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NAA Company Profile 1928 –1996 ONE SMALL LEAP FROM BASIC TRAINER TO THE SPACE SHUTTLE ORBITER
HE STORY of North American Aviation (NAA) is one that has almost fairy tale like qualities to it, not only because of its rapid rise during the late 1930s, but also due its ability to produce several iconic aircraft during the Second World War, and in great numbers. NAA's post-war existence was equally impressive as, along with many other US aircraft manufacturers, its future was bleak, but by drawing upon its vast pool of design and engineering talent, coupled with a management that actually knew how to manage (unheard of in this modern age!), the company enjoyed success again. Its ability to diversify into other sections of not only aviation but also missile technology, nuclear reactors, rocketry and space technology is mind boggling and it has been impossible to cover every aspect to NAA’s vast spread of sub-divisions and spin off companies within the confines of this publication. NAA’s aircraft portfolio is an enviable array of aircraft which began with one of the most famous of all, the T-6 family of trainers, which served a whole host of air forces from its introduction in 1936 through to its retirement in the mid-1990s. Unsurprisingly, out of the 17,000 built, over 350 are still airworthy today. The unassuming little trainer was followed up by a rather more aggressive aircraft, the B-25 Mitchell. This remarkable machine arrived when the USAAC was desperate for medium bombers and from the first aircraft entering service in 1941, the Inglewood and Kansas City productions kept working throughout the remainder of the Second World War and would build almost 10,000 of them, of which over 30 Mitchells still fly today.
The last of NAA’s big wartime three is, of course, the P-51 Mustang which from its humble beginnings was virtually ignored by the USAAC (because they did not order it!) but was embraced by the RAF and in particular Rolls-Royce, who saw the aircraft’s potential from ‘day one’. Even with its original Allison powerplant, the P-51 was a very good aircraft which only got better after a Merlin engine was installed from the P-51B onwards. Over 15,000 P-51s were built which, along with the T-6 and B-25, gave NAA a more comfortable position after the end of the war when aircraft orders were slashed. Further success followed with yet another icon in its own right, the F-86 Sabre family of jets which helped to drag the USAAF into the jet-age and to keep NAA on an even keel, which by now stood alone when its parent company, General Motors, withdrew in 1948. NAA held its own until the 1960s when expensive, low production research aircraft took priority and the company began to sub divide to gain an increasing influence in the space industry, being responsible for the Apollo Command module and sections of the Saturn V rocket plus many more equally important components for NASA. Merged with Rockwell in the early 1970s, NAA lived on until the 1990s but will always be remembered for its outstanding aircraft which are all covered in this issue of the Company Profile series.
Martyn Chorlton March 2013
Acknowledgements Claire Chorlton (Proofing) Rebecca Gibbs (Proofing) Andy Hay (www.flyingart.co.uk) Sue Keily (Ad Sales Manager) Zoë Tabourajis (Art Editor)
All images supplied from the author's collection unless specified A pair of B-25s of the 405th BS the ‘Green Dragons’ of the 38th BG which fought its away from Northern Australia in 1942, New Guinea in 1944 and onwards to Japan in 1945 Cover: Maurice Hammond’s pristine North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang, 44-13521 ‘Marinell’. Jarrod Cotter From left to right, a BT-9B Yale, F-100C Super Sabres and X-15
For more than a century of aviation history and for further titles in this series, visit
XB-70A-1-NA Valkyrie, 62-0001 (aka Air Vehicle No.1 (AV/1)), pictured in company with a B-58 Hustler, during an early test flight from Edwards AFB
COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN
The North American P-51 Mustang appeared in many iconic images of the Second World War, including this photo of ace Don Blakeslee, of the 4th Fighter Group. He survived the war with 15½ aerial kills to his name and remained in the air force until 1965, retiring as a Colonel
THE NORTH AMERICAN STORY (1928-1996)
Genesis as a holding company It was an unconventional beginning for North American Aviation (NAA). Unlike the trend in the US for aircraft manufacturers to be named after their founders, such as Boeing, Douglas, Martin etc, NAA began as a holding company, formed by several business associates with the intention of purchasing aviation related stocks and shares, securities, aircraft manufacturers, air mail carriage and for the purpose of developing new aviation companies. The group of business associates was led by Clement Melville Keys (1876-1952), who incorporated NAA on December 6, 1928.
Keys was a man who had his fingers in many aviation-related pies and is often referred to as the ‘father of commercial aviation in America.’ Canadian-born, Keys began work as a reporter on the Wall Street Journal in 1901 and was initially employed as its railroad editor then, later, as financial editor for the journal World's Work. By 1916, he had formed his own investment counselling company and, in the same year, his aviation connections began when he became vice president of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, without pay. Four years later, Keys had become the main controlling interest of the struggling company
and he kept it going throughout the 1920s, which was long enough to merge with Wright Aeronautical in 1929. The two companies became the hugely successful Curtiss-Wright. The same year, Keys shrewdly bought 100% of all available shares of the airline Pitcairn Aviation for the princely sum of $2.5 million, only to sell them two weeks later to NAA, who renamed the airline Eastern Air Transport. This then evolved into Eastern Airlines, which existed until 1991. At one point, Keys was at the helm of 26 aviation companies but, by 1932, he had been forced to slow down and partially withdraw from the investment world because of poor health.
(above, left) Berliner-Joyce OJ-2s on parade at NAS Squantum, Massachusetts (above, right) One of just five GAMC PJ ‘Flying Life Boat’ amphibians built by NAA for the US Coast Guard (right) The ‘father of commercial aviation in America’, Canadian-born Clement Melville Keys was the driving force behind NAA
New legislation introduced after the GAMC GA-43 was built restricted the use of single-engined airliners, making the aircraft virtually unmarketable and as a result, only five were built COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN
NORTH AMERICAN (right) One of 2,290 B-25Ds built in Kansas City, Kansas pictured in 1942. Almost 10,000 B-25s medium bombers were built which were named in honour of General Billy Mitchell who was regarded as the father of the USAF
Investment and acquisitions NAA was, for the first six years of its existence managed by a committee, its income coming from trading securities and dividends. NAA’s first investments were in Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, Curtiss Flying Services, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) and the Douglas Aircraft Company. NAA grew rapidly on paper with a host of transactions that included acquiring various companies such as Ford Instrument, United Aircraft, Intercontinent Aviation and ownership of a large percentage of the quietly successful Berliner-Joyce Aircraft Company. The latter, based within a 58,000 sq/ft factory at Dundalk, Maryland, close to Logan Field was only formed in February 1929. By 1933, Berliner-Joyce was under the control of NAA, by which time, the company had received orders for 27 aircraft.
(left) The O-47 was the first aircraft to be solely designed and built by NAA but was not the first to fly. The observation aircraft was beaten into the air by the NA-16 which first flew in April 1935, while the O-47 did not fly until July
(above) President of the North American Aviation Company, James H. ‘Dutch’ Kindelberger (left), and his vice-president, John Leland Atwood, in formal pose in 1942. ‘Dutch’ became NAA’s president and general manager in 1934 when the company was first formed. Later promoted to chairman in 1948, he remained in this position until his death in July 1962 Temple Nach Joyce left the company in January 1934 to work with Bellanca and Henry Berliner followed, not long after, to join the Engineering and Research Corporation. Eventually, the company was renamed as the B/J division of NAA and was moved lock, stock and barrel to NAA’s future home at Inglewood, California. While NAA were busy buying up aviation companies, another factor which would influence its success would involve General Motors (GM). In May 1929, GM bought a controlling interest in the Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America (originally named the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation), which was the branch of the Dutch company based at Hasbrouck Heights and Teterboro, both in New Jersey. Anthony Fokker had been building a successful business since 1924, with growing sales of both commercial and military aircraft that were strengthened when he also joined up with the airline Western Air Express (WAE) (WAE and Fokker later merged with TAT to form TWA). However, Fokker’s success took a 8
blow in 1929 with the world market crash which saw aircraft sales disappear overnight and any venture GM was involved in suddenly looked very unattractive. By 1931, Fokker had returned back to the Netherlands while GM formed a new company called the General Aircraft Corporation using Fokker’s factory, assets and manufacturing rights to create the General Aviation Manufacturing Company (GAMC). GAMC took over all of the Fokker contracts, which included the completion of 15 YO-27 bombers for the USAAC and five PJ ‘Flying Life Boat’ amphibians for the US Coast Guard. Once these aircraft were completed, Fokker, as an aviation name, vanished from the US and GAMC moved the entire manufacturing operation into the ex-Curtiss-Caproni factory, which was also based at Dundalk.
The bubble begins to rupture? GAMC tentatively entered the all-metal airliner market by producing the single-engine GA-43. Originally a Fairchild design bought from American Pilgrim, the future of the GA-43 was blighted when the US Department of Commerce introduced restrictions (‘anti-trust legislation’) regarding the operation of single-engined airliners. These restrictions made the GA-43 an unappealing option to airlines and, as a result, only five were built. Another blow came when the US Air Mail also changed the rules by stating that no
carrier should have holding interests in any other aviation related business; which was exactly what NAA was doing. Only interests in airfields and supporting facilities were allowed, so NAA wasted no time in selling off Transcontinental and Western Air (ex-TAT) and Western Air Express. In 1933, a significant move for the future of NAA saw Ernest R Breech established as chairman, a man who would be better known for helping to breathe new life into the Ford Motor Company during the post-Second World War era. Breech was well aware that if NAA was survive this troubled period and make a name for itself in the world of aircraft design and manufacturing, it would need good, experienced managers. The first of many big names that Breech introduced to NAA was James Howard ‘Dutch’ Kindelberger, who he met during a business trip to the Douglas Aircraft Company. Kindelberger was chief engineer of the DC-1 airliner at the time and despite only one aircraft being built, the design went to bequeath the iconic and hugely successful DC-2 and DC-3. Kindelberger took the risky decision to leave the security of Douglas to become present and general manager of NAA in July 1934, which at this time was still an unknown quantity. At the same time, John Leland Atwood joined as chief engineer and J S ‘Stan’ Smithson became responsible for manufacturing.
Post-depression blues By the end of 1934, NAA’s total value scraped $11,000 and Kindelberger’s first end of year report to the directors did not make for comfortable reading. The honeymoon period which saw Fokker and Berliner-Joyce prosper had long gone and the order book was empty.
Construction work on one GA-43 for Pan-American, 13 OJ-2s, and a XF2J-1 and XF3J-1 for the USN was the only activity. To add insult to injury, the last GA-43 could not be sold and, in a desperate effort to raise some funds, the aircraft was sold for scrap for the princely sum of $1,500. No commercial ideas had proved successful, no designs were under development and NAA was still lacking a design of its own. However, the main strength of NAA was the talent that it could draw from, not only the people introduced by Breech but also those engineers still being employed by GAMC and Berliner-Joyce. These experienced men helped to convince the company directors that investment and willingness to
(below) Larry L. Waite (left), aerodynamicist, Raymond H. Rice (centre), chief of engineering, and Edgar Schmued, chief designer, strike an uncomfortable pose over a set of Mustang drawings. His talent did not end with the P-51, as he also went on to design the iconic F-86 and F-100
risk capital was the only way forward. NAA’s first ‘home-grown’ aircraft came about because of Kindelberger’s desire to equip the USAAC with a new ‘modern’ observation aircraft. The result was the O-47, which was achieved on a budget of $105,000 and was destined to be the last aircraft built at the Dundalk plant.
Go west! In 1935, NAA won the first of many significant aircraft orders when the USAAC ordered 42 NA-16 trainers. Little did NAA know that this unassuming aircraft would evolve into one of the world’s most successful piston trainers which still grace the skies today in reasonably healthy numbers. At the same time, Kindelberger decided
(above) Only one flying prototype was ever built, but a static-test airframe, virtually replicating the NA-73X, was also created. The static-test airframe was designated the XX-73 and was used to test the airframe to breaking point, which occurred well above the design load that NAA’s operation should be moved to the clearer and friendlier skies over California. A temporary factory was initially established at El Segundo, (aka Inglewood), which ten years later, opened as Los Angeles International airport and still occupies the site today. 20 acres of land were rented for $600 per month and, by January 1936, NAA had a firmer foothold at El Segundo with 250 employees on the books. Orders for the NA-16 and its derivatives, the BC-1, BT-9, AT-6 and Harvard, continued to pour in. By 1939, the company had decided to expand its portfolio by venturing into bomber design and its first would prove to be a classic.
(below) After Paul Balfour’s crash, Robert C. Chilton took over the job of chief of flight testing. It was not until April 1941 that Chilton made his first flight in the repaired NA-73X but, from that day onwards, he would go on to fly the vast majority of test flights on all Mustangs built
(above) The highly competent Vance Breese was, quite possibly, one of the most highly qualified test pilots of his day. He flew more than 100 different types of aircraft, including the NA-73X, which he tested for the first time on October 26, 1940 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN
NORTH AMERICAN (right) Not a line is out of place in this lovely threequarter view of the NA-73X, only days before its first flight in October 1940. The aircraft performed as beautifully as its appearance suggests for Vance Breese but still needed care, as Balfour would find out The B-25 Mitchell went on to be produced in huge numbers and achieved fame at a very early stage in its career by being chosen as the weapon of choice for the ‘Doolittle Raiders’ in April 1942. Despite the raid only being a token effort from a collateral damage viewpoint, the fact that US bombers had the ability fly over Tokyo shocked the Japanese and raised morale in the USA. Prior to this, NAA grew rapidly and by the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the company had 23,000 employees and were producing, on average, more than 300 aircraft per month.
