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AJ (A-2) Savage

On 24 June 1946, the Navy awarded North American a contract to build the aircraft that would become the AJ Savage. Intended as a carrier based bomber, the AJ was first reported in squadron service by VC-5 on 13 September 1949. It was eventually redesignated A-2.

There were several variants of the A-2. The experimental version was designated XAJ-1. The AJ-1 (later redesignated A-2A) housed the crew of three in a pressurized cockpit. The wings contained slotted flaps and there was a power boost system for ailerons, elevators, and the rudder.

The AJ-2 was basically the AJ-1 with two Pratt & whitney R-2800-48 and one Allison J33-A-10 engine. Fuel capacity was also increased over that of the AJ-1. The AJ-2P was an AJ-2 with a nose redesigned to accommodate cameras.

The Navy's primary targets were Soviet naval installations in the Black Sea, the Kola Peninsula near Murmansk, and ports in the Baltic Sea, as well as Vladivostok and the maritime provinces in easternmost Siberia. However, an aircraft carrier cruising the easternmost Aegean Sea could be within 1,500 nm of Moscow, and a carrier in the Barents Sea north of Murmansk could be within 1,200 nm of Moscow.

After 1949, the Navy gained the 52,800-pound North American AJ-1, its primary atomic-attack airplane through the mid-1950s. An AJ-1 was powered by two R-2800 piston engines and a single J33 jet engine in its tail. The jet engine was used only for heavy takeoffs from a carrier, evasive action in combat, and for speed over the target. An AJ-1's range was a nominal 1,500 nm; its combat radius about 700 nm. It could easily carry a Mark 5 atomic weapon (yield: 60,000 kilotons), which became available after 1952.

An AJ-1 might reach Moscow, but it would never achieve a postattack landing in friendly territory, much less return to its carrier, a consideration that promoted Navy interest in aerial refueling. More important was extending the distance of the aircraft carrier's launch point. Although interested from the time of the first Air Force experiments in 1948, the Navy did not equip its carrier airplanes for aerial refueling until 1953. As AJ-1s were displaced by improved AJ-2s, the AJ-1s became the Navy's first aerial tankers.

After 1956, the AJ-2s were displaced by the Douglas A3D, an all turbojet airplane weighing 82,000 pounds and with a combat radius of 900 nm. With aerial refueling from an AJ-1 tanker, that radius could be extended beyond 1,400 nm. Both the AJ-1s and the A3D were large airplanes, and space on an aircraft carrier's flight deck is finite.



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