The A-5 Vigilante was a truly magnificent aircraft of its time. It was optimized for low-level attacks at high speeds and was one of the biggest aircraft that ever operated from a carrier. Out of the 63 bomber variants built, all but ten were converted to RA-5C reconn. variants in the end.
The Vigilante's early service proved troublesome, with many teething problems for its advanced systems. It also arrived in service during a major policy shift in the Navy strategic role, which switched to emphasize submarine launched ballistic missiles rather than manned bombers. The RA-5C Vigilante saw extensive service in Vietnam starting in August 1964, carrying out hazardous medium-level reconnaissance missions. Although it proved fast and agile, 18 were lost in combat, most to anti-aircraft fire. Several more were lost in operational accidents. 36 additional aircraft were built from 1968-1970 as attrition replacements.
Despite the Vigilante's useful service, it was expensive and complex to operate, and it was phased out after the end of the Vietnam War. Disestablishment of RVAH squadrons began in 1974, with the last Vigilantes completing their final deployment in September 1979.
Primary Function: Tactical reconnaissance, carrier-based attack aircraft
Contractor: North American / Rockwell
Crew: Two (pilot, navigator)
Unit Cost: N/A
Two turbojet General Electric J79-GE-8 engines (10,800 lb each)
Length: 76 ft 6 in (23.32 m)
Wingspan: 53 ft (16.15 m)
Height: 19 ft (5.79 m)
Empty: 37,500 lb (17,009 kg)
Maximum Takeoff: 79,588 lb (36,094 kg)
Speed: 1,385 mph (2,230 km/h)
Ceiling: 48,400 ft (14,752 m)
Range: 1,500 miles (2,415 km)
1 nuclear weapon, and conventional weapons on two hard points
First Flight: August 31, 1958 (prototype)
April 1962 (A-5B)
End of Service: November 20, 1979
Number Built: [156 total]