The North American A-5 Vigilante was an American carrier-based supersonic bomber designed and built by North American Aviation for the United States Navy. It set several world records, including long-distance speed and altitude records.

Prior to 1962 unification of Navy and Air Force designations, it was designated the A3J Vigilante

In 1953, North American Aviation began a private study for a carrier-based, long-range, all-weather strike bomber, capable of delivering nuclear weapons at supersonic speeds.This proposal, the North American General Purpose Attack Weapon (NAGPAW) concept, was accepted by the United States Navy, with some revisions, in 1955. A contract was awarded on 29 August 1956. Its first flight occurred two years later on 31 August 1958 in Columbus, Ohio.

At the time of its introduction, the Vigilante was one of the largest and by far the most complex aircraft to operate from a Navy aircraft carrier. It had a high-mounted swept wing with a boundary-layer control system (blown flaps) to improve low-speed lift. It had no ailerons; roll control was provided by spoilers in conjunction with differential deflection of the all-moving tail surfaces. The use of aluminium-lithium alloy for wing skins and titanium for critical structures was also unusual.

The A-5 had two widely spaced General Electric J79 turbojet engines, fed by inlets with variable intake ramps, and a single large all-moving vertical stabilizer. Preliminary design studies had employed twin vertical fin/rudders. The wings, vertical stabilizer and the nose radome folded for carrier stowage. The Vigilante had a crew of two seated in tandem, a pilot and a bombardier-navigator (BN) (reconnaissance/attack navigator (RAN) on later reconnaissance versions) seated on North American HS-1A ejection seats.

Designated by the US Navy as a “heavy”, the A-5 was surprisingly agile; without the drag of bombs or missiles, even escorting fighters found that the clean airframe and powerful engines made the Vigilante very fast at high and low altitudes. However, its high approach speed and high angle of attack contributed to a high workload during carrier landings.

Sources: YouTube; Wikipedia

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