The arrival of the P-51 In 1938, the Air Ministry, obviously fully aware of events building in Europe, placed a large order for the NA-16 tandem-seat trainer, giving it the name Harvard. The Harvard was a huge success for North American Aviation (NAA) and quickly taught the company, which had only formed in 1934, how to mass-produce aircraft. NAA did not, however, have any experience in designing and building fighter aircraft. As the beginning of the Second World War approached, both the British and French governments were desperate for combat aircraft and both looked across the ocean for
additional hardware. France placed a large order for the Curtiss Mohawk, while Britain ordered the Curtiss P-40 and the Bell P-39 Airacobra. None of these aircraft were a match for the Luftwaffe’s best. The P-39 order – which, after the fall of France was taken over by the British Direct Purchase Commission (BDPC) – only actually amounted to 50 aircraft. The larger original order was cancelled owing to the aircraft not performing as expected. Many more Hawks were diverted to the RAF under the same scheme and were used by three squadrons in the Far East. It was clear that the RAF, which was now alone in defending the shores of Great Britain, needed a more dedicated fighter to complement the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire already in mass production. In America, the BDPC representative in 1939 was Sir Henry Self and his main and ‘high priority’ task was to source the production of a new fighter. He had already made a good contact with the NAA’s
NAA built 200 FJ-2 Furies for the USN which were described as the first of the ‘Blue F-86s’
Kindelberger with regard to Harvard production, which was extended to more aircraft on the outbreak of war. The only serious contender still on the table was the Curtiss P-40, but the company were already at full capacity producing the fighter for the United States Army Air Corp (USAAC). In an effort to divert more P-40s to Britain, in January 1940, a delegation led by Self proposed that North American could build the P-40 under license for the RAF. Rather than reject the notion out of hand, NAA responded with a remarkable proposal. After discussing various ideas, Kindelberger approached his chief designer Edgar Schmued and said “Ed, do we want to build P-40s here?” Schmued, who had been waiting for this opportunity, responded by saying, “Well, Dutch, don’t let us build an obsolete airplane, let’s build a new one. We can design and build a better one.” German-born Schmued was also in the middle of yet another myth. It was claimed that he worked with Willy Messerschmitt and that the new aircraft was heavily influenced by the Bf109. The new aircraft would be built around the Allison V-1710 water-cooled 12-cylinder inline vee engine, which was already used in the P-40, but with greater range and performance. This was an amazing suggestion but it has since been revealed that NAA were armed with more information than was initially realised. In 1938, Kindelberger was lucky enough to visit both the Heinkel and Messerschmitt factories, taking detailed notes on the production of liquid-cooled engined fighters. The vice president of NAA, British born Lee Atwood, was also ordered by the British to obtain (at a cost of $56,000) as much technical aerodynamic information as possible about Don Berlin’s Curtiss XP-46. The XP-46 was a scaled down version of the P-40 incorporating
P-51A Mustang ‘Mrs Virginia’ which served with the 1st Air Commando Group in the Far East and still survives today in airworthy condition
Andy Hay/www.flyingart.co.uk 10
NAA STORY many unique features such as an inward retracting undercarriage, slotted wings, self-sealing fuel tanks, armour protection for the pilot and a radiator set below the fuselage directly under the cockpit. It was the latter feature which, externally, was the only similarity between the Curtiss design and the new NAA machine. The blueprints and design specifications of the new NA-73X were enthusiastically approved by the BDPC and, less than four months later, in April 1940, a preliminary design was also presented. The design was actually shown to the British before the data from the XP-46 was thoroughly analysed. Despite this, the Curtiss design team would accuse NAA of plagiarism, even though it was clearly obvious that the XP-46 had its roots deep in the early 1930s while the NA-73X utilised many new design features. When the British actually approved the design of the NA-73X, the timescale of 120
Unlike the XF-108, the incredible XB-70 did reach the prototype flying stage but a combination of high costs and the vast improvement of the efficiency of SAM systems, not to mention the loss of the first aircraft, let to the ‘Valkyrie’ being cancelled
(left) ‘Dutch’ Kindelberger in conversation with General Doolittle (seated in an F-86 Sabre) who led the famous Doolittle raid using an earlier NAA product, the B-25 Mitchell
days is often quoted. This legendary timescale is and has been open to much interpretation. Whether it ranges from approval of the drawings to prototype roll-out or from the date of the initial order to first flight, or a combination of the two is unknown. The preliminary design was approved by Sir Henry Self, Air Vice Marshal G B A Baker and Mr H C B Thomas (RAE) on May 4, 1940 and the first order for 320 aircraft was placed on May 29, 1940 with a price of $50,000 (approximately £14,500) per aircraft quoted. And so began the 78,000 engineering hours over 127 days that it would take for the first prototype NA-73X, registered NX19998, to be rolled out at Mines Field, Los Angeles on September 9, 1940. This was 102 days after the Air Ministry contract was signed, albeit minus an engine, which would not arrive until October 7. The delay happened because the NA-73X was officially classed as a private venture and, as such, would receive ‘government furnish equipment’ as and when it became available. An Allison V-1710-F3R developing 1,150hp was installed and, wasting no time, the aircraft was first flown on October 26, 1940 by test pilot Vance Breese. By this time, the RAF had raised an
initial order of 320 aircraft to 620 machines even before a production version was in sight. In bare metal, the NA-73X was a stunning looking aircraft, every inch a thoroughbred compared to all other American fighters of the day. The list of ground breaking design features was endless, but one of the most significant was the wing. Utilising information provided by the United States National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the NAA produced a ‘laminar’ wing. A standard wing cross section would show that the maximum thickness of the
wing was approximately 1/5 of the chord from the leading edge. The upper surface would be more curved than the lower surface; a design more suited to creating lift rather than high speed. The laminar flow design was considerably different with the thickest part of the wing in the centre and the camber, both top and bottom, was almost equal. This design significantly reduced turbulent air over the wing, which was one of the main causes of drag. With little effort, performance was increased both in terms of top speed and range. The downside was that the aircraft would be tricky at low speeds but, to counteract this, big powerful slotted flaps were fitted. The whole surface of the aircraft was very smooth and the fuselage was considerably slimmer than other fighter designs of the day. Only the carburettor intake on top of the forward fuselage disrupted the NA-73X’s lines. The position of this intake was later moved further forward, almost to the very end of the nose, after test flying revealed that the original position could cause the engine to stall. The radiator was, like the XP-46 (and that’s where any similarity ends!), placed directly under the fuselage in line with the cockpit inside a profiled duct which eliminated the drag
The XF-108 Rapier was planned to be a long-range, high-speed interceptor but only reached the mock-up stage in 1959 before it was cancelled the same year
COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 11
NORTH AMERICAN usually caused by such items. During development, it was actually found that this duct could provide additional propulsion by adding heat energy to the air and expelling it at high thrust. The flight test programme was progressing nicely when Vance Breese, who was a civilian freelance test pilot, handed the NA-73X over to NAA test pilot Paul Balfour. While on his first familiarisation flight, Balfour crashed on approach to Mines Field on November 20. After making two high speed passes over Mines Filed, Balfour throttled back on approach to the runway but failed to the change the fuel valve to the reserve position. The engine, starved of fuel, died and, with no time to restart, Balfour had to make a dead stick landing in a field short of the runway. The field was cultivated and, on touching the soft ground, the NA-73X turned over on its back, trapping Balfour in the cockpit. Luckily, the machine did not catch fire, which gave his rescuers time to dig him out of the cockpit. The aircraft was seriously damaged and would not be back in the air for quite some time. Edgar Schmued attempted to brief Balfour on the take-off and flight test procedure before Balfour took off but apparently he refused to listen, saying that “one airplane was like another”. When the NA-73X returned to the air on January 11, 1941, the flight test programme had been handed over to Bob Chilton who would continue to test all variants of the Mustang during the Second World War. While the NA-73X was being repaired, the RAF had come up with a name for the aircraft which would be adopted by all. Having considered ‘Apache’, the RAF chose ‘Mustang’, a name now associated with one of the greatest single-seat piston engined fighters of all time. The NA-73X continued to operate as part of the NAA’s development programme until July 15, 1941 when it was grounded indefinitely. This ground-breaking prototype spent the remainder of its days at Inglewood before being unceremoniously scrapped. This was an undignified end to a beautiful aircraft that paved the way for a colossal family of P-51 Mustangs that would go on to become the
Launched by a propellant RATO booster, the MQM-42 (NA-273) target drone was kept in the air by a Marquardt MA-74 ramjet. The drone served the US Army from 1961 through to the mid-1970s most numerously produced American fighter of all time.
Maximum war effort The demand for NAA aircraft saw additional factories opened in Kansas City, Missouri and Dallas as well as the original plant at Inglewood. Even the nearby Hollywood Park race track was leased by NAA in an effort to gain more space for production. Second World War production amassed more than 40,000 aircraft, the total being made up by NAA’s big three: the B-25, the P-51 and Harvard group of trainers. By the end of the conflict, NAA had produced 14% of all of the aircraft built by US manufacturers during the entire war.
The jet age After a wartime employment high of more than 90,000 people, by 1946, this number was down to 5,000 and the company was not sure whether it still had a future in aircraft production. The order book in August 1945 had over 8,000 aircraft in it but within weeks this had been slashed to just 24. NAA had no choice but to close the Kansas City and Dallas plants, leaving Inglewood as the main factory, as it had been during the pre-war days. However, not everyone in the company
thought that its future lay in the hardware business and in the background NAA engineers were taking full advantage of the arrival of the jet engine and later swept-wing technology. NAA’s first jet, the FJ-1 Fury, was a straightwinged machine but the arrival of the swept-wing F-86 Sabre secured the future of the company. Once again, NAA found itself in demand and by the late 1940s was expanding again with a new factory at Downey, California alongside the old Consolidated-Vultee plant which it also took over and a factory at Columbus in Ohio that was originally used by Curtiss-Wright. By the end of production over 9,000 F-86s had been built in a wide range of variants, making the Sabre the highest produced military jet in the western world. 1948 saw General Motors withdraw its investment in NAA and the company stood alone but not totally bereft, because of the F-86 orders about to come in. The FJ Fury series of Naval fighters also helped and the B-45 Tornado and AJ Savage were also a minor success at the time. By 1952, NAA sales had reached a record $315 million and once again, thanks to the Sabre, the workforce at Columbus alone swelled from 1,600 in 1950 to a peak of 18,000 employees just two years later. The F-100 Super Sabre was yet another success story for the company and helped see it through the 1950s. The follow up F-107 and F-108 were not so successful and were cancelled at great expense to NAA. At Columbus, which was a separate division, they were designing and building aircraft of their own under the NAA name such as the A-5 Vigilante, the OV-10 Bronco and the long-serving T-2 Buckeye which has only just retired from USN service. As the big military aircraft contracts began to shrink, NAA found itself becoming increasingly involved in research aircraft of limited numbers but of enormous cost. The incredible world-beating X-15 was by far the most successful research vehicle which carried
(left) The formidable supersonic AGM-28 Hound Dog entered service in 1960 as a stop-gap for the GAM-87 Skybolt but remained in the front line with the USAF until 1975 and was not completely retired until 1978 12
First flown in 1979, two HiMAT remotely controlled aircraft were built by Rockwell as part of a NASA flight programme to explore future fighter technology excellent service from 1959 to 1968. The company was involved with the equally amazing XB-70 Mach 3 bomber, which unfortunately came to nothing as far as a production order was concerned.
were built speciﬁcally to test the second stage of the SM-64 Navaho missile. NAA also designed and built the AGM-28 Hound Dog jet-powered missile which was carried under the wing of a B-52. Hound Dog could carry a nuclear weapon for a distance of 600 miles. Other un-piloted machines included the MQM-42 Redhead/Roadrunner target drone for the use of the US Army; the AGM-53A Condor for the US Navy and the AGM-65A for the USAF. Further equipment for the USAF has been the Modular Guided Glide Bomb Quick Reaction Capability system and the GBU-15 Pavestrike Modular Glide weapons systems. The US Army has also been supplied with the highly successful Hellﬁre missile system, which has been in service since the mid-1980s. During the late 1970s, Rockwell ventured
Rockwell built the Space Shuttle Orbiter which made the first of 135 missions in April 1981. The last mission was in July 2011
Rockwell Merger NAA merged with the Rockwell Standard Corporation in September 1976; the duo by this time was referred to as the North American Rockwell Corporation. Rockwell introduced some diversity with a small range of civilian aircraft which included the Aero (later Rockwell) Commander, the Shrike Commander, Lark Commander and Quail Commander. The new corporation’s biggest contract since forming in July 1972 came about when it was commissioned to develop and build the Space Shuttle at its Downey factory. The contract, which was initially worth a cool $2.6 billion, continued to provide the corporation with regular work throughout the 1970s, 80s and into the early 1990s. In February 1973, the company was renamed as the Rockwell International Corporation and the name, North American, began to slip away. The B-1A project was the main military contract during the mid-1970s through to the early 1980s, when the company thought that all had been lost with the bomber. However, a valuable order for 100 B-1Bs was placed by the USAF and this kept Rockwell gainfully employed throughout the 1980s. The 1990s, though, were a diﬀerent story and during the early part of decade Rockwell began winding down the Inglewood plant. Many staﬀ were laid oﬀ during this period and, by late 1993, all of Rockwell’s operations were concentrated at its Downey and Seal Beach factories. The clinical end of the Cold War saw a further wind down, and in December 1996, the Aerospace and Defence Division of the company, which also included Autonetics and Rocketdyne were merged with Boeing; later renamed Boeing North American Incorporated. The latter is now part of Boeing’s Defence Division. Rockwell International continued in its own right until 2001 when it was divided into Rockwell Automation (industrial automation company) and Rockwell Collins (avionics and IT company) which traded independently.
Space, Rockets, Missiles and Projects As far back as 1951, NAA became heavily involved in the development and production of rocket engines for large missiles such as the Atlas, Jupiter and Thor. To carry out this work, NAA formed a separate company called Rocketdyne, basing it at Santa Susana Field, Canoga Park, Los Angeles. Rocketdyne went on to produce rocket engines for both the Gemini and Apollo space programme and later the main RS-25 engine for the Space Shuttle. In 2005, Rocketdyne became Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne following the merger of Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion and Boeing Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power. Remaining at Canoga Park, the company is now in the hands of United Technologies Corporation but at the time of writing, the company appears to be on the market again, with GenCorp likely to become the new owner. NAA was also heavily involved in missile development, beginning with the un-piloted X-10 cruise missile research aircraft. 13 X-10s
into the world of highly-manoeuvrable aircraft and continued to do so until 1994 with the X-31A. In March 1978, the HiMAT (HighlyManoeuvrable Aircraft Technology) demonstrator was revealed to the public. It was an unmanned 0.44 scale aircraft which was ﬂown by a pilot on the ground. The combat aircraft was designed to study the eﬀects of combat manoeuvres up to 8g with the transonic speed range. Not long after, in 1979, Rockwell also presented the USAF/DARPA FSW (ForwardSwept Wing) demonstrator that was on a par with the X-29A. The FSW was not developed beyond the mock-up stage. Ten years later, Rockwell also became involved in the X-30 NASP (National AeroSpace Program), which was designed to be a single-stage ramjet reusable machine. The X-30 would have been capable of operating from a normal runway but once it left the earth’s atmosphere it could travel at a speed of Mach 25 in a low orbit. Sadly, this 21st Century machine never left the drawing board. Many, many more projects only made it to the basic study or design stage. '
COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 13
NA16, BT9/A/B/C/D, Y1BT10, BT14 & NJ1 First ﬂown on April 1, 1935 by Eddie Allen, the prototype NA-16, X-2080 is pictured just 18 days later, after an enclosed cockpit canopy was ﬁtted at the request of the USAAC
DEVELOPMENT Not only did the NA-16 mark the starting point for one of the world’s most successful training aircraft, the Texan/Harvard family of machines was also the most extensively used trainer across the globe and from a total production of over 21,000 aircraft, many remain airworthy today.
