A-7 John “Lites” Leenhouts

Flight Leader, Desert Storm, 1991

Artwork and research is by; Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

In 1991 Captain John Leenhouts led the first strike from the USS Carrier John F. Kennedy into Iraq  flying the A-7 Corsair.

Below is his story and the artwork of his Corsair.

A-7 Corsair, Captain John Leenhouts

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Limited Edition, Signed by John Leenhouts. $65.00 Print Size 12×18″

All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.

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Poster Print $14.95

Poster prints are not autographed or numbered.

Captain John R. “Lites” Leenhouts

By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Captain John “Lites” Leenhouts was born in Bryan, Texas and resided in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, and Illinois. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1973, John entered the Navy as an Aviation Reserve Officer Candidate Program. He was commissioned as an Ensign in March 1974 and was designated a Naval Aviator on August 22, 1975 at NAS Kingsville, Texas.

Following flight training, John reported to VA-174 for A-7B training and then to VA-46 for duty. During his first tour he completed three deployments aboard the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), and the initial shakedown of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). He became the First Fleet Landing Signal Officer (LSO) to cross-train in the F-14 and fly it concurrently with the A-7. Captain Leenhouts returned to the “Hellrazers” of VA-174 as an instructor pilot and LSO. In January 1982, he joined Carrier Air Wing One as the Staff Landing Signal Officer, flying the A-7E with VA-72 and the F-14A with VF-102 aboard the USS America (CV-66).

Upon completion of an accident-free CAG Landing Signal Officer tour, Captain Leenhouts was selected to be the Naval Air Atlantic Fleet Landing Signal Officer from December 1983 until December 1985. As an Operational Readiness Evaluator, he flew with every East Coast Fighter and Light Attack squadron from every carrier in the Second Fleet. Returning to sea duty, Captain Leenhouts was assigned a second tour with VA-46 as a department head, again deploying on the USS America and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. In August 1988, Captain Leenhouts surpassed 3,000 Corsair hours and achieved 1000 arrested landings as a Lieutenant Commander. Following duties on the Light Attack Wing One readiness staff, he was assigned as Attack Squadron 72 Executive Officer in June 1989, deploying to the Red Sea aboard the USS Kennedy in support of “Operation Desert Shield”.

Commander Leenhouts flying the above A-7 led the first strike from the USS Kennedy on January 17, 1991 at 2:00A.M. in the opening minutes of the first war against Iraq. During “Operation Desert Storm”, Commander Leenhouts accumulated over 100 combat hours in 24 missions leading strikes into Iraq and Kuwait. After the war Commander Leenhouts reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 136 in December 1991 as Executive Officer. He assumed command of the “Knighthawks” in March 1993.

Following his command tour, Captain Leenhouts attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base graduating in 1995. He then became Deputy Director of Operations for the Joint Task Force Southwest Asia in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from August through December 1995. In February 1996 he reported to Battle Force Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, as the Operations Officer and deployed to the Far East aboard the USS Independence (CV-62). Captain Leenhouts returned to the United States in February 1997 and assumed command of Strike-Fighter Wing, Atlantic in April 1997.

With 10 major deployments to his credit, Captain Leenhouts has logged over 8000 hours piloting more than 35 different types of military, antique, and civilian aircraft. He has become the all time leading Carrier Aviator, having accumulated 1645 traps on 16 different aircraft carriers. Additionally, Captain Leenhouts has exceeded 10,000 aerial photographs with many of his images published worldwide. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat “V” (two awards), Meritorious Service Medal, Individual Air Medal with Combat “V” (four awards), two Strike Flight Air Medals with Combat “V”, Joint Service Commendation Medal. Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” (two awards).

Captain Leenhouts retired in January 2001 after twenty-eight years of adventurous sea service.


LTV A-7E Corsair II

Painting by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

This painting is 2×4 feet. Would you like a painting this size of the A-7 that has been autographed by the pilot? Let me know.


