A-12 Avenger II: The Navy Almost Built a Stealth Bomber to Fly from an Aircraft Carrier

    Dave Majumdar


    PACIFIC OCEAN (May 30, 2011) A Sailor steps into the cockpit of an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

    So what happenned? 

    During the closing stages of the Cold War, the United States Navy was developing a new long-range stealth bomber that could strike at even the most heavily defended targets from the deck of an aircraft carrier. But the ill-fated program was cancelled; leaving a gap in naval aviation capability that has not been filled to this day.  

    Called the McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II—a product of the Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) program—the new bomber would have replaced the long-serving Grumman A-6E Intruder. However, as the Soviet threat evaporated, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney cancelled the A-12 program on January 7, 1991, due to massive cost and schedule overruns as well as severe technical problems. But while the stealthy A-12 had its problems, the bomber’s demise led the Navy to today’s problem: A carrier air wing that does not have the range or penetrating strike capability to defeat advanced anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities.   

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