North American A-5 Vigilante

1958

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North American A-5 Vigilante

The Vigilante was designed as a Mach 2 carrier-based attack aircraft capable of carrying nuclear or conventional bombs. The first prototype flew on 31 August 1958 and 57 production A-5A attack aircraft were delivered to the US Navy, becoming operational on board USS Enterprise in February 1962. The other major version of the Vigilante was the RA-5G, a reconnaissance type of which more than 90 were built as new; most of the A-5A were subsequently converted to this standard.

North American A-5 Vigilante

Specification 
 CREW2
 ENGINE2 x turbo-jet GE J-79-8(N), 75.6kN
 WEIGHTS
  Take-off weight27300 kg60187 lb
 DIMENSIONS
  Wingspan16.2 m53 ft 2 in
  Length22.3 m73 ft 2 in
  Height5.9 m19 ft 4 in
  Wing area65.0 m2699.65 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
  Max. speedM2+ M2+
  Ceiling18300 m60050 ft
  Range3700 km2299 miles
 ARMAMENTnuclear bombs and missiles

3-View 
North American A-5 VigilanteA three-view drawing (1000 x 493)

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60
Mark Lamprey, e-mail, 06.03.2017 00:28

In October 1965, myself and 4 of my classmates from Photographers Mate (A) School, in Pensacola, were assigned to RVAH-12, based at NAS Sanford, Florida, It was about 3 months after the squadron had been commissioned.

The RA-5C Vigilante was a truly beautiful aircraft and incredible to watch taking off, landing and in flight. It had was an incredibly advanced aircraft and had a very sophisticated and elaborate reconnaissance package with a variety of cameras that could be installed, as well as extensive electronic data gathering capabilities. Sadly, as a Photographers Mate (PH3) I felt my assignment was a waste of 3 months of Photo School as we were used basically as "parts changers", doing jobs that required no photographic training. About the only time that I got to do actual photography was when we deployed and I got to assist, during my free time, in the ships Photo Lab.

In 1966, we deployed on the U.S.S. Saratoga (CVA-60) to the Mediterranean, and on 1967 to Vietnam on the U.S.S. Constellation (CVA-64), sadly losing two of our aircraft and their crews. One crew was shot down and ended up as POW's, the other crew was killed when their plane crashed returning to the ship after a mission.

After my discharge, in December 1967, I stayed in the Orlando area and still remain there. I was on hand when the RA-5C, that is on display at what was NAS Sanford, and is now the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, was dedicated. Every time that I see that aircraft it brings back memories from one of the most incredible times of my life, where I worked with many great people, saw foreign countries, and did things that many people could only dream of doing.

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Charles Boyd, e-mail, 10.12.2016 18:07

My friend John Hoppe flew the viggie. John said he remembers every carrier landing he made in detail after 40 years. He said he will never forget.

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Joe Lolley, e-mail, 27.11.2016 20:40

I was in USN from 07 /70 until 01 /74. I went to RVAH-3 for training following "C" school, then deployed with RVAH-11 for WestPac 71 /72 and Med Cruise 73. I was a PH-2 when I got out after 3.5yrs (early out due to base move from NAS Albany, GA to NAS Key West, FL. The Viggie was a great aircraft. I always remember the "nose up" attitude in flight, and how loud she was on take-off and landing. One of the biggest, nosiest AC on a carrier.

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Rodney Chapman, e-mail, 17.07.2016 18:39

Re: Keene Little
Cudos to you! In a previous comment, I mentioned as being in the first Vigilante squadron (also RCAH7) back when they were A5A's. This was in 1962. I'd love to see your movies and, if there is a picture of the Vigilante. please email it? in flight suitable to put on a shirt?
I reside still in Sanford, Fl. where there is a beautiful static display of an RA5C at the entrance to the old NAS!

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Rodney Chapman, e-mail, 17.07.2016 18:30

I was in HATRON &, the FIRST squadron to deploy with the A5A Vigilante! From NAS Sanford, Fl. aboard the USS Enterprise CVA(N)65. I would like to know if there are any photos of this aircraft suitable for application to t-shirts! I have a cruise book from 2 deployments (1962 & 1963 that would be perfect, but have no way to download to my computer!

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Stephen Evans, e-mail, 28.03.2016 00:40

Surprisingly large aircraft to be operating from a carrier. A beautiful airplane non the less. Too bad it never got to "nuke" anyone.

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Delbert hayes AEC ret, e-mail, 04.05.2015 06:14

I worked 14 of my 22 year tour on that aircraft. The flight controls were the latest and lots of fun to work on. Did no like the bace carts. All systems were a lot to learn. I still can remember PIN numbers on amps. Was a real challenge for an old mo boy. Made a reunion in Sanford in 2004.

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John Mouw, e-mail, 08.04.2015 21:18

After I left electronics school in Millington I was sent to NAS Albany. I remember pressing my face to the window glass of the car I was riding in watching the Viggie take off at night in after-burner. I thought I was in heaven. After spending time in RVAH-3 and then RVAH-11, I realized I was in heaven.

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EDWARD J. FERRETT, e-mail, 14.12.2014 23:30

I maintained, repaired, and tested the Auto Pilot system on the A3-J aircraft, in flight test. You could always tell when the A-3J was taxi-ing or flying in the area, as it had a sound all of it's own. It was a very good program to work on. A lot of good people.