DESIGN Derived from the NA-16 which was first flown on April 1, 1935, the long line of subsequent aircraft were all low-wing cantilever monoplanes. Early aircraft had a fixed main undercarriage, while later variants were retractable. The NA-16, at first, had tandem open cockpits and was powered by a 400hp R-975 Whirlwind engine. On receipt of a production order from the USAAC, NA-16 became the BT-9, which incorporated several design changes. The most significant of these was the fitment of a fully enclosed cockpit and, under a new company designation, NA-18, NAA also fitted a 600hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine. For the main production BT-9 though, the R-975 engine was retained. Next was the BT-9A which was fitted with two 0.30in machine guns followed by the BT-9B and C, both of which had a few subtle equipment changes. The initial batch of BT-9Cs built was designated the Y1BT-10, but a production version of the BT-10 never came to fruition. One BT-9D was produced, featuring a modified rudder and outer wing panels, both of which appeared in the much improved BT-14. The BT-14 had a metal covered fuselage and was fitted with a 400hp Pratt &
Whitney R-985-25 Wasp Junior, although 27 examples were later re-engined with R-985-11 engines and redesignated as the BT-14A.
SERVICE With the exception of the BT-9D, all BT-9 and later BT-14 variants saw service with the USAAC, later USAAF and the USN. With the latter, 40 examples of the BT-9 served the navy as the NJ-1, all of these aircraft being fitted with the R-1340 Wasp engine. Many foreign air forces operated the BT-9/14 variants including the RAAF, who licence-built their own version produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC). The type also saw service with China, Honduras, Japan, Sweden and France. The latter ordered 230 BT-14s but, by May 1940, only 111 had been delivered. The outstanding order was bought by Britain but all aircraft ended up serving with the RCAF and were renamed as Yale Is.
PRODUCTION One prototype NA-16, X-2080, first flown by Eddie Allen. Production aircraft were the BT-9 (42), BT-9A (40), BT-9B (117), NJ-1 (40), Y1BT-10 (1), BT-9C (66), BT-9D (1), BT-14 (251) of which 27 were re-engined and re-designated as BT-14As. One aircraft was supplied to Australia as a pattern aircraft for CAC, 755 being built as the Wirraway I (40), II (580) and III (135). China received 85, Honduras three, while Japan and Sweden received a pair of aircraft apiece as pattern aircraft. The aircraft was built in Sweden as the Sk 14 (53) and Sk 14A (83). The French order was made up of 230 aircraft for the air force and 30 for the navy.
North American and in particular Dutch Kindelberger had been considering designs for a new, modern observation aircraft to replace older biplanes in USAAC service. The O-47 was the ﬁrst new design since North American had taken over General Aviation and, to fund the project, the directors made $125,000 available which was later reduced to $105,000. Originally designated as the GA-15, work began on the project in 1934, by which time the USAAC had designated the new aircraft as the XO-47.
The prototype, which was allocated the serial, X-2079, was rolled out at Dundalk in July 1935 and, not long after, test pilot Eddie Allen carried out the maiden ﬂight. By late September, the XO-47 was entered into in competition for evaluation at Wright Field for new army aircraft and came out of it in a positive light. Despite this, it was not until January 1937 that an order was received by North American (now known as North American Aviation (NAA) for 64 O-47s. Further orders followed and the ﬁrst aircraft entered service with the National Guard in late 1937. By 1939, 143 were on strength. All of these aircraft were assigned to 26 observation squadrons (OS) while the remainder of the production run, 95 aircraft, served with full-time USAAC units and various reserve units. After the USA’s entry into the Second World War, all airworthy O-47s were relegated to training and target towing duties, only a handful seeing operational service on anti-submarine duties oﬀ the Australian coast.
DESIGN The XO-47 was an all-metal, stressed-skin aircraft ﬁtted with a mid-positioned cantilever wing with fabric covered control surfaces and a retractable undercarriage. The tubby-looking machine had a crew of three, all of whom were accommodated under a long, greenhouse-type canopy with the pilot at the front, observer in the middle and an air gunner at the rear. The observer had his own position deep in the centre of the aircraft, complete with windows, under the wings, just behind the undercarriage which gave an unrestricted view. Armament comprised a pair of (later reduced to one) wing-mounted, forward ﬁring 0.30in machines guns plus a single 0.30in for the air gunner. Power was originally to be provided by a single 800hp Wright R-1820G-11, which was later replaced by an 850hp R-1820-41, both of which were ﬁtted with a constant-speed propeller.
PRODUCTION 239 O-47s were built, made up of a single prototype serialled X-2079, followed by 164 production O-47As and 74 O-47Bs. Only the prototype was built at Dundalk, Maryland; the remainder were all constructed at Inglewood, California.
TECHNICAL DATA OA47A & B ENGINE: (A) One Wright R-1820-49; (B) One 1,060hp R-1820-57 Cyclone WING SPAN: 46ft 4in LENGTH: 33ft 7in HEIGHT: 12ft 7in WING AREA: 348.6 sq ft EMPTY WEIGHT: (A) 6,005lb; (B) 6,218lb
MAX SPEED: (A) 223mph; (B) 227mph SERVICE CEILING: (A) 23,200ft; (B) 24,100ft RANGE: (A) 900 miles; (B) 840 miles ARMAMENT: One .30in machine-gun in starboard wing and one rear mounted .30in
The only O-47B preserved today is 39-112 which, in the colours of the 112th OS, is on display at the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio. USAF
The old and the new are displayed with a Douglas O-38E in the background and O-47, 37-333 in the foreground, circa September 1938
Crews of the 104th OS, Maryland National Guard, based at Logan, walk towards their O-47s on March 1, 1940. USAF COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 17
BC1/2, BC1A AT6, NA44, SNJ1 & 2
The BC-1A (NA-55), of which 93 were built for the USAAC as two-seat combat trainers
TECHNICAL DATA BC1& SNJ1 ENGINE: (-1) One 550hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-47; (J-1) One 550hp R-1340-6 WING SPAN: 42ft 7in LENGTH: 27ft 5.8in EMPTY WEIGHT: (-1) 4,406lb LOADED WEIGHT: (-1)
The combat trainer evolves DEVELOPMENT
The next important stage of the Texan/Harvard story was a USAAC requirement for a new combat trainer. This led to the BC-1 (NA-26) and -2 for the USAAC and the SNJ-1 and -2 for the USN, all of which introduced a retractable undercarriage and power from a 550hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine. Included in this period was the NA-44, a prototype attack bomber which was powered by a Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine.
The BC-1 was ﬁrst accepted by the USAAC on March 15, 1938, the last of them being delivered in December of that year. Thirty of this initial batch were built as instrument trainers and the last three oﬀ the production line, redesignated the BC-2, displayed modiﬁcations which would be instrumental in launching the next part of the Texan/Harvard, known as the AT-6. After evaluation of the BC-2, the USAAC placed an order for 83 aircraft with direct-drive engines, designated the BC-1A. Twenty-nine of the latter were transferred to National Guard units and 54 to the USAAC Reserve. The last nine BC-1As built, thanks to a change of category from basic to advanced trainer, became AT-6s. The USN ordered six versions of the BC-1 in September 1938 under the designation SNJ-1, an aircraft that incorporated improvements from the BC-2 and NA-44. The SNJ-1 became NAA’s ﬁrst all-metal aircraft production contract which was accepted in May 1939 and was completed by November. A further 61 aircraft were ordered by the USN as the SNJ-2, which featured the latest improvements added to the BC-2 and BC-1A, such as wing modiﬁcations and a diﬀerent engine.
5,625lb; (J-1) 5,900lb
MAX SPEED: 180mph
Very similar to the BT-9, the BC-1 was designed for the ‘combat category’ of the USAAC’s latest requirement, making use of the original wing, rounded rudder and armament. First ﬂown by Paul Balfour on February 11, 1937, the aircraft was delivered to Wright Field for evaluation and, by June, an order was received by NAA for 177 production standard BC-1s. Changes were made to the production machines, including a modiﬁed fuel system. Later aircraft had a two degree negative twist incorporated into the outer wing panels to aid stall warning and subsequent recovery. The NA-44, which was basically a high-powered BC-1, proved to be a success overseas and was ﬁrst ﬂown by Vance Breese in July 1938. One main diﬀerence was a longer span centre section which could hold 184 gallons of fuel. 30 were purchased by Brazil as the NA-72; a dozen went to China as the NA-74 and ten to Thailand as the NA-69.
CLIMB: 1,300 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 24,100ft RANGE: 850 miles
PRODUCTION A total of 436 aircraft were built in this category, made up of 178 BC-1s (including the prototype); NA-44 prototype, BC-1A (93), AT-6 (94), SNJ-1 (16) and SNJ-2 (61). 52 NA-44 derivatives were supplied to Brazil, Chile and Thailand. The latter, ten NA-69s, did not reach Thailand and served the USAAC as the A-27 instead.
XB21 DRAGON NA21 & NA39
1936 The one and only North American XB-21, 38-385, pictured after the troublesome superchargers had been relocated to the sides of the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2180-1 engines
NAA’s ﬁrst big bomber DEVELOPMENT NAA’s ﬁrst foray into heavy bomber design came about in response to USAAC Circular Proposal 36-528 which was issued on January 15, 1936. The proposal was for a twin-engined, high-altitude bomber which should be ready for competition at Wright Field in March 1937.
DESIGN Given the company designation NA-21, the new bomber would later receive the title XB-21 (redesignated NA-39) by the USAAC and was also occasionally referred to as the Dragon. The new bomber displayed many novel features internally although on the surface the aircraft bore a striking similarity to its main competitor, the Douglas B-18. The aircraft’s mid-mounted wing passed through the fuselage to form the roof of the bomb-bay, which could accommodate up to 10,000lb of bombs. Defensive armament consisted of ﬁve 0.30in machine-guns mounted in hydraulically operated turrets in the nose and dorsal positions plus apertures in ventral and waist locations. Power was provided by a pair of turbo-supercharged R-2180-1 engines which could haul the XB-26 up to a maximum altitude 40,000ft, although a service ceiling was set much lower. A great deal of thought was given to the positions of the engines, which were enclosed in neat nacelles hung below the wings. This not only made them aerodynamic but also gave the main undercarriage plenty of room to retract into the rear of
TECHNICAL DATA XB21 ENGINE: Two 1,200hp Pratt the nacelle and gave the ground crew excellent access to the engines for maintenance.
& Whitney R-2180-1 WING SPAN: 95ft
SERVICE Serialled 38-485, the prototype NA-21 was completed by late 1936 and, on December 22, made its maiden ﬂight in the hands of D W ‘Tommy’ Tomlinson who was on loan from Transcontinental and Western Air. Early ﬂights exposed a problem with tail buﬀeting and the superchargers had a tendency to over speed which had the knock on eﬀect of raising the engine temperatures. The latter problem was later cured by re-positioning the superchargers from the top of the engine to the sides. After a successful demonstration at Wright Field it was now down to business and NAA oﬀered the bomber at a unit price of $122,600 which could only be achieved if a minimum order of 50 aircraft was placed. Unfortunately, Douglas was able to oﬀer their, by now, obsolete B-18 for a mere $63,977, which meant the USAAC could get twice as many aircraft for its money. After returning to Inglewood from Wright Field, the NA-21 was involved in a period of useful test ﬂying. The bomber was then redeveloped and redesignated as the NA-39 before it was purchased by the USAAC for a colossal $555,000. The aircraft was then redesignated again by the USAAC as the XB-21 and was mainly used for research ﬂying from Wright Field. A potential order for ﬁve further aircraft never came to fruition.
LENGTH: 61ft 9in WING AREA: 1,120 sq ft LOADED WEIGHT: 27,253lb CRUISING SPEED: 190mph MAX SPEED: 220 mph SERVICE CEILING: 25,000ft MAX RANGE: 3,100 miles
HARVARD I, II, IIA, IIB, III & IV One of three long-serving Harvard IIBs was FT375, which first joined 16 PFTS, followed by the RAE in May 1946 and finally the A&AEE with which it remained until 1996
Supply and demand; a trainer for the Commonwealth » JUN 1938
Britain orders 200 BC-1s
» DEC 1938
Harvard joins the RAF
1,170 still on RAF charge
» MAR 23, 1955 Last RAF pilot gained his wings
Retired from RCAF service
During the late 1930s, the RAF embarked on a massive expansion programme of not only its front-line operational units, but also its entire approach to flying training. Unable to keep pace with the training requirements of thousands of new pilots with its own, home-built machines, Britain looked across the pond and found the NAA BC-1 to be perfect. Ordered in June 1938, the BC-1, renamed the Harvard I, was one of the first US-built aircraft to serve with the RAF and under the Lend-Lease system, over 5,000 would be delivered and would serve all of the Commonwealth Air Forces.
The Harvard I was first delivered to 12 FTS (Flying Training School) at Grantham in December 1938 and was destined to remain in service as an advanced trainer with the RAF until the mid-1950s. A common sight in British skies throughout the Second World War, by 1946, the RAF still had almost 1,000 Harvards on their inventory and 185 still operating in Rhodesia. Eight FTSs still had the type on charge during the post-war years and the situation continued until 1954/55 when the Harvard was finally replaced as a trainer by the Provost and Vampire. However, three were retained by the ETPS and A&AEE and at least one, KF183, remained on military strength into the 21st Century. The Harvard saw extensive use with the RCAF, who continued to operate the type until 1966. Harvards saw military service across the globe in New Zealand, India and Rhodesia.
DESIGN While the Harvard I was virtually the same as a BC-1, the Harvard II and all subsequent marks were fitted with a triangular shaped fin and rudder and blunt wing tips. The Mk II also introduced several structural changes including the replacement of the Mk Is, fabric-covered rear fuselage with one skinned in light alloy. The exception was the Harvard IIa which had a plywood covered rear fuselage. The Harvard II was basically an AT-6; the Mk IIA was the AT-6G and the Mk III the AT-6D. All Mk IIBs were built by Noorduyn in Canada until 1946, when the task was taken over by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company who continued to produce the Harvard IV to AT-6G and later AT-6J standard. The latter was funded by the USAF MDAP.
PRODUCTION 400 NA-16-1E Harvard Is (NA-49) to RAF; 30 NA-16-1E Harvard Is (NA-61) to RCAF; 600 Harvard IIs (NA-66) to RAF and RCAF; 100 Harvard IIs (NA-75) to RCAF; 450 Harvard IIs (NA-76) to RAF; 125 Harvard IIs to RAF and RCAF; 747 Harvard IIas (AT-6C) and 537 Harvard IIIs (AT-6D) delivered under Lend-Lease (all NA-88s). 2,557 Harvard IIbs were licence built by Noorduyn. 757 were supplied to the RCAF and 1,800 were Lend-Lease AT-16s. A further 555 Harvard IVs were built by the Canadian Car & Foundry Company, 285 were T-6Js and 270 were built for the RCAF.
