Friday, September 23, 2011

A-5 Vigilante and RA-5C Vigilante Fighter Nuclear Bomber

The A-5 Vigilante fighter was a very advanced supersonic attack aircraft, optimized for low-level attacks at high speed. It was long and angular, with rectangular air intakes, small, thin swept wings incorporating large full-span flaps, and all-moving tail surfaces. But the A-5, one of the biggest aircraft ever operated from a carrier, was not successful in its intended role as nuclear bomber, It has been claimed that the bomb ejection mechanism was unsatisfactory. The bomb bay was between the engines, and the plan was to expell the bomb rearwards, together with two empty fuel tanks. 63 bombers were built, but all but ten were converted to RA-5C reconnaissance aircraft. There were also 55 new RA-5Cs built. These were very effective and served until 1980.

A-5 Vigilante Fighter
A-5 Vigilante History

Designed to meet a US Navy requirement for a high-performance all-weather attack aircraft, the North American NA-247, known at first as the NAG-PAW (North American General Purpose AttackWeapon), won an order for two YA3J-1 prototyes on 29 June 1956. The name Vigilante was allocated soon after this, and teh A3J designation was changed subsequently to A-5. The design’s cantilever monoplane swept wing incorporated no ailerons, roll control being by the use of spoilers in conjunction with differential use of an all moving tailplane on each side of the fuselage and, when it entered service, the Vigilante was the first US production aircraft to introduce variable geometry intakes for its two General Electric J79 engines.

RA-5C Vigilante Fighter
The first of the prototypes, then powered by two YJ79-GE-2 engines each developing 6804-kg (15,000lbs) afterburning thrust, was fown for the first time on 31 August 1958, and carrier trials were completed abourd the USS Saratoga in July 1960. Initial productino version A-5A, US Navy Squadron VAH-7 becoming the first operational unit in June 1961. The primary weapon of the A-5A was a free-fall nuclear bomb ejected rearwards from a bomb bay between the tailpipes of he two turbojet engines. A-5A prduction totalled 57
aircraft. This version was followed by an interim long-range bomber version designated A-5B, incorporating greater fuel capacity and aerodynamic improvements, but, because of changes in the US Navy policy only six were built and then converted to serve as a long-ranged unarmed reconaissance verson designated RA-5C, equipped with side-looking airborne radar, cameras and electronic counter-measures equipment.

A5 Vigilante Aircraft
RA-5C Vigilante Fighter

The first RA-5C Vigilante Fighter flew on 30 June 1962, being followed by 55 new production aircraft and the conversion to reconnaissance configuration of the 53 A-5As. The first squadron equipped with the RA-5C was RVAH-5 which, in June 1964, was operating fromt he USS Ranger, and other Vigilante squadrons included RVAH-1, RVAH-7, RVAH-9, and RVAH-11.

RA-5C Vigilante:
Type: carrier-based long-range reconnaissance aircraft
Powerplant: 2 8101-kg(17,860lb) afterburning thrust General Electric J79-GE-10 turboets

max speed-Mach 2.1
operational ceiling-14,750 m (48,400 ft)
range-4828 km (3,000 miles)

empty-17009 kg (37498 lbs)
max take-off weight-29937 kg (66,000 lbs)

span-16.15m (53ft)
length-23.32m (76.5ft)
height-5.91m (19 feet 4.75 inches)
wing area-70.05m2 (754 sq ft)


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