John “Lites” Leenhouts and his personal A-7 Corsair.

John has taken thousands of aerial photos during his career. The photographs below were all taken by John during the first Gulf War. These photos are not to be used with out his permission for any reason. If you want to use any of these photos, call me and I will work out any details with John. These are great photos and John will work with anyone as long as his photos are used properly, giving him proper credit. John does not charge for the use of his images.


In flight refueling.

LTV A-7 Development

The development of the A-7 was pursued as the Navy realized that the current carrier fighter-bomber, the A-4 Skyhawk, was not capable of all-weather load-carrying capabilities that were required. The need for a low-level light-bomber increased as the Vietnam war developed.

The airframe of the A-7 was designed around the design of the F-8 Crusader. The high wing placement on the fuselage with short tri-cycle landing gear on a shorter frame as the Crusader that gave the jet-fighter guaranteed carrier capabilities.

The A-7 was compact and robust with several different fanjet engines. The first engine was the Pratt & Whitney TF-30-P6 then the TF-30-P8’s. The A-7 D and E Models would be fitted with the Allison built Rolls Royce TF-41-A-1 jet delivering 14,500 to 15,000 pounds of thrust.

The following specifications of the A-7 varied with the different models. The aircraft was 46 feet long with a folded wingspan of 23.7 and unfolded 38.7 feet wide. Maximum speed was approximately 600mph.

First flight of the A-7 Corsair II was on September 27, 1965. On October 14, 1966 the first A-7’s to be deployed to a squadron was VA-174, which was stationed at NAS Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida. The first line squadron to receive their Corsair’s was VA-147. VA-147 received their first A-7’s in September 1967 and was deployed into combat with the new fighter-bomber in December. The Corsair II saw combat in less than two years after its first flight.

Also in 1965 the Air Force decided that they would add the A-7 to their inventory of aircraft for the Viet Nam war. This was the second Navy aircraft that the Air Force was able to use during the fifties and now sixties. The first was the A-1 Skyraider.

The A-7 would replace the F-100 Sabre yet the A-7 was the first sub-sonic jet aircraft the Air Force would inventory in the last twenty years. The fighter was inexpensive and with low level missions, mach speed was not necessary. This gave the A-7 the most dangerous missions the Air Force flew in Vietnam.

When compared side by side with Air Force pilots that flew both the F-100 and the A-7 in combat, all pilots gave higher marks to the A-7 for its agility, power, and ability to hit the target. One squadron of Air Force A-7 pilots claimed that “A-7’s do it on the first pass!” When your fighter-bomber is loaded with more bombs than a B-17 and you are able to go right down at 600mph and eyeball the target, you can do some damage.

The A-7 was used extensively by Air Force, Marine and Navy squadrons during Vietnam. John McCain flew the A-7 after he returned to duty after being released from North Vietnam as a P.O.W. John McCain was the Squadron Commander at Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida when John “Lites” Leenhouts first met and served with him. The A-7 would continue to serve Marine, and Navy squadrons on every aircraft carrier sailing in every ocean on this planet until 1992 when it was retired from service after serving gallantly in the first Gulf War.

In 1991, Commander John Leenhouts flew the LTV A-7 for the last time into combat as he led his squadron from the USS John F. Kennedy into the skies of Iraq. These are his photos below. Enjoy!







All of the photographs above were taken by John Leenhouts and are not to be copied or used by others with out proper permission.


This painting was commissioned after the Gulf war. It shows John Leenhouts after delivering bombs on a target in Iraq.

John showed me photos that were taken by his on-board camera system that tracks the bombs to the target. One photo showed a power plant with a parking lot full of automobiles. The next photo showed the power plant as his fighter-bomber pulled away. The next photo showed a mushroom cloud of boiling smoke and flame where the plant had been. No one went home from their work shift at the power plant that day. The next day after the smoke on the target had cleared away, the power plant was ruined, the parking lot was still full of empty cars.