LOADED WEIGHT: 5,250lb MAX SPEED: 205mph at 5,000ft CLIMB: 1,350 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 23,000ft RANGE: 750 miles
NA-61 Harvard I, 1339 pictured out of Camp Borden, Ontario in late 1939 during its service with the Flying Training School
The first of 4,765 Harvards built for British orders was Mk I, N7000 which was delivered in December 1938 to the A&AEE at Martlesham Heath. The aircraft was lost in February 1939 during handling trials over Eyke in Suffolk
30 Harvard Is (NA-61), destined for RCAF service, await delivery at Inglewood in 1939 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 21
P64 NA50/50A & 68
All six NA-68s destined for Thailand were seized by the US Government and given to the USAAC instead. Redesignated as the P-64 and having no military value to the USAAC, the little fighter was used only as a fighter trainer
TECHNICAL DATA NA68 NA50A P64 ENGINE: One 840hp (NA-50) 870hp (NA-68)
A low-cost fighter for the third world
The NA-50 marked the beginning of NAA’s entry into fighter design. The aircraft was based on the BC-1 trainer which made it ideally suited for smaller countries with small military budgets. The NA-50A (NA-68) was a revised version, also based on the BC-1, specifically designed for use in Thailand but would later be redesignated as the P-64 during service with the USAAC.
WING SPAN: 37ft 4in LENGTH: 27ft 6in HEIGHT: 9ft EMPTY WEIGHT: 4,650lb LOADED WEIGHT: 6,850lb MAX SPEED: 280mph CLIMB: 2,382 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 30,000ft RANGE: 660 to 690 miles
» AUG 1, 1938
First flight of NA-50
» SEP 1, 1940
First flight of NA-68
» JUL 1941
Peruvian NA-50s in action
DESIGN Variations between the original BC-1 and the NA-50 included a shorter wing span with a reduced sweepback and squared off tips and a stronger fuselage to take the power of the 840hp Wright radial fitted with a three blade prop. The cockpit was redesigned as a singleseater and the canopy was streamlined into the rear fuselage. Armament comprised a pair of 0.30in cowl-mounted machine guns and two more mounted in the wings, plus a pair of underwing racks for up to 400lb of bombs. The NA-68 differed from the NA-50 in several areas. The engine cowling was more streamlined to accommodate the 870hp R-1820-77 engine and the 0.30in machine guns. The lower part of the engine cowling was streamlined over the retractable wheel wells which also had larger doors, fully enclosing the undercarriage. A pair of 20mm cannon were fitted into
the wings and the longer fuselage had a standard AT-6 fin and rudder fitted.
SERVICE The NA-50 was first flown by Paul Balfour on August 1, 1938 and was accepted by the Peruvian Air Force, the only customer, in April 1939. Only seven NA-50s were ordered, the first three were ferried by Peruvian pilots to South America while the remaining four were crated and delivered by sea. Known in Peruvian service as the Torito (Little Bull), the handful of NA-50s saw action in the EcuadorianPeruvian war in 1941 and remained in service until 1950. The NA-68 first flew on September 1, 1940 in the hands of Louis Wait and all of the six ordered were destined for service in Thailand. Following rapid political change in south-east Asia, the US Government revoked the export licence for the batch of NA-68s the six aircraft were seized and re-assigned to the USAAC. Redesignated as the P-64, all of them were used at Luke Field, Arizona as fighter trainers.
PRODUCTION Seven NA-50s were built for Peru with the factory serials 50-948 to 50-954 and six NA-68s with the factory serials 68-3058 to 68-3068. The NA-68s were redesignated as P-64s and re-serialled 41-19082 to 41-19087.
NA35 & NA70 VEGA MODEL 35
1939 With Vance Breese at the controls and Ed Schmued in the rear cockpit, the pretty NA-35 is presented to the camera over the suburbs of Los Angeles in early 1940
TECHNICAL DATA VEGA MODEL 35
A false start for a pretty primary DEVELOPMENT It was back in mid-1937 when NAA began the preliminary design work for a new two-seat tandem primary trainer for the USAAC. Powered by a Menasco Pirate inline engine, this would be the company’s first use of such a type of engine since its General Aircraft days building the Fokker YO-27.
DESIGN Because the Menasco engine was so narrow, an equally narrow, streamlined fuselage could be employed, giving just enough room for the crew of two in their tandem open cockpits. The fuselage and engine mounting were both of monocoque construction, which reduced weight but still gave excellent rigidity. The Shell-type wing was built in one piece, was fully cantilevered and both upper and lower surfaces were skinned with a single sheet of metal. The little trainer’s sturdy fixed undercarriage was fitted to the lower leading edge.
SERVICE The prototype, serialled NX14299, was finished in late
1939. Designated as the NA-35, the aircraft was first flown by Vance Breese on December 9. Following encouraging flight testing at Inglewood, the USAAC requested that the NA-35 should be modified to observation aircraft requirements and, in its new configuration, be demonstrated at Wright Field. No order came from the USAAC but the NA-35 did attract a great deal of attention from overseas, especially from China and Brazil. A production version of the NA-35, redesignated the NA-70, was put into motion but, following big orders for the BC-1 and Harvard, NAA decided to shelve the primary trainer in favour of the NA-16 family of aircraft. By 1941, the design and manufacturing rights of the NA-35 were sold lock, stock and barrel to the Vega Aircraft Company. However, not before a second NA-35 was built by NAA, serialled NX21760. Vega went on to list two different variants of the trainer, now known as the Vega Model 35-67 and 35-70. The 35-67 was powered by 125hp Menasco D4 Pirate and the 35-70 was to be powered by a 160hp D4B pirate. Only four examples (NC28351 and NC28354) were built by Vega. Like NAA before it, Vega had to give priority to large scale military production.
ENGINE: One 125hp Menasco C4 Pirate four-cylinder inline WING SPAN: 29ft 9in LENGTH: 25ft 6in HEIGHT: 10ft EMPTY WEIGHT: 1,218lb LOADED WEIGHT: 1,760lb MAX SPEED: 140mph RANGE: 965 miles
Design work begins on primary trainer
» DEC 9, 1939 First flight of the NA-35
NA-35 sold to Vega
COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 23
AT6/A/B/C/D/F, T6G & SNJ3/6 TEXAN T-6G Texan, 49-3143, one of many which were re-manufactured from AT-6s during the post-war period at the Columbus factory
DEVELOPMENT By mid-1940, NAA was rapidly outgrowing itself and, with 2,000 plus aircraft already under its belt and B-25 and P-51 production beckoning, it was time to look for another plant. By late 1940, work began on a new factory at Hensley Field near Dallas, Texas, where NAA would continue to meet the demands for advanced trainers. All aircraft built at the new factory were now, appropriately, named Texans. By October 1940, trainer production was phased out at Inglewood, the last batch produced being 517 AT-6As and 120 SNJ-3s; both built under company designation NA-77. Work began at Dallas from March 8, 1941, on a contract of 1,330 AT-6As and 150 SNJ-3s.
DESIGN From now on, all AT-6, SNJ and export aircraft would be built on the same production line and without exception, the diﬀerences between each were minimal. An interservice agreement between the Army and the Navy resulted in the standardisation of almost every component; from nuts, bolts and washers through to the powerplant, which was reduced from six diﬀerent versions to a single, Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 engine. Diﬀerent variants still followed, although the AT-6A and SNJ-3 were both used as gunnery trainers, complete with a rear-facing gunner’s seat, a single ﬂexibly-mounted 0.30in machine gun and room for a single forward-facing 0.30in. The AT-6B, also a gunnery trainer, had the addition of a pair of 100lb practice bomb racks under each wing and an extra machine gun in the starboard wing. Both the AT-6C and D had their structure revised to cut down on the use of alloys, while the AT-6F had its airframe strengthened.
The USN, SNJ-4 and -5 were the same as the AT-6C and D, while the SNJ-6 was the equivalent of the AT-6F. One variant was capable of landing on aircraft carriers, thanks to an arrestor hook and was designated the SNJ-5C. Post-war, over 2,000 T-6s were rebuilt under the designation T-6G. Powered by an R-1340-AN-1 engine, the T-6G had an increased fuel capacity, better cockpit layout and a steerable tailwheel.
SERVICE The Texan family of aircraft served extensively with the USAAF (later USAF) and USN and the majority of the world’s air forces from the 1940s through to the 1990s. Having served in the USA as an advanced trainer, the type enjoyed a second wind when it was reintroduced as the T-6G to bridge the void before NAA’s own T-28 took over. The conversion to T-6G took place from 1949 to 1952. Many served with the USAF during the Korean War, 97 being converted to LT-6G ‘Mosquito’ standard for battleﬁeld surveillance and forward air control duties. Others were distributed to the ANG. The T-6G also saw action with the French Air Force in Algeria, the Spanish Air Force during 1957/58 in the Ifni War and the Portuguese Air Force from 1961 to 1975 in its colonial wars. Pakistan used its T-6Gs in action and the SAAF operated the T-6G in a policing role until 1995.
PRODUCTION 13,685 AT-6A to F for the USAAC/USAAF and SNJ3-3 to -6 for the USN, between 1940 and 1945. This total does not include the 1,802 T-6Gs and six SNJ-7s, which were remanufactured between 1949 and 1952.
TECHNICAL DATA AT6 & T6G ENGINE: One 600hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 AN-1 WING SPAN: 42ft 0.25in
DEVELOPMENT Often misconceived as a B-25 prototype, the NA-40 was certainly its most direct predecessor. The general arrangement of under-slung Wright R-2600, twin tails and a tricycle undercarriage did pave the way for the highly successful B-25 family.
DESIGN The NA-40 was a very clean design which was formulated in response to an attack bomber competition initiated in 1938. The NA-40 had a very narrow fuselage to keep drag at a minimum and housed the two pilots in a tandem arrangement enclosed under a ‘greenhouse’ type canopy. The pilot’s forward cockpit was more like a ﬁghter’s than a bomber, while the bombardier was accommodated in a fully glazed nose. The radio operator/gunner and rear gunner were accommodated in the rear fuselage and defensive armament was made up of three 0.30in machine guns which were later increased to ﬁve by ﬁtting another 0.30in in the leading edge of each wing.
SERVICE The NA-40 was originally powered by a pair of 1,100hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp engines. At ﬁrst, these drove a pair of Curtiss electric propellers although before the aircraft’s maiden ﬂight these were to be replaced by a pair of Hamilton Standard 26
Hydromatic propellers. On January 29, 1939, the NA-40, registered with the civilian serial, X14221, was ﬁrst ﬂown by Paul Balfour and Frank Lyons. In its original conﬁguration, the NA-40 proved to be a diﬃcult aircraft to handle, aggravated by engine problems and tail buﬀet. The aircraft would only spend ﬁve hours in the air before being returned to the factory for modiﬁcations. The situation greatly improved when the aircraft re-emerged with a pair of 1,600hp Pratt & Whitney R-2600 engines and was redesignated as the NA-40B. The NA-40B was ﬁrst ﬂown on March 1, 1939 and was delivered to Wright Field for USAAC evaluation the same month. With its new engines and a few minor aerodynamic adjustments, the NA-40B was a much more pleasant aircraft to ﬂy and the aircraft’s maximum speed beneﬁtted by more than 20mph. By early April, the NA-40B’s ﬂight programme was almost complete when, on April 11, 1939, the bomber was crash landed whilst being ﬂown on a single engine. Instructions had been issued not to ﬂy the NA-40B until the Hamilton Standard propellers had been ﬁtted but the Army test pilot at the controls failed to adhere to this. The crew managed to escape the aircraft just before it burst into ﬂames and was completely destroyed. With no contract forthcoming and the competition abandoned followed the loss of the Douglas DB-7 as well, the NAA engineers went back to the drawing board.
TECHNICAL DATA NA401 & NA40B ENGINE: (-1) Two 1,100hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830S6C3-6 Double Wasp 14-cylinder radial air-cooled; (B) Two 1,500hp Wright R-2600-A71-3 Cyclone 14-cylinder radial aircooled
DEVELOPMENT The latest requirement for a new medium bomber for the USAAC was issued in March 1939, only weeks before the crash of the NA-40B. The USAAC needed an aircraft that had a range of 2,000 miles, a maximum speed of 400mph and the ability to carry a bomb load of 3,000lbs. Also in the race for this lucrative contract was Martin’s Type 179 (aka the B-26), which would be a far more aesthetically pleasing design but considerably more complex. The USAAC wanted the B-26 but still had their reservations so, as well as placing an order for the maximum number of aircraft Martin could deliver at the time (201), an order for 184 NA-62s (aka the B-25) was also placed. As with the B-26, the USAAC was suﬃciently impressed to order the B-25 straight from the drawing board. The order was placed in September 1939, many months before the ﬁrst ﬂight of the prototype.
DESIGN The B-25 clearly had its roots in the general layout of the NA-40, the bomber having the same style of tricycle landing gear, twin tail ﬁns and a pair of Wright Twin Cyclone engines. Defensive armament was a little on the light side, made up of three 0.30in machine guns ﬁtted into the nose, waist and lower fuselage plus a 0.50in in the tail. The rear gunner’s position was not the best as he had to lie prone to ﬁre the weapon and use a telescopic sight to aim it. The fuselage, although retaining the general shape of the NA-40 from the side, was actually twice as wide and not so deep, allowing for a more traditional side-by-side seating arrangement in the cockpit for the pilot and co-pilot.
The wing was mid-mounted rather than shoulder and had no dihedral, which would lead to number of directional stability issues during the early ﬂight trials. These problems would later be eradicated from the tenth production onwards by the introduction of a shallow ‘gull-wing’ design which would be one of the classic features of the B-25. The prototype’s tail ﬁns were generally a rounded oﬀ rectangular shape, but eventually, after experimenting with ﬁve diﬀerent designs, a tail ﬁn with an angled leading edge proved to be the most eﬃcient.
SERVICE The prototype, B-25, 40-2165, was completed by the summer of 1940 and, on August 19, Vance Breese, in company with engineer Roy Ferren ﬂew the B-25 for the ﬁrst time. Once a few items were modiﬁed, including the ﬁtment of the new wing, the B-25 exuded excellent handling characteristics and a performance range which achieved all that the USAAC had set out in early 1939. By this stage the aircraft had been christened the ‘Mitchell’, after General William ‘Billy’ Mitchell who had campaigned for greater use of air power during the 1920s. The ﬁrst 24 B-25s built (40-2165 to 40-2188) were delivered to the USAAC in February 1941, the majority serving as coastal patrol aircraft leading up to USA’s entry in the Second World War. The prototype, 40-2165, was converted into a company transport with ﬁve passenger seats and considerably more home comforts installed compared to an operational machine. Named Whiskey Express, the B-25 served NAA until August 1, 1945 when it was written oﬀ following a wheels-up landing.
