This film V FOR VIGILANTE is a promotional piece made by North American Aviation to promote the “super sonic rifle”, the Navy’s A3J fighter plane known as the A3J Vigilante (1:14). At the time the aircraft was being used as a nuclear weapon delivery platform. According to the film, the plane “contains some of the most advanced electronic equipment created by science” (1:42). The pilot and navigator could fly this plane over thousands of miles (1:56). Unlike missiles or unmanned crafts, this could be redirected to new targets while in flight (2:05). It is flown by television and radar and guided by devices enabling sight in the dark (2:21). The officers of the Bureau of Naval Weapons play a decisive role in choosing which crafts and equipment are used and will direct Aviation personnel to construct them (3:03). The Columbia division was chosen to construct the Vigilante (3:30). It will contain two turbo engines that enable movement faster than the speed of sound (3:55). After thourough plans have been drawn, a scale model is constructed (4:57). In the Columbus Division’s wind tunnel, jet streams will test the planes handling (5:31). The model is able to do everything a regular plane can, save for flight (5:38). Flight conditions are simulated by engineers and they seek ways to improve the craft (5:47). From here, the production of the Vigilante will commence (5:58). Miniscule components are machined (6:31) and in temperature controlled rooms, specific instruments are used for inspection (6:34). On the factory floor, the wings are crafted (6:54) as mechanics and Navy inspectors ensure proper construction (7:11). The craft is 73 feet long (7:35) and tail assembly rises twenty feet in the air (7:45). One unique feature is the linear rejection bomb bay (7:50). After construction, test engineers take over (7:56). In a steel rig, the craft will endure strenuous conditions (8:13). There will be many tests to follow such as how the pilot will save himself in emergency (9:30). After Columbus, it will head westward for the California desert to the North American test facility (10:29). The plane received international awards for flying seventeen miles above the stratosphere (11:04). As the Vigilante has now proven itself, it is sent to join the Fleet (11:34).
The North American A-5 Vigilante is an American carrier-based supersonic bomber designed and built by North American Aviation for the United States Navy. Its service in the nuclear strike role to replace the Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was very short; however, as the RA-5C, it saw extensive service during the Vietnam War in the tactical strike reconnaissance role. Prior to the unification of the Navy designation sequence with the Air Force sequence in 1962, it was designated the A3J Vigilante.
The Vigilante, designed and built for the U.S. Navy by North American Aircraft Division at Columbus, Ohio, was the only Mach 2 bomber to serve aboard a Navy carrier. Initially designated the A3J-1 attack bomber, it was one of the largest and heaviest aircraft ever accepted for service aboard U.S. Navy carriers. Production began in 1956, and it entered squadron service in June 1961. It was redesignated the A-5 and fully deployed by August 1962, when the USS Enterprise, the Navy’s first nuclear aircraft carrier, made its inaugural cruise.
Changing defense strategies marked a change of focus away from carrier-based, heavy-attack squadrons. In 1964, all the Vigilantes were reconfigured as reconnaissance aircraft and designated RA-5C. Reconnaissance gear was mounted in what had been the Vigilante’s bomb bay. Other modifications allowed the RA-5C to carry four external fuel tanks. These additions increased the airplane’s range on reconnaissance missions and allowed it to keep its attack capability with externally mounted bombs and rockets.
The RA-5C Vigilante first flew on June 30, 1962, and was capable of all-weather, long-range, carrier- or land-based, multisensor, reconnaissance missions involving high-altitude supersonic, or very low-altitude, high-speed penetrations. Its inertial navigation system provided the precise position location information demanded. The Vigilante pilot and the reconnaissance/attack navigator (RAN) sat in tandem under individual clamshell-type canopies.
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