The FJ was related to the F-86 Sabre, but the relationship between the types was far more complex than one being a derivative of another. The FJ-1 was the straight-winged ancestor of the F-86.
North American's FJ Fury series began with the FJ-1 straight-wing jet. North American's first carrier jet, the FJ Fury, got the first operational carrier jet fighter attention. On 12 September 1946 test pilot Wallace A. "Wally" Lien took a new Navy jet fighter, the North American FJ-1 Fury, on its maiden flight. The T-2C Buckeye shares its wing with the FJ-1 Fury, one of the Navy's earliest jet fighters. On 10 March 1948 the carrier suitability of the FJ-1 Fury jet fighter was tested on board Boxer off San Diego, with a number of landings and takeoffs by Commander Evan Aurand and Lieutenant Commander R. M. Elder of Fighter Squadron 5A. Because its performance was disappointing only 31 were built and it had a brief service life.
It seemed a logical development for the company to produce a swept-wing, carrier-based fighter. It would be designated FJ-2 and would first fly on 27 December 1951. The FJ-2 Fury was the "Navalized" version of the F-86 Sabre. The straight-winged FJ-1 gave rise to the U.S. Air Force's swept-wing F-86 Sabre, and in 1951 the Navy ordered three prototypes of the swept-wing fighter which formed the basis of the Navy's FJ-2. However, the FJ-2 was heavier than the F-86 and underpowered for carrier operations. All FJ-2s were powered by a single General Electric J47-GE-2 engine with 6,000 pounds thrust. A total of 200 were built, but all delivered to the Marine Corps for shore-based operation.
The later carrier-based variant was designated FJ-3 and it first flew in 1953. The FJ-3 kept the swept wing of its predecessor but incorporated a more powerful engine, a single Wright J65-W-4 engine (the British Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire) with 7,800 pounds thrust. It had a deeper fuselage than the FJ-2 and folding wings. A total of 538 were built. On 27 January 1955 a North American FJ-3 Fury, piloted by Lieutenant Commander W. J. Manby of VF-33, set a new unofficial climb mark by reaching 10,000 feet from a standing start 73.2 seconds at NAS Oceana. On 22 August 1955, as VX-3 began operational evaluation of the mirror landing system installed on Bennington, the Commanding Officer, Commander R. G. Dose, flying an FJ-3 Fury, made the first landing with the device. The squadron's favorable report formed the basis for a decision to procure the mirror landing system for installation on aircraft carriers and at certain shore stations.
After the Korean War, the new afterburner-equipped aircraft-the F8U Crusader and F11F Tiger-were in the development stage, and the Navy needed an interim nonafterburner day-jet fighter to ensure its operational needs would be met should the new technology fall short. The result was the FJ-4. The FJ-4 had very little in common with its precursors: both wing and fuselage were completely new. The FJ-4 had a redesigned fuselage and wings with greater fuel capacity, but the same engine as the FJ-3. Keeping the engine and propulsion systems of the FJ-3, the fuselage was enlarged and reshaped to incorporate more fuel space and the wings redesigned to carry fuel, providing a 50 percent improvement in range.
The FJ-4's wings shared the same 35-degree sweep as its predecessors, but were more tapered and had a smaller thickness ratio. With its new design and an engine that produced 7,700 pounds of thrust, the transonic Fury Four was the Navy's last, and best, nonafterburner jet fighter.
The North American FJ-4B, which enjoyed some success aboard ship, emerged from intense testing and development of the 1950s. The FJ-4B attack fighter was built in greater numbers and deployed to more operational squadrons than the FJ-4. Modifications included stiffened wings with six stores stations to carry five Bullpup missiles or one tactical nuclear device, and an extra set of speed brakes on the underfuselage. The first FJ-4B flew on 4 December 1956, and production ended in May 1958. A total of 372 FJ-4s were built.
The FJ-4B aircraft were issued to nine Navy and three Marine Corps attack squadrons, beginning with VA-126 and VMA-223. In mid-August 1957, VMA-223 received the first delivery of the North American FJ-4B Fury jets. By autumn, the squadron was operating with two different models of the Fury. The FJ-4 was used for training, while the FJ-4B, a newer version, was used as an attack aircraft to carry out the mission of the squadron. Powered by a Wright engine which generated 7,800 pounds of thrust, the Fury could fly above 40,000 feet and was capable of speeds in excess of 600 knots. With external fuel tanks, this single-seat, high-performance jet had an operational range of more than 1,300 miles. Upon acquisition of the new aircraft, the squadron began a new training syllabus for all its pilots.
Only two examples of the final Fury model, the FJ-4F, were built. The -4Fs were notable for the added rocket motor which allowed them to reach supersonic speed at high altitude, but they remained experimental aircraft only.
In 1962, the FJ-3 and FJ-4 were redesignated F-1C and F-1E, respectively. The last Fury was delivered in May 1958. The Fury was last reported in squadron on 30 September 1962.
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