TECHNICAL DATA B25 ENGINE: Two 1,700hp Wright R-2600-9 Double Cyclone 14-cylinder air-cooled WING SPAN: 67ft 6.7in
EMPTY WEIGHT: 17,258lb MAX WEIGHT: 28,557lb MAX SPEED: 322mph at 15,000ft
LENGTH: 54ft 0.8in HEIGHT: 15ft 9.2in
RANGE: 2,000 miles with 3,000lb of bombs Only 24 B-25 Mitchells were built, the majority of them serving as coastal patrol aircraft around the United States
Named Whiskey Express, the prototype B-25, 40-2165, served throughout the war years as a company transport until it was wrecked in August 1945
Thanks to the skill of test pilot Vance Breese, the prototype was saved from destruction after a fuel line fractured during take-oﬀ COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 29
NA73X The NA-73X looked the part as soon as it took to the air. Modiﬁcations would follow but the beautiful lines of the Mustang would remain virtually the same for its entire development
DEVELOPMENT It was clear that the RAF, which was now alone in defending the shores of Great Britain, needed a more dedicated ﬁghter to complement the Hurricane and Spitﬁre already in mass production. In 1939, the BDPC (British Direct Purchasing Commission) representative in America was Sir Henry Self and his ‘high priority’ task was to source the production of a new ﬁghter. He had already made a good contact in ‘Dutch’ Kindelberger with regard to Harvard production, which was extended on the outbreak of war. In an eﬀort to divert more P-40s to Britain, in January 1940 a delegation led by Self proposed that NAA could build the P-40 under licence for the RAF. Rather than reject the notion, NAA responded with a remarkable proposal. After discussing various ideas, Kindelberger approached Ed Schmued and said, “Ed, do we want to build P-40s here?” Schmued, who had been waiting for this opportunity responded by saying, “Well, ‘Dutch’, don’t let us build an obsolete airplane, let’s build a new one. We can design and build a better one.”
DESIGN The new aircraft would be built around the Allison water-cooled engine, which was already used in the P-40, but with greater range and performance. The blueprints and design speciﬁcations of the new NA-73X were enthusiastically approved by the BDPC and, less than four months later, in April 1940, a preliminary design was also presented. Regarding when the British actually approved the design of the NA-73X, a period of 120 days is often quoted. This legendary timescale is and has been open to much interpretation. Whether it ranges from approval of the drawings to prototype roll-out or from the date of the initial order to ﬁrst ﬂight,
or a combination of the two is unknown. The preliminary design was approved on May 4, 1940 and the ﬁrst order for 320 aircraft was placed on May 29, 1940 with a price of $50,000 (approx £14,500) per aircraft. And so began the 78,000 engineering hours over 127 days that it would take for the ﬁrst prototype NA-73X, registered NX19998, to be rolled out at Mines Field, Los Angeles on September 9, 1940. This was 102 days after the Air Ministry contract was signed, albeit minus an engine, which would not arrive until October 7. The delay happened because the NA-73X was oﬃcially classed as a private venture and, as such, would receive ‘government furnish equipment’ as and when it became available.
SERVICE An Allison V-1710-F3R developing 1,150hp was installed and, wasting no time, the aircraft was ﬁrst ﬂown on October 26, 1940 by Vance Breese. By this time, the RAF had raised an initial order of 320 aircraft to 620 machines even before a production version was in sight. The ﬂight test programme was progressing nicely when Vance Breese, who was a civilian freelance test pilot, handed the NA-73X over to NAA test pilot Paul Balfour. While on his ﬁrst familiarisation ﬂight, Balfour crashed on approach to Mines Field on November 20. When the NA-73X returned to the air on January 11, 1941, the ﬂight testing had been handed over to Bob Chilton who would continue to test all variants of the Mustang during the war. The NA-73X continued to operate as part of the NAA’s development program until July 15, 1941, when it was grounded indeﬁnitely. This ground-breaking prototype spent the remainder of its days at Inglewood before being unceremoniously scrapped.
TECHNICAL DATA NA73X ENGINE: One 1,150hp Allison V-1710-F3R WING SPAN: 37ft 1¼in
EMPTY WEIGHT: 6,278lb TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 7,965lb
LENGTH: 32ft 2½in HEIGHT: 12ft 2in
MAX SPEED: 382mph Freelance test pilot Vance Breese warms the Allison V-1710 engine of the NA-73X through before another test flight in the autumn of 1940
The whole surface of the aircraft was very smooth and the fuselage was considerably slimmer than other fighter designs of the day. Only the carburettor intake on top of the forward fuselage disrupted the NA-73X’s lines
In bare metal, the NA-73X was a stunning looking aircraft, every inch a thoroughbred compared to all other American fighters of the day COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 31
MUSTANG I & IA 26 Squadron was the first RAF unit to receive the Mustang in January 1942 at Weston Zoyland, commencing operations from Gatwick. Mustang Mk I AM148 was one of the first to arrive with the unit before being transferred to 430 Squadron and then a less dangerous role with Rolls Royce
DEVELOPMENT Within days of the swift roll out of the North American NA-73X, the RAF placed a second order for 300 aircraft, months before a single machine had crossed the Atlantic. Kindelberger wasted no time preparing the production lines for the order which would give NAA almost three years of steady work. The new fighter produced very few problems during its test programme and production lines were planned for the first Mustang Mk I, starting with the RAF serial AG345, to begin before the end of 1940. AG345 was the first aircraft completed on April 16, 1941. It first flew on April 23, but was destined never to leave the hands of NAA, who retained the aircraft until 1946. AG345 represented an incredible achievement as it was exactly one year previously that Sir Henry Self had given ‘Dutch’ Kindelberger the order to go ahead with the preliminary design.
SERVICE It was the second production aircraft, AG346, which was to become the first of its kind to arrive in Britain on October 24, 1941, albeit many months behind schedule. This would prove to be a particularly hazardous journey for all of the RAF’s Mustangs, 25 of them were lost at sea because of U-boats, the majority during 1942. AG346 was delivered by road from Liverpool docks to Speke (now John Lennon Airport) from where it made its first flight in early November. AG346 was later flown down to Boscombe Down where it was quickly standardized with a TR.1133 radio, Mk II reflector gunsight, and British specification oxygen connectors.
On January 5, 1942, 26 Squadron at Gatwick became the first unit to replace its Tomahawks in favour of the Mustang. To cater for the new reconnaissance role, the Mustang was fitted with a port facing oblique F.24 camera just aft of the cockpit. Many months later, a second, vertically-positioned camera for higher level survey photography, was fitted to many of the Army Co-Operation Command’s Mustangs. This, combined with the firepower of four 0.303in and four 0.5in machine guns, made this a reconnaissance aircraft that could fight back. Two of the 0.5in machine guns were mounted below the engine and fired through the propeller while the remainder were mounted in the wings. The Mustang Ia had a much simpler design with four 20mm Hispano Mk II cannons mounted in the wings. By late February, 26 Squadron had become operational and, as the amount of airframes arriving in the country quickly increased, other squadrons followed. By May 1942, 2, 4, 16, 255, 239, 241, 268 and 613 Squadrons had all re-equipped with the Mustang. That same month, 26 Squadron flew its first operational sortie over France on May 5. Both the Mustang I and Ia remained in the frontline for the RAF into 1944, only superseded by the Mustang III which it served alongside for many months.
PRODUCTION 320 Mustang I (NA-73) serialled AG345 to AG664 followed by 300 Mustang Ia (NA-83) serialled AL958 to AL999, AM100 to AM257 and AP164 to AP264. Final batch was 150 Mustang Ias (NA-91) serialled FD418 to FD567.
TECHNICAL DATA MUSTANG I & P51 ENGINE: One 1,150hp Allison V-1710-39 (F3R) twelve-cylinder WING SPAN: 37ft 1¼in LENGTH: 32ft 2½in
P-51s (Mustang Is) fresh off the Inglewood production line are prepared for flight testing. Only FD553 can be identified in the background, wearing a combined USAAF and RAF style fin flash. The fighter went on to serve with 63 and 268 squadrons
Mustang Mk Is of 2 Squadron warm through their Allison engines prior to departing on a tactical reconnaissance sortie over Northern France. AG623, the second aircraft along, was lost on May 26, 1943, when it flew into a hill in fog at Kimmeridge, Dorset
The lack of guns under the nose and the beefy-looking 20mm cannon in the wings give this away as Mustang Mk IA, FD449. The fighter served with AST (Air Service Training) and 268 Squadron before being SOC on June 10, 1944 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 33
XP51 NA73 & P51 NA91
Two Mustangs, the fourth and tenth built, were taken from the NA-73 production line, redesignated as XP-51s and delivered to the USAAC as 41-038 and 41-039 for evaluation
TECHNICAL DATA XP51 & P51 ENGINE: One 1,150hp Allison V-1710-39 (F3R) WING SPAN: 37ft 1¼in LENGTH: 32ft 2½in HEIGHT: 8ft 8in EMPTY WEIGHT: 6,300lb LOADED WEIGHT: 8,600lb MAX SPEED: 390mph at 8,000ft SERVICE CEILING: 32,000ft RANGE: 1,050 miles
» MAY 20, 1941 First XP-51, 41-038 flown by Bob Chilton
» JUL 7, 1941
USAAF orders 150 NA-91s
» MAY 29, 1942
First production P-51 (NA-91) flown by Louis Wait
USAAF tentatively order a future classic DEVELOPMENT During the early stages of Mustang production, the fourth and tenth aircraft were allocated to the USAAC and designated as XP-51s on July 24, 1941. These two aircraft, 41-038 and 41-039, were selected for evaluation as part of the Army’s fighter programme which was already inundated with new types put forward by Bell, Curtiss, Lockheed and Republic. The test pilots at Wright Field were overworked testing products from companies already established in building fighter types. NAA was still an unknown quantity and would have to take its turn. 41-038 arrived at Wright Field on August 24 and remained until December 22 which was an agonising amount of time for a new aircraft. The main reason for the delay, apart from the test pilots’ work load, was that the P-51 was not designed for the USAAC and, as such, was not viewed as being a particularly important aircraft. The amount of time the aircraft took to evaluate was also causing concern in Britain to such an extent that a representative travelled to Wright Field to investigate the situation. It was found that each aircraft’s project officer became so strongly involved in the evaluation that they became a sales representative of the manufacturer rather than working to find the best fighter for the USAAC. 41-038 was later transferred to Eglin Field for additional flight testing and then on to Langley Field, the home of NACA, where trials mainly focussed on the fighter’s laminar flow wing. However, the Army did order 148 P-51s (NA-91)
‘Apaches’ on July 7 1941 as part of a USAAF order well before testing began. This was on behalf of the RAF in a Lend-Lease deal which was viewed as a top up order for the RAF.
SERVICE The first of the two XP-51s, 41-038, was flown by Bob Chilton on May 20, 1941 while the majority of subsequent flights were flown by Ed Virgin and several other NAA test pilots. After the aircraft’s initial evaluation period, the XP-51 saw out the Second World War with NACA until it was retired in 1945. Today the aircraft is one of the few Allison-engined Mustang survivors. The fighter was rescued from the scrap man by the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in 1949. Restored to flight and registered as N51EA, the XP-51, returned to the skies in 1976, only to be retired again in 1982. This rare machine is now on static display with the Experimental Aircraft Association at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 41-039 did not enjoy the same career and was scrapped. Of the NA-91 order, not all of them crossed the Atlantic to Britain because, following Pearl Harbor, 55 were retained by the USAAF for conversion to F-6A standard. Many of the latter served to the end of the Second World War.
PRODUCTION Two XP-51-NA (NA-73) built and serialled 41-038 and 41-039. 148 P-51-NA constructed (see Mustang I/Ia) with combined RAF/USAAF serials; the latter were 41-37320 to 41-37469.
F6A & F6B
1941 In December 1943, the 107th OS was the first USAAF reconnaissance unit to become operational in Northern Europe and as this scene portrays, proved to be particularly useful during the build up to D-Day
Armed eyes in the sky DEVELOPMENT The A-36 would not be the first Mustang to enter service as 55 Lend-Lease Mustang Mk IAs destined for the RAF had been held back. All were retrofitted with a pair of K.24 (US version of British F.24) cameras in the rear fuselage for tactical low-level reconnaissance and redesignated as the F-6A (aka P-51-1). All were sent to the home of the Aerial Reconnaissance School at Peterson Field, Colorado and then on to the 12th Air Force in Tunisia. It was from here that F-6A 41-137328 flew the USAAF’s first Mustang mission of the war; a reconnaissance of Kairouan airfield, while serving with the 154th OS. The F-6A was an extremely competent aircraft, certainly proving its worth in the reconnaissance role for the remainder of the war. Its one drawback was recognition and it would often be confused with the Bf109. Unfortunately, the first combat loss from the 154th OS was caused by friendly anti-aircraft fire with fatal consequences on April 23, 1943, when ‘friendly’ gunners mistook the angular shape of the Mustang for a Bf109, despite having been alerted to the fact that new fighter that was in theatre. The F-6B was little more than a P-51A fitted with the K.24 cameras in the same positions as the F-6A and only 35 were ever built.
SERVICE The main user of the F-6 in the European theatre was the 10th Photographic (later Reconnaissance) Group, 9th Air Force. One of its early squadrons, the 31st PRS (Photo Reconnaissance Squadron), was equipped with the F-6 which carried out many highly successful
TECHNICAL DATA F6A & F6B low-level reconnaissance flights over Northern France before the invasion on June 6. One of these, which was flown in May, earned the group a Distinguished Unit Commendation (DUC). The group’s F-6 contingent was expanded from June 13, 1944 when it gained the 12th and 15th PRS from the 69th TRG (Tactical Reconnaissance Group) which was based at Middle Wallop. Both groups remained attached to the 67th TRG but, along with the other squadrons, served the 10th PG through to VE-Day. As already mentioned, the second group of the 9th Air Force which operated the F-6 was the 67th TRG. Originally an 8th Air Force unit, the 67th TRG was transferred in October 1943 and was made up of the 12th, 15th, 107th and 109th TRS, all of which operated the F-6 as well as the Spitfire and F-5/P-38. Operations across occupied Europe began immediately with their aircraft flying regular reconnaissance, weatherreconnaissance and raid assessment operations. The final group to join the action was the 69th TRG which did not begin training on the F-6 and A-20 in the US until January 1945. It was moved to Nancy in northern France on March 22, 1945 and of its four squadrons, the 10th, 22nd and 111th TRS, all flew the F-6. The group flew visual operations for the remainder of the war before it returned back to the US from June 1945. The 67th TRG began the lengthy process of returning to the US from July while the now redesignated 10th RG had already begun to return the previous month. It was not until November 1945 that the last 9th Air Force F-6 squadron was inactivated and this was probably the final swan song for the F-6 family.
