The Vigilante is one of the largest aircraft to routinely fly from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was designed in the late 1950s as a supersonic nuclear capable attack bomber. The Vigilante first flew in August 1958 and deliveries of operational aircraft began in 1960. The A3J, as it was then designated, featured a unique bomb bay arrangement in which the bomb was ejected out a chute that exited between the aircraft’s engines. This system proved to be very troublesome and in fact many problems were never solved. A change in policy eliminated the Navy’s strategic nuclear bombing role and the Vigilante’s mission was changed to reconnaissance. At the same time the Navy’s aircraft designation system was changed and the A3J became the A-5A and the reconnaissance version became the RA-5C. Existing Vigilantes were upgraded and modified to serve as photo reconnaissance aircraft and further examples were built in the new configuration. The Vigilante served with the U.S. Navy until 1979.
Heavy Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 3 (RVAH-3), Naval Air Station Albany, Georgia, 1970
Manufactured by North American Aviation, Columbus, Ohio and delivered to the U.S. Navy as an A-5A on December 17, 1962.
January 1963 To Heavy Attack Squadron 1 (VAH-1), Naval Air Station Sanford, Florida. Deployed on USS Independence.
August 1963 To Heavy Attack Squadron 3 (VAH-3), Naval Air Station Sanford, Florida. Deployed on USS Independence.
August 1964 To North American Aviation, Columbus, Ohio for conversion to RA-5C.
January 1966 To Heavy Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 6 (RVAH-6), Naval Air Station Miramar, California.
November 1966 Unit moved to Naval Air Station Sanford, Florida.
May 1967 Unit moved to Naval Air Station Albany, Georgia. Deployed on USS America.
June 1968 To Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 13 (RVAH-13), Naval Air Station Albany, Georgia.
November 1968 To Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 3 (RVAH-3), Naval Air Station Albany, Florida.
April 1969 To Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 7 (RVAH-7) aboard USS Constellation.
June 1969 To Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 5 (RVAH-5), Naval Air Station Albany, Florida.
August 1969 To Reconnaissance Attack Squadron 3, (RVAH-3), Naval Air Station Albany, Florida.
September 1970 To Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona for storage.
November 1980 Loaned to Pima Air & Space Museum by the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Pima Air & Space Museum