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A3J (A-5) Vigilante

The two aircraft that rank as the heavist the Navy ever deployed aboard carriers are the A-3 Skywarrior and the A-5 Vigilante. Designed by North American to be a supersonic, all weather, strategic bomber, the Vigilante began life as the A3J and was redesignated A-5 in the general redesignation of Defense Department airplanes that occurred in 1962. The contractor reffered to this design as the "North American General Purpose Attack Weapon" (NAGPAW).

The first contract for this aircraft was awarded to North American by the Navy on 29 August 1956. Its first flight occurred two years later on 31 August 1958. Technical difficulties and strategic priorites prevented the A3J from ever serving in its intended role, but did find a valuable place as a reconnaissance aircraft. The Vigilante was first reported in squadron by VAH-3 in June 1961, and completed it final deployment in September 1979. A total of 156 Vigilantes were bought.

The "Vigilante" original design and purpose was as a long-range nuclear delivery platform operated from aircraft carriers. This plane had a mach two-- twice the speed of sound--capability. The weapon was carried internally in a "linear" bomb bay between the two engines, and it was ejected rearward. Extra fuel tanks were also carried in the bomb bay.

When the reconnaissance Vigilante was produced with many recon packages both external and in the bomb bay, the speed was limited to just over the speed of sound. Some of the recon packages included many camera types and flasher pods for night photo work. There was also an in-flight refueling system that could be carried in the bomb bay.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:26:24 ZULU