ENGINE: (F-6A) One 1,150hp Allison V-1710-39 (F3R); (F-6B) One 1,200hp Allison V-1710-81 (F20R) WING SPAN: 37ft 1¼in LENGTH: 32ft 2½in HEIGHT: 8ft 8in EMPTY WEIGHT: (F-6A) 6,300lb; (F-6B) 6,433lb LOADED WEIGHT: 8,600lb MAX SPEED: (F-6A) 390mph at 8,000ft; (F-6B) 360mph at 15,000ft SERVICE CEILING: (F-6A) 32,000ft; (F-6B) 31,350ft RANGE: 1,050 miles
» APR 10, 1943
F-6A performs first USAAF Mustang mission
» APR 23, 1943 First combat loss of an F-6
» NOV 1945 F-6 is retired
COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 35
B25A & B25B MITCHELL INC. MITCHELL I Only 40 B-25As were built, the ﬁrst of them serving with the 34th, 37th and 95th Bomb Squadrons and the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 17th BG based at McChord Field
DESIGN The ﬁrst major variant of the Mitchell was the B-25A, of which the USAAC ordered 40 examples. Overall, the ‘A’ was not dissimilar from the standard B-25, but featured additional armour for crew protection and self-sealing fuel tanks of slightly less capacity. While making the aircraft more operationally friendly, this came at the cost of reduced speed and a shorter range. The B-25B was introduced to address the weak defensive armament of the earlier variants. This came in the shape of a pair of Bendix power-operated turrets. One was placed on top of the rear fuselage and contained a pair of 0.5in Browning machine-guns, while the other was almost directly below. The latter was retractable, contained a pair of 0.5in machine-guns and was remotely sighted by a periscope. The additional turrets made the rear gun redundant and this was removed but the single 0.30in machine gun in the nose was retained. These turrets, with even more armour to protect the crew, once again added to the aircraft’s weight and therefore reduced performance because the original R-2600 engines were retained.
the B-25Bs ordered had been delivered to the USAAF by early 1942. 23 of the B-25Bs were later redesignated as Mitchell Is for the RAF. The majority of these served with 111 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit based at Nassau/ Oakes Field in the Bahamas. Several B-25Bs also found their way into Soviet hands. The B-25B’s baptism of ﬁre came on April 18, 1942 when it took part in one of the most famous bombing raids of the Second World War. The operation, which was oﬃcially known as the Tokyo Raid, was more popularly referred to as the ‘Doolittle Raid’ after its leader, Lt Col ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle. This remarkable operation involved 16 B-25Bs transported within striking distant of Japan aboard the USS Hornet. None of the aircraft returned because of the distance involved and the attack was not heavy but the fact that the US had shown the Japanese that it could strike back after a series of defeats was invaluable. Both the B-25A and B-25B served in a variety of theatres throughout the Second World War. Neither aircraft was operational perfectly but the deﬁnitive and most successful version was yet to come.
The ﬁrst of 40 B-25As made its maiden ﬂight on February 25, 1941 and, like the B-25s before them, were generally assigned to coastal defence operations. All of
40 B-25As serialled 40-2189 to 40-2228 and 120 B-25Bs serialled 40-2229 to 40-2348. Of these, 23 became Mitchell Is serialled FK161 to FK183).
TECHNICAL DATA B25A & B ENGINE: Two 1,700hp Wright R-2600-9 Double Cyclone 14-cylinder air-cooled
EMPTY WEIGHT: (A) 17,870lb; (B) 20,000lb
WING SPAN: 67ft 6.7in
MAX SPEED: (A) 315mph; (B) 300mph
LENGTH: (A) 54ft 0.8in; (B) 52ft 10.8in
CLIMB RATE: 1,000 ft/min
HEIGHT: 15ft 9.2in
LOADED WEIGHT: (A) 27,100lb; (B) 28,460lb
RANGE: (A) 1,350 miles; (B) 1,300 miles B-25A, 40-2212 of the 34th BS, 17th BG based at McChord Field
The Doolittle raiders pictured lashed down on the USS Hornet not long before the famous raid on Tokyo was launched in April 1942
23 B-25Bs, redesignated as Mitchell Is were delivered to the RAF in mid-1941, the majority of them serving in the sun with 111 OTU in the Bahamas. This aircraft is being evaluated by the A&AEE at the less exotic Boscombe Down in June 1942 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 37
B25C & B25D MITCHELL A trio of North American B-25D-20 Mitchells of the USAAF Central Instructors School
DEVELOPMENT With the exception of the activities of Doolittle’s B-25Bs, the next variants, the B-25C and D, were the ﬁrst mass-produced examples to fully enter combat. The B-25C and D were identical and were only given a diﬀerent suﬃx to distinguish the Inglewood-built (B-25C-NA) from the Fairfax Field, Kansas City-built (B-25D-NC) machines.
DESIGN Externally, the B-25C/D was little changed from the B-25B, although the keen eyed would be able to spot the new variant from the bumper under the rear fuselage. Under the skin though, the original design had a great number of subtle changes, the most signiﬁcant being a pair of 1,700hp R-2600-13 engines to help cancel out the increasing weight of the bomber. The ﬁrst batch built had a new de-icing system ﬁtted; the outer panels of the wings were made stronger and the bomber’s range was raised through the addition of a 152-gallon self-sealing fuel tank in each wing. Later production aircraft were revised further with a modiﬁed exhaust system, a cabin heater, provision for a fuel tank in the bomb bay and underwing bomb and torpedo racks. The only other diﬀerence form the earlier models was that the B-25C/D was ten inches shorter and from the 383rd production machine onwards, a navigators’ astrodome was added. Early production models had the same armament as the B-25B, the only change coming later on when the single machine-gun in the nose was upgraded to a pair of 0.5in.
March 1942, the ﬁrst batch of 48 B-25Cs were being ferried to Brisbane via Hamilton Field, Hawaii and the Fiji Islands. In the Southern Paciﬁc theatre, the B-25s were put to good use as part of the 5th Air Force, under the command of Maj Gen George C Kenney. In company with A-20s, the B-25s adopted a successful low-level attack tactic using 23lb parachute retarded bombs which proved particularly eﬀective against airﬁelds. A similar type of attack was used against shipping although ‘skip bombing’, which involved a B-25 coming in very, very low over the water, also proved extremely successful. In March 1943, B-25s caused havoc amongst the attacking Japanese during their attempted invasion of Rabaul, New Britain. The B-25C/D also saw extensive action in the China-Burma-India theatre as well as with the 12th Air Force in North Africa, which used the type throughout the Mediterranean and onwards through Italy. The RAF operated almost 600 B-25C/Ds which were designated as the Mitchell II. The type ﬁrst went into action on January 22, 1943, proving particularly useful during the build-up to D-Day. Several sub-variants of the B-25C/D family were produced, such as the WB-25D which served with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and the XB-25E which was modiﬁed to carry out ﬂight test of de-icing equipment. Another B-25C was converted into a ZXB-25E speciﬁcally to test insulated electrical de-icing coils and one was also converted to a XB-25G. The latter had its transparent nose converted to carry two .50in and a 75mm M4 cannon.
The ﬁrst B-25C made its maiden ﬂight in November 1941 and was followed by the ﬁrst B-25D in January 1942. By
1,620 B-25Cs were built at Inglewood and 2,290 B-25Ds were rolled out at Kansas City.
TECHNICAL DATA B25C & D ENGINE: (C) Two 1,700hp Wright R-2600-13 Double Cyclone 14-cyliner air-cooled; (D) Two 2,000hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 turbosupercharged radials
EMPTY WEIGHT: 20,300lb
WING SPAN: 67ft 7.7in
SERVICE CEILING: 24,000ft
MAX LOADED WEIGHT: 34,000lb MAX SPEED: 284mph at 15,000ft
LENGTH: 53ft HEIGHT: 15ft 9in
RANGE: 1,500 miles with 3,000lb of bombs
B-25D Mitchell ‘Pacific Prowler’, another seasoned aircraft which had flown 25 missions by the time of this photograph
The functional cockpit layout of a B-25C taken on July 22, 1942
Battle-hardened B-25D-NC, 41-29696 ‘Dirty Gerty from Bizerty’ of the 3rd Attack Group which operated from Northern Australia in 1942 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 39
XB28/A DRAGON XB-28, 40-3056 (NA-63, c/n 63-2233) has its powerful R-2800-11 engines warmed through during trials at Wright Field
DEVELOPMENT On November 15, 1939, the USAAC gave NAA a contract to build a single prototype twin-engine high-altitude medium bomber. This contract for the latest aircraft, designated as the XB-28 (NA-63), came only two months after work began on the B-25. The XB-28 would be a revolutionary aircraft which went way beyond the remit delivered in 1939 for a medium bomber aircraft.
DESIGN The XB-28 had a cylindrical fuselage ﬁtted with a pressurised forward section, which contained all ﬁve crew. It could maintain a pressure equivalent of 8,000ft up to an altitude of 30,000ft. The aircraft’s twin Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines with General Electric superchargers could push the bomber up to 35,000ft. The bomb bay was designed to carry up to 4,000lb, made up of 20 100lb, eight 300lb, two 1,000lb or two 2,000lb bombs or alternatively a large, long range ferry tank. Defensive armament was far heavier than the B-25, made up of a pair of 0.5in Browning machine-guns in a trio of remotely controlled, power-operated turrets which were patented by NAA. The gunners who controlled these weapons each had a periscope and scanning lenses for spotting and tracking the enemy ﬁghter.
SERVICE On April 24, 1942, the prototype XB-28, 40-3056, was ﬁrst ﬂown from Mines Field in the hands of Ed Virgin and Joe Barton. The XB-28 was found to be an excellent performer and it was not long before the aircraft was being operated with a full crew on board, before being 40
taken over by the USAAF and ﬂown to Wright Field where further ﬂight testing was carried out. Ordered on January 12, 1940, a second much lighter machine, designated as the XB-28A (NA-67), and serialled 40-3058 was rolled out at Mines Field in early 1943. The XB-28A was designed as a reconnaissance aircraft and its main diﬀerences from the original machine were the ﬁtment of General Electric turrets and a photo-mapping installation of four cameras behind the bomb bay. On April 24, 1943, Virgin and Barton ﬂew the XB-28A for the ﬁrst time; exactly one year after the XB-28. Several months of ﬂight testing for the XB-28A followed, culminating on August 4, 1943 when Bob Chilton and engineer Roy Ferren were tasked with carrying out several manoeuvres and calibrations along the California coast. Whilst gaining some speed in a shallow dive, the XB-28A began to suﬀer from a violent tail shake followed by an uncontrollable roll to port. Unable to control the aircraft any further, both crew donned their parachutes and bailed out; Ferren noticing as he left the aircraft that the ﬁn was bent at an angle of 45°. Both Chilton and Ferren were later safely recovered from the Paciﬁc Ocean. By this time, the B-28 had been prepared for full NAA production under the designation NA-89 but the B-25 had more than proved itself and the USAAF were in no mood to stop its production. The Martin B-26 was already carrying a similar bomb load at the same speed, admittedly not at high-altitude and, like the B-25, it was comfortably settled into high production. By late 1943, the USAAF had gone oﬀ the idea of high-altitude bombing, resulting in the cancellation of the B-28.
LOADED WEIGHT: 39,000lb MAX SPEED: 373 mph SERVICE CEILING: 34,600ft RANGE: 2,040 miles with 600lb of bombs The prototype XB-28 at Mines Field in April 1942, only days before its maiden flight in the hands of Ed Virgin and Joe Barton
In this view, the Pratt & Whitney engines are virtually the same diameter as the XB-28’s narrow fuselage. The two upper gunner periscopes can be seen on the top of the fuselage; two more were located in the opposite position on the underside
By mid-1942, the XB-28 was in the hands of the USAAF for flight testing at Wright Field. The aircraft is pictured after being toned down in olive drab and grey paint COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 41
P51A/MUSTANG II NA99 The P-51A gave excellent service in the Far East and was instrumental in helping to regain air superiority in the theatre for the allies. The 1st Air Commando Group (ACG) was a particularly eﬀective unit, led by Phil Cochran (ﬂying the Mustang in the background) seen here in company with Maj Robert L Petit ﬂying P-51A-1-NA ‘Mrs Virginia’
DEVELOPMENT When the last A-36 was delivered in March 1943 there were still some remaining funds in the ﬁghter kitty and this was used to full advantage by the USAAF who had placed an order for more Mustangs in the previous ﬁnancial year.
DESIGN The USAAF ordered 310 NA-99s, designated the P-51A, in early 1942. Eﬀectively, these aircraft were A-36As with the dive brakes and twin nose guns removed. Power was provided by an Allison V-1710-81 (F20R) which was rated at 1,125hp at 18,000ft in an eﬀort to give better performance above 20,000ft. A more powerful supercharger was also ﬁtted to improve the low-level performance which, combined with a new largerdiameter propeller, gave the P-51A a top speed of 409 mph at 11,000ft, this made the A model the fastest of the Allison-powered breed. The P-51A at this medium height was the fastest ﬁghter in the world and was also described as having ‘the best all-round ﬁghting qualities of any present American ﬁghter’. Armament consisted of four 0.5in Brownings with large magazine tanks capable of holding up to 1,260 rounds. The ability to carry a pair of 500lb bombs or a pair of drop tanks was also retained.
SERVICE The prototype P-51A ﬁrst ﬂew on 3 February 1943 and, of the 310 P-51As built, 50 were sent to Britain as 42
Mustang IIs, while the remainder were despatched to India and North Africa where they saw extensive action. The ﬁrst, though, were sent to the 54th FG at Bartow Army Field, Florida, where new Mustang pilots would cut their teeth on the ﬁghter. The Mustang II ﬁrst entered RAF service with 225 Squadron at Souk el Arba in Tunisia in April 1943. Operating alongside the Spitﬁre VB, the Mustang only served until July 1943 when it was replaced by the Spitﬁre VC. The RAF’s Mustang IIs then languished at MUs for many months before a few were taken on by 2 Squadron at Gatwick in June 1944; it was a unit which had been operating the Mustang since April 1942. After crossing the Channel in July 1944, the unit fought its way through various airﬁelds in France and Belgium before being re-equipped with the better performing Spitﬁre XIV. The ﬁnal RAF operational unit to ﬂy the Mustang II was 268 Squadron who received the type at B.70/ Deurne in November 1944. Like 2 Squadron, the unit fought its way east towards Berlin and victory in Europe but did not part with its Mustangs until August 1945.
PRODUCTION 50 NA-99s were delivered to the RAF during June and July 1943 as Mustang IIs and serialled FR890 to FR939. 100 P-51A-1-NA serialled 43-6003 to 43-6102; 55 P-51A-5-NA serialled 43-6103 to 43-6157 and 155 P-51A-10-NA serialled 43-6158 to 436312 delivered to the USAAF.