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Ernie Stoops, e-mail, 10.11.2014 04:40

I was a Dynamicist from june 57 to May 63 on the A3J /RA5C. It was a beautiful airplane, esp the A3J. We had a great Group doing the analyses, lab tests, wind tunnel tests and flight tests. George Hoskins was the Test Pilot on the A3J doing Flutter Tests, a GREAT test pilot.

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Travis Brice, e-mail, 05.08.2020 Ernie Stoops

Hi Ernie. My name is Travis Brice, living in Friendswood TX. I am an old aero engineer (78), consider myself also an aero guy. I began at AEDC in Tennessee, GD /FW doing WT tests on F-111 and F-16, then to NASA for Shuttle. I have a group of ex-MIL pilots (and me) who gather to talk airplanes (b4 COVID). One flew F-86D's and I found this site while researching the Dog. I'd love to email other aviation enthusiasts. One of our guys is a WWII Marine who signed up in June 1941, flew 2 tours, then Korea, and is still mobile at 99.
TB

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Wayne Hawkins, e-mail, 02.02.2021 Travis Brice

Travis

Flew RA-5c version '70-74. In '81 went to work at AEDC in wind tunnels as an aero. Worked there for over 30 years. Worked with quite a few folks from GD /FW. Mack Shafer and I became good friends.

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chuck armstrong, e-mail, 03.08.2014 16:46

Worked in airframes in Key West. Yes a neat airplane but hard to keep in the air the older it got. The flight control system and hydraulic system was not mechanic friendly. Still the coolest looking plane in the air by far!

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Paul Scott, e-mail, 28.04.2014 19:19

Great aircraft - for some reason, don't know why, it's overshadowed by other supersonic bombers, when it was I a class of its own, like the F-111 or the B-58 'Hustler'.

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Ray Williams, e-mail, 27.11.2013 16:51

I was at NAAS (Naval Aux. Air Sation) Sanford in VAH-3 When The A3js arrived. Worked flight line ASB (fire control Bombing) out of building 126 (it was still there last time I got up there in 2009) WE had an indecent where a Vigi went to afterburner chained down to the ramp. I ended up partially deaf from that experience. Would enjoy hearing from anyone that remembers that time. AQ1 Raymond Williams Retired, rwms@ij.net

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Joe, e-mail, 21.08.2013 07:38

USS Constellation trapped an RA-5C during a daytime barricade event August 18 1968. I've been looking for either PLAT footage or home video of that even for many years if anyone can help.

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Paul Scott, e-mail, 08.04.2013 18:57

What an excellent aircraft, before the Tomcat. Although America had the Phantom in USN service, this really was the cutting edge, for a carrier-based aircaft

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Ron Bugess, e-mail, 21.12.2012 00:43

Served with RVAH-1, NAS Sanford, 1964-66, Heavy 1 flew off the USS Indepence CVA-62 in 1965 in South China Sea. Biggest beast on the Carrier & fastest. But now protection over mission site. The Vigi's took the heaviest losses per mission of the war. Like to go back to Sanford and see the place. Guess we won't hear "Launch the Heavies" anymore.

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Jerry Steinle, e-mail, 04.12.2012 05:16

After leaving the Navy in Aug. of 1959 as a 2nd class aircraft electronic tech. I went to work at North American Aviation in Columbus Ohio. Got to work on the A3J from the early stages and then on to the RA5C recon version. A beautiful airplane and fast. I was on the team that set the altitude record for it's type and also help deliver the first A3J's to the Navy in Sanford Fl. The recon version had tons of electronic equip. and I got to work on the camera systems made by Chicago Aireal Industries. Seems to me I remember a mad scramble to get one ready to take pictures over Cuba before it actually became operational.

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DAVID LAWHORN, e-mail, 11.06.2012 20:13

When I arrived at NAS Albany Georgia in August 1969 assigned to RVAH-3. We had the C-47,TA-3B,TA4J,and the best looking aircraft the Navy has ever purchased RA-5C. I got to work with some really good sailors while being assigned to RVAH-3. I had orders to RVAH-9 but tranfered to Naval hospital Jax and never got to go on cruise with her. After 31 years active duty and now working at Pax River MD the Vigilante in the air museum was one I had worked on.

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Larry Sibley, e-mail, 12.03.2012 20:18

what wonderful memories @ the naa columbus plant. i was lead man in the non destructive testing dept (x-ray) spent a lot of time x-raying the titanium duct work for the boundry layer control (blc) system that was a whole new control system concept. at the time titanium was almost a exotic metal that was very difficult to form into the complex shapes for the system and consequently had to be welded from many small pieces and inspected for welding defects 100%. the vig had a very strange trade mark sound that could be heard all over the east side of columbus in the wee hours out on the ramp @ run up. this was in 1963 / 1965. best job i ever had.

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Steve Denoo, e-mail, 06.01.2012 16:08

This is one of the most under rated aircraft ever. I observed them coming on board the ship. Then if you have had the opportunity and when you saw them show off and do what they were designed for, it takes your breath away. There is nothing in the air that can compete with it today. Years ahead of its time. A few years ago the Navy wanted to bring them back, but Politics got in the way.

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