier-navigators to do radar target interpretation and perform other all-weather attack functions. The TC-4C filled that bill,” Henshaw said.
The TC-4C was a modified Grumman G-159 Gulfstream I with a new nose fitted with the Intruder’s radar installation. It also differed from the civilian Gulfstream in that it had an additional auxiliary power unit to provide air conditioning for the simulated Intruder cockpit inside the fuselage. The simulator provided seating for a student pilot, which was rarely used, and a student bombardier-navigator, as well as an instructor’s station.
In December 1966, the Navy ordered nine TC-4Cs from Grumman. Navy training squadrons operated six of the planes, but three went to Marine Attack Training Squadron 202, nicknamed the “Double Eagles,” at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., beginning in spring 1968.
The plane had a thin wing known as a Davis airfoil. In 1937, David R. Davis, a nearly destitute engineer, created the shape under contract to Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego; the design was used on more than 18,000 B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II. The TC-4C’s wing spanned 78 feet, 4 inches.
“That was a long, skinny wing with a thin cross-section,” Henshaw said. “We typically flew at low altitudes, like 1,500 feet or sometimes 1,000 feet. In order to give the wing the strength it needed, it was very stiff. When you took that rascal up into the mountains and flew at that low altitude, the Davis wing gave you quite a ride.”
Two 2,210-horsepower Rolls-Royce Dart 529-8X engines powered the TC-4C. Its distinctive, Intruder-style drooping snout gave it a fuselage length of 67 feet, 11 inches.
As radar and electronics aboard the Intruder were improved over the years, the same changes were made to the TC-4C. The plane established a reputation for usefulness and reliability, but the Corps’ experience with it was marred by a tragic crash during a landing attempt at Cherry Point on Oct. 16, 1975, which killed all nine on board.
After Vietnam, the A-6 Intruder remained in service through the 1991 Persian Gulf War. By that time, the Marine Corps had disbanded VMAT-202 and retired its TC-4Cs, sending its bombardier-navigators to the Navy for training. The Navy retired its last TC-4C in 1995.
Canadian Aviation Blog