TECHNICAL DATA P51A/MUSTANG II ENGINE: (P-51A) One 1,200hp Allison V-1710-81 (F20R); (Mustang II) One 1,120hp Allison V-1710-81 WING SPAN: 37ft 1¼in LENGTH: 32ft 2½in HEIGHT: 8ft 8in EMPTY WEIGHT: (P-51A) 6,433lb; (Mustang II) 6,300lb
LOADED WEIGHT: 8,600lb MAX SPEED: (P-51A) 340mph at 5,000ft; (Mustang II) 390mph at 8,000ft SERVICE CEILING: (P-51A) 31,350ft; (Mustang II) 32,000ft RANGE: 1,050 miles
Pilots of 2 Squadron share a joke over a letter in one of the lighter moments of life on an operational squadron. As with all units, there were hours of inactivity mixed with adrenaline-inducing, low-level, high-speed flying over enemy territory
Thanks to the Californian climate, it was not uncommon for production to be carried out in the open air as shown here with these P-51As at Inglewood
A P-51A of the 530th FBS, 311th FBG undergoing minor repairs at Kurmitola, India after combat with Japanese fighters. The P-51s were much valued in China, Burma and India from late 1943 and were used in both air-to-ground and air-to-air roles COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 43
A36A ‘APACHE’ AKA INVADER Chino-based A-36A 42-83731 (N251A) being put through its paces at the Flying Legends air show at Duxford in 2002
During 1941, the USAAF was expanding so quickly that there was not enough money in the kitty for new ﬁghters. There was, however, money for attack aircraft and, after intensive discussions between the Pentagon and NAA, the Mustang was redesigned for this role. The new aircraft was designated the NA-97 and, after an order for 500 aircraft (42-83663-84162) was placed on 21 August 1942, it was oﬃcially referred to as the A-36A, which was basically a dive-bomber version of the Mustang.
Flight tests were carried out at Eglin Army Air Field in Florida and it was quickly discovered that the A-36 could easily achieve a dive speed of 500mph. With the dive breaks extended, this was reduced to 350mph but unfortunately, one of the early test aircraft was lost when both wings came oﬀ in a vertical dive. This incident sowed some seeds of doubt amongst certain Army oﬃcials who acknowledged that while the A-36 had an excellent dive rate for a ﬁghter, it went down too fast for a dive-bomber. It was recommended that the A-36 be restricted to a dive angle of 70º and that it should be used mainly as a low-altitude attack aircraft with the dive brakes removed. The latter recommendation was never implemented. One of the many challenges the ﬂedgling A-36 pilot had to face was the distinct lack of specialist training available at the time in dive bombing techniques. A handful of USN and USMC (United States Marine Corps) instructors were temporarily loaned to the Army but it was generally an art that was initially self-taught through experience and improvisation. A distinct lack of aircraft was another problem, with many A-36 pilots only encountering the type once they were in theatre because none were available during their training. Replacement aircraft were also lacking but what the A-36 is rarely credited for is the fact that it kept the production lines open for the Merlin engine variants that were to come later and would accelerate the Mustang into a classic ﬁghter.
DESIGN The ﬁrst A-36A took to the air in the hands of NAA test pilot Ben Chilton on September 21, 1942. Power was provided by an Allison V-1710-87 (F21R) engine which was rated at 1,325hp at 3,000ft. The aircraft was stressed for high-speed diving and a set of fence-type hydraulically operated dive brakes were ﬁtted above and below each wing. Positioned outboard of the bomb hardpoints, the dive brakes were recessed into the wing but were opened to 90º by a hydraulic jack to hold speed in very steep dives at around the 350mph mark. Armament was a pair of 0.5in Brownings in each wing and another pair in the nose, although the latter ﬁt was often deleted in the ﬁeld to save weight. Under each wing was a pair of racks to carry either a pair of 500lb bombs, smoke generators or a pair of 75 US gallon drop tanks.
TECHNICAL DATA A36A ENGINE: (P-51A) One 1,325hp Allison V-1710-87 (F21R)
LOADED WEIGHT: 10,700lb
WING SPAN: 37ft 1¼in
MAX SPEED: 365mph
LENGTH: 32ft 2½in
SERVICE CEILING: 25,100ft
HEIGHT: 8ft 8in EMPTY WEIGHT: 8,370lb
RANGE: 550 miles with full load
A-36A of the 27th FBG in typical field conditions with two enemy aircraft to its credit
An A-36A of the 514th FBS, 27th FBG, 12th Air Force, mostly likely photographed in Tunisia in 1943. Always officially known as a Mustang, one pilot suggested that the aircraft be named the ‘Invader’ because of the way the type swept from country to country
A-36A ‘Bronx Cheer’ of the 27th BG gives us a nice view of the dive brakes extended and a pair of 500lb bombs in place. Other features of the variant are the early type flame-damping exhausts and early style bomb shackles COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 45
B25G & B25H MITCHELL B-25H-5-NA, 43-4550, armed to the teeth with a single 75mm cannon, four 0.5in machine guns in the nose and four more, either side of the fuselage, in cheek packs. The repositioned upper turret could also be brought to bear during straﬁng attacks
During the 1930s several flight trials were carried out by the USAAC to see if a modern aircraft could stand the stresses and strains of high calibre weaponry. Tests were carried out using a 37 and 75mm gun which proved to be successful. The B-25 seemed the ideal, solid, stable platform to carry such big guns, in particular the 75mm and in 1942, Material Command instructed NAA to begin the development of such a combination.
The first production B-25G entered USAAF service in May 1943 while the first B-25H made its maiden flight the same month but did not enter service until early 1944. The B-25H was first delivered to the 498th BS, 345th BG and, alongside its older stablemate, the ground attack machines served extensively in the Pacific theatre. Both variants were enthusiastically employed against any enemy target that floated, and shore targets. The 7th Air Force, which operated across the Pacific, unleashed over 4,000 cannon shells during the retaking of the Marshall and Caroline Islands alone. Almost a quarter of all B-25Hs built (248) were operated by the USMC as PBJ-1Hs which were fitted with an AN/APS-2 or APS-3 search radar in a pod under the starboard wing. In contrast, only one B-25G was transferred to the USN and redesignated as the PBJ-1G.
DESIGN The solution to mounting a 75mm M-4 cannon into the nose of a B-25 was solved by NAA engineers in 1942. Using B-25C-1, 41-13296, as a prototype, the 9ft 6in long weapon (weighing more than 900lbs) was trunion-mounted into the bombardier’s crawl tunnel. The nose of the bomber was shortened to give clearance around the muzzle and the structure was strengthened to handle the cannon. Only 21 rounds of ammunition were carried for the manually loaded M-4 which was first flown in 41-13296 by Ed Virgin and Paul Brewer on October 22, 1942. The aircraft by now being redesignated as the XB-25G. Before the G model entered service, the USAAF ordered an improved version designated as the B-25H. This model retained the 75mm cannon, although it was the T13E1 model, which had the addition of four 0.5in machine guns in the nose plus four more mounted in a blister packs on either side of the fuselage. The upper turret was moved to a position behind the pilot and the co-pilot’s and bombardier positions were surplus to requirement, making the H model a dedicated ground attack variant.
PRODUCTION 406 B-25Gs were built, including the prototype, and five aircraft were built as B-25G-1s (NA-93) which were all modified B-25C-15s. The two main production batches, all of which were built at Inglewood, were 300 B-25G-5s and 100 G-10s (both NA-96). A further 63 B-25Cs were modified to B-25G standard at Kansas City and by Republic at Evansville. The B-25H, which was built at Kansas City, was manufactured in three main production batches of 300 B-25H-1, 300 H-5 and 400 H-10 (all as NA-98). One aircraft, a B-25H-5 (43-4406), modified with R2800 engines, was designated NA-98X and called the ‘Super Strafer’.
TECHNICAL DATA B25G & H ENGINE: Two 1,700hp Wright R-2600-13 Double Cyclone 14-cylinder air-cooled WING SPAN: 67ft 7.7in LENGTH: 51ft HEIGHT: 16ft 4.2in WING AREA: 610 sq/ft
EMPTY WEIGHT: (G) 19,200lb; (H) 19,600lb MAX LOADED WEIGHT: 35,000lb MAX SPEED: (G) 284 mph; (H) 280 mph CEILING: (G) 24,300ft; (H) 24,300ft RANGE: (G) 1,560 miles; (H) 1,350 miles
1,000 B-25Hs were built. The first production aircraft flew in July 1943 and the last was delivered to the USAAF twelve months later
B-25G, ‘Pride of the Yankees’, of the 41st BG operating from the Gilbert Islands has its 75mm M4 cannon pulled through by ground crew. A pair of 75mm spent shell casings are used to cover the 0.5in machine guns in the nose
42-65128, a B-25G-10 Mitchell, was one of a batch of 100 built as NA-96s before production switched to the B-25H COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 47
P51B, P51C & MUSTANG III P-51B-15-NA Mustang, 42-106950, of the 354th FS, 355th FG with Lt R Hulderman at the controls during a sortie from Steeple Morden
DEVELOPMENT Not long after the first Mustangs arrived in Britain, the resulting intensive testing of the Allison-powered Mk I by the RAF and Rolls-Royce test pilots revealed the fighter to be a very good aircraft. However, it was clear that the Mustang was the ideal machine to take the outstanding Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, which would improve the aircraft’s medium to high altitude performance. Coincidentally, the engine was by then under production in the US by the Packard Motor Company, under the designation V-1650.
DESIGN The concept quickly blossomed and stateside a pair of P-51s (NA-91), 41-37352 and 41-37421, were fitted with Packard-Merlin V-1650 engines. Initially designated as the XP-78 (NA-101), this was quickly changed to the XP-51B. In Britain, five prototypes were set aside for trials with Rolls-Royce at Hucknall from July 1942. The modifications needed to transform the Allisonengined design into a Merlin-engine design were more extensive than first envisaged. A great deal of windtunnel testing was needed as the Merlin engine was over 350lbs heavier than the Allison. A four-blade propeller added even more weight which, along with the engine, changed the aircraft’s weight and balance calculations by a great deal. A bigger radiator and modified cooling system was also needed and the intake for the Merlin’s updraft carburettor had to be moved, from above the forward fuselage to below it.
SERVICE The first Merlin-powered Mustang, AL975/G, by then redesignated as the Mustang X was flown by Capt R T Shepherd from Hucknall on October 13, 1942. In the US, Bob Chilton flew the first XP-51B on November 30, 1942. Both aircraft produced excellent performance 48
figures which, at altitude, were up to 100mph faster than the Allison-powered variant. Prior to this, the USAAF had confidently ordered 400 P-51Bs and by the time the prototypes had been proven in the air, even more were wanted so both the Inglewood and Dallas factories were expanded to cope. Those aircraft that were built in California would be designated as the P-51B-NA and the Texan-built machines were designated as the P-51C-NT, while in British service the fighter would be known as the Mustang III. The 354th FG, 9th Air Force was the first unit to receive a Merlin-powered Mustang in October 1943, the group flew its first operation on December 1 and gained its first enemy kill on December 15. The same month, 65 Squadron was the first RAF unit to re-equip with the Mustang III, which were initially used for bomber-escort duties while the USAAF built up its own inventory of P-51Bs and Cs. While 9th Air Force units gained more P-51B/Cs, the 8th Air Force also began to receive the type from early 1944 and, from February, the 14th Air Force in Burma saw the type arrive. By April, the fighter also began to re-equip the 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean theatre. The P-51B/C Mustang was an outstanding fighter aircraft and in many pilots’ eyes was the definitive mark of the breed despite the visibility advantages that the D-model would bring. However, the introduction of the Malcolm-type hood sought to rectify this one major issue with the P-51B/C.
PRODUCTION Not including the RAF and NAA prototypes, 3,738 P-51B/Cs were built, of which 910 were delivered to the RAF as Mustang IIIs under Lend-Lease. 91 aircraft were built for the USAAF as F-6Cs, fitted with a pair of aerial cameras and retaining the P-51B/C’s standard 0.5in quartet of wing-mounted machine guns.
TECHNICAL DATA P51B, C & MUSTANG III ENGINE: (B) One 1,620hp Packard Merlin V-1650-3 12-cylinder Vee liquid cooled; (C) One 1,695hp Packard Merlin V-1650-7 12-cylinder Vee liquid cooled WING SPAN: 37ft ¼in LENGTH: 32ft 3in HEIGHT: 8ft 8in EMPTY WEIGHT: (B) 6,840lb; (C) 6,985lb
MAX LOADED WEIGHT: (B) 11,200lb; (C) 11,800lb MAX SPEED: (B) 440mph at 30,000ft; (C) 439mph at 25,000ft SERVICE CEILING: 42,000ft RANGE: (B) 810 miles at 253mph at 10,000ft; (C) 2,440 miles at 249mph
‘Mazie R’, a P-51C-5-NT, 42-103601, during its service with the 364th FS, 357th FG at Leiston. Its pilot, 1st Lt John J Salsman, who was credited with two enemy kills, is pictured shaking hands with his crew chief
Originally delivered to the RAF as Mustang III, FX905, this P-51B-1NA was transferred to the USAAF on December 20, 1943 to serve with the 362nd FS, 357th FG at Leiston. The P-51 was later transferred to the 359th FG before being declared ‘war weary’ to serve as a ‘hack’ with the 353rd FG at Raydon
P-51C-10-NT Mustang, 42-103896, providing comfort for C-47 crews during a mission over China in July 1945. The Mustang, which was serving with the 311th FG, 14th Air Force, was condemned for salvage on December 31, 1945 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 49
B25J MITCHELL B-25J-1-NC Mitchell, 43-3892, fitted with a standard glazed nose pictured during an air test from Kansas City in late 1944
Heavy weight strafer » DEC 1943
B-25J makes maiden flight
» AUG 1944
38th BG receives B-25J
» NOV 1944
Mitchell III joins 98 Squadron
» AUG 1945
Last B-25J delivered to USAAF
70 B-25Js transferred to RCAF
Still in service in South America
DEVELOPMENT A cross between a B-25C and a B-25H, the final mass-produced variant of the successful Mitchell family was the B-25J. The variant achieved great success against the Japanese in the Pacific theatre and also with the RAF’s Tactical Air Force during the final push through Europe.
DESIGN Closely resembling the B-25H, the ‘J’ was not fitted the cumbersome 75mm cannon but instead could be fitted with two different types of nose containing different packs of machine-guns. A standard glass nose contained a single flexible mounted and two fixed 0.5in Brownings while the second version was for strafing. The latter contained an impressive eight 0.5in machine-guns making it one of the most lethal ground-attack medium bombers ever built. The new longer nose gave the B-25J the same overall length as the earlier B-25C/D and the strafer version could easily have been retro-fitted to any mark of Mitchell. Other modifications included the co-pilots position being returned which gave the B-25J a six-man crew. More power was also provided by a pair of uprated R-2600-29 engines.
SERVICE The first B-25J made its maiden flight in December 1943, 50
the first of 4,390 built at the Kansas City plant making the ‘J’ the most prolific of all Mitchells built by far. 255 B-25Js were transferred to the USMC to become PBJ-1Js, all fitted with a variety of radars. Ten USMC machines were further modified to carry an under-fuselage pack which contained a pair of 11.5in ‘Tiny Tim’ unguided rocket projectiles. The ‘J’ also saw extensive service with the RAF where it was redesignated the Mitchell III. An unknown number were also sent to the Soviet Union as well. Many B-25Js were also involved in a host of flight test trials, including testing the AN/APQ-7 Eagle Eye radar contained within a wing which was fitted below the lower rear fuselage. This airborne radar system was later fitted to the B-29 and was used for operations against Japan. During the final stages of the Second World War, a handful of B-25Js were modified to carry glider torpedoes. Fitted with glider wings, the idea was that a standard torpedo could be launched much further away from the target and, just before the weapon entered the water, the wings were blown off by explosive bolts. A transport version was also produced and designated as the CB-25J and several were also converted to VB-25J standard. The latter were converted into comfortable VIP transports and their clientele included General of the USAAF Henry H Arnold and the Allies, Supreme Commander, Dwight D Eisenhower.
TECHNICAL DATA B25J ENGINE: Two 1,700hp Wright R-2600-13 Double Cyclone 14-cylinder air-cooled
DEVELOPMENT The ability to pick up your enemy quickly was crucial for a ﬁghter pilot and the most obvious weak point was from the rear. This problem was partly addressed by the introduction of the British-designed Malcolm hood which was retroﬁtted to many P-51B, Cs and Mustang IIIs. The next model in the chain would solve this problem by introducing a bubble canopy which would give the pilot superb all-round vision.
DESIGN Three P-51Bs, 43-12102, 42-106539 and 42-106540, were selected for conversion to D model standard; the ﬁrst of these ﬂew on November 17, 1943 in the hands of Bob Chilton. The main conversion work involved lowering the rear fuselage contour, which was partly replaced by a dorsal ﬁn to help maintain directional stability. The wing-root chord was also increased and the landing gear was made stronger and also ﬁtted with larger diameter wheels. The next two prototype aircraft were modiﬁed in the same way and delivered to Eglin Field for evaluation by the USAAF. Four months prior to this the USAAF had already placed an order for 2,500 P-51Ds (NA-109) powered by a Packard-Merlin engine, armed with six 0.5in machine guns, with provision for a pair of external long-range fuel tanks or HVAR rockets.
SERVICE The P-51D began to arrive in Europe in great numbers from March 1944 onwards; the ﬁrst unit to receive the type was the 55th FG, which replaced the P-38. By D-Day, both the 8th and 9th Air Forces were well equipped with the P-51D and the great range of the
ﬁghter was appreciated by bomber crews who now had the company of ‘little friends’ to most targets in Europe. By the end of the war, many P-51D pilots had accumulated large numbers of kills to their credit. The 357th FG alone racked up 609 aerial victories and 106 ground kills between February 1944 and April 1945. For the RAF, the P-51D or Mustang IV was not received with the same enthusiasm and the Mustang III was their preferred mount. The new model did not enter service until September 1944. Post-war, the P/F-51D continued to serve the USAAF/ USAF in great numbers and the type became the F-51D from 1948 onwards. The ﬁghter was the backbone of reformed Air National Guard from 1946 onwards and, by late 1948, more than 700 were on strength. The F-51D was back in action over Korea and the type proved to be much more suited to operating from rough and ready airstrips, unlike its jet-powered colleagues. One unit, the 18th FBW, actually gave up its F-80 jets in favour of the Mustang and, by the end of the conﬂict, the type had ﬂown 62,607 tactical support missions for the loss of 351 aircraft. In 1957, the last D model, 44-74936, was withdrawn from service with the West Virginia Air National Guard.
PRODUCTION A total of 9,703 P-51Ds were delivered to the USAAF as the NA-106, -109, -111, -122 and -124. The RAF took delivery of 282 Mustang IVs under Lend-Lease and 100 kit-form P-51Ds (NA-110) were delivered to Australia as production prototypes. 80 of the Australian batch were assembled by CAC as CA-17s, 20 were kept back for spares and a further 120 were built as CA-18s. 1,500 P-51Ks (NA-111s), ﬁtted with uncuﬀed Aeroproducts propellers, were also built.
TECHNICAL DATA P51D ENGINE: One 1,695hp Packard Merlin V-1650-7 12-cylinder Vee liquid cooled
EMPTY WEIGHT: 7,125lb MAX LOADED WEIGHT: 10,100lb
WING SPAN: 37ft ¼in
MAX SPEED: 437mph at 25,000ft
LENGTH: 32ft 3in
SERVICE CEILING: 41,900ft
HEIGHT: 8ft 8in
MAX RANGE: 2,300 miles with max fuel and drop tanks
WING AREA: 233 sq/ft
The P-51D (redesignated by this stage as the F-51) served in great numbers during the Korean War and, by the end of the conflict, the type had flown 62,607 tactical support missions
Well known image of the 375th FS, 361st FG just after the unit re-equipped with the P-51 from the P-47 in May 1944. Three P-51Ds and a P-51B are visible including ‘Lou IV’ in the foreground, which was lost to ground fire on August 12, 1944
282 Mustang IVs were delivered to the RAF, the first of them not entering operational service until September 1944. This aircraft, TK589, only served with the A&AEE out of Boscombe Down and is pictured on August 20, 1944 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 53
LIGHTWEIGHT MUSTANGS XP51F, G & J The ﬁrst of the ‘lightweights’ was XP-51F, 43-43332, the ﬁrst of three F model Mustangs
DEVELOPMENT It was a request from the British for a Mustang of greater power and lower weight that resulted in a contract for three NA-105 ‘Lightweight’ Mustangs. In exchange for the supply of a pair of Merlin 145M engines and a pair of ﬁve-blade Rotol wooden propellers, two of the ‘Lightweights’ would be despatched to Britain as Mustang Vs. The original P-51 was quite heavy for a ﬁghter, which was one of the prices it paid for its quick manufacture and entry into service. Making a trip to Britain, Edgar Schmued visited Supermarine and a made a close inspection of captured enemy aircraft; he came away with suﬃcient information regarding how to reduce the Mustang’s weight.
DESIGN The ﬁrst lightweight, designated the XP-51F, bore only a passing resemblance to the original Mustang and shared very few common components. The wing had a much thinner airfoil; the cooling system was changed, the bubble canopy stretched and the cockpit layout modiﬁed, not to mention the control surfaces and the undercarriage with smaller main wheels. The fuselage fuel tank was removed but made up for by larger, 102-gallon wing tanks. Armament was reduced to four 0.5in machine guns, each with 440 rounds. The ﬁrst of two XP-51Fs was ﬂown for the ﬁrst time by Bob Chilton on February 14, 1944; the third aircraft
being produced in RAF markings as the Mustang V. Fitted with a three-blade propeller, the XP-51F had an impressive maximum speed of 491 mph at 21,500ft but was let down by poor handling. Two further lightweights were constructed as XP-51Gs, also powered by a Merlin 145M but ﬁtted with a British-supplied ﬁve-blade propeller only to be replaced by an Aeroproducts’ four-blade version. The XP-51G was the fastest of all the Mustangs built, achieving a maximum speed of 498mph at 22,800ft but never entered production because of a shortage of 145 engines. Next was the Allison V-1710-119 powered XP-51J which did not live up to expectations despite its very clean aerodynamic appearance. The ﬁrst of two aircraft built ﬂew for the ﬁrst time in April 1945 while the second never left the ground and was sent to Allison who used the engine and aircraft for spares.
PRODUCTION Just seven XP ‘Lightweights’ were built beginning with three XP-51Fs (NA-105) 43-43332 to 43334*, two XP-51Gs (NA-105A) 43-43335 and 43336** followed by XP-51J (NA-105B) 43-76027 and 76028, the latter never ﬂew. *Supplied to Britain as Mustang V, FR409, on June 30, 1944 (SOC Feb 18, 1947). **Supplied to Britain as Mustang V, FR410, in February 1945 (SOC June 26, 1947).
TECHNICAL DATA P51D ENGINE: (F) One Packard V-1650-3 or 7; (G) One 1,910hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 145M; (J) One 1,500hp (take-off rating) Allison V-1710-119 WING SPAN: 37ft 9¼in LENGTH: 32ft 2¾in HEIGHT: 8ft 8in WING AREA: 233 sq/ft
EMPTY WEIGHT: (F) 5,635lb; (G) 5,750lb MAX LOADED WEIGHT: (F) 9,060lb; (G) 8,885lb MAX SPEED: (F) 491mph at 21,500ft; (G) 498mph at 22,800ft SERVICE CEILING: (F) 42,500ft; (G) 45,700ft MAX RANGE: (F) 2,100 miles; (G) 1,865 miles
Two XP-51Js were built, but only this aircraft, 44-76027, ever flew
The first of just two XP-51Gs built was 43-43335 powered by a 1,910hp Merlin 145M engine. This very rare machine is the only survivor of this small group of experimental lightweights
The second XP-51G built was 43-43336 which was shipped to Britain in February 1945 and renamed and re-serialled as Mustang V, FR410 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 55
P-51H-5-NA, 44-64192, during high subsonic performance trials with NACA. The fighter was originally delivered to the USN as 09064 in 1948 followed by a spell with the ANG in 1952
TECHNICAL DATA P51H ENGINE: One 1,900hp (at 20,000ft) Packard Merlin V-1650-9 12-cylinder Vee liquid cooled WING SPAN: 37ft 0.3in LENGTH: 33ft 4in HEIGHT: 8ft 10in WING AREA: 235 sq/ft EMPTY WEIGHT: 6,481lb LOADED WEIGHT: 9,465lb MAX SPEED: 487mph at 25,000ft SERVICE CEILING: 41,600ft MAX RANGE: 1,530 miles at 243mph at 10,000ft
» APR 26, 1944 Order placed by USAAF for 555 P-51Hs
» FEB 3, 1945 P-51H, 44-64160, maiden flight by Bob Chilton
» JUL 1945 First delivery to USAAF
The last production Mustang DEVELOPMENT While the lightweight Mustangs were deemed as impractical for operational use, the many airframe and equipment changes the type introduced led to the final production version of the fighter, the P-51H.
DESIGN On the condition that a host of modifications needed to bring the XP-51F up to standard were installed in the next variant, the USAAF placed an order for 555 P-51Hs (NA-126) on April 26, 1944. The P-51H made use of the XP-51F’s laminar-flow wing which had a thinner section and was fitted with six 0.5in machine-guns. The P-51H was also fitted with a pair of 1,000lb bomb racks under each wing and a 50-gallon auxiliary fuel tank which had not been fitted since the P-51B was re-installed in the fuselage. A taller fin was fitted to the P-51H following flight testing to improve lateral stability problems and the aircraft had the same longer fuselage of the XP-51F. The already excellent visibility of the late model Mustangs was improved with the H as the cockpit was raised slightly to improve forward vision. The aircraft’s performance was superior to the P-51D; the final flight test report stated that the aircraft would not be accepted into USAAF service without water methanol injection. This was duly fitted to the aircraft’s V-1650-9 engine which drove a four-blade propeller.
A version fitted with an improved fuel-injected V-1650-11 was planned for production under the designation P-51L (NA-129) but never left the drawing board.
SERVICE With a level speed of 487 mph, the P-51H was one of the fastest piston-engine fighters to enter operational service but, in the end it was destined to become the only production Mustang not to see any combat. The prototype P-51H, 44-64160, made its maiden flight on February 3, 1945 with Bob Chilton at the controls, only to be wrecked three days later when the propeller failed. In 1947, the P-51H became the F-51H and the fighter saw extensive service within the US with SAC and the ANG. Not enough were in service to allow for service in Korea, the ubiquitous P-51D instead taking the role, which in turn was being superseded by jets, such as the P-80 Shooting Star.
PRODUCTION An initial order for 555 P/F-51Hs (NA-126) in three batches, serialled 44-64160 to 44-64179, 44-64180 to 44-64459 and 44-64460 to 44-64714 was fulfilled, but two further orders, both for 2,500 P-51Hs (NA-117 and NA-139) were cancelled. The bulk of the latter was to be built in the NAA plant at Fort Worth as the P-51M (NA-124), however, only one aircraft, 45-11743, was built.
XP82 & XP82A TWIN MUSTANG
1945 The second, Allison V-1650-23/-25- powered XP-82, 44-83887 which first flew on August 30, 1945
Twice the range, twice the aircraft! DEVELOPMENT Even though NAA were already deeply committed to producing its outstanding fighter, the P-51 Mustang, work began in October 1943 on another fighter, specifically for very long-range operations over the Pacific. As with Europe, there would be a dire need for long-range escort fighters to fly great distances in the Pacific theatre, for hours on end, to protect the inevitable heavy B-29 raids which would be unleashed upon Japan.
DESIGN Two design proposals were presented by NAA, the first being a conventional twin-engined fighter and the second comprising two fuselages, complete with their own powerplants, pilots and equipment. Edgar Schmued had been mulling over the idea of the latter since 1940 and it was this design that was accepted in January 1944 and given the company designation NA-120. By the following month, four prototypes and a single static airframe (as with the P-51), were ordered by the USAAF. Two of the ‘flying’ prototypes were designated as the XP-82 and powered by Packard V-1650 engines and the other two were XP-82As, powered by a pair of Allison V-1710 engines. The central wing section of the P-82 contained the aircraft’s entire gun armament of six 0.5in machine guns; each gun had 440 rounds apiece. The XP-82 had six pylons fitted below the wing (two under each section) which could carry a variety of stores up to 4,000lb in weight. The same centre section had a slotted flap running along its trailing edge. The total wing area
TECHNICAL DATA XP82 TWIN MUSTANG
was less than a pair of P-51s, so the wing had to be built much stronger to cope with the higher loading while the twin section, hydraulically-powered ailerons gave good roll response. The aircraft was normally flown from the left hand fuselage’s cockpit, which was fully furnished with all flight controls and instruments while the co-pilot occupied the right, which was less well-equipped but could still be flown from that position.
SERVICE The first XP-82, 44-83886, had completed its engine and taxying trials in May 1945 and, by the 25th of the month was prepared for flight. On this day, NAA test pilot Joe Barton opened the throttles, but the aircraft refused to fly and, after several attempts, did not (reluctantly) leave the ground until June 16. Thinking a major design fault was occurring, the engineers scratched their heads until it was realised that the contra-rotating engines had been fitted so that their propellers revolved upwards towards the centre section, which effectively stalled this part of the wing. With the engines now reversed, the aircraft flew as expected on June 26, 1945 followed by the Allisonpowered prototype, 44-83887 on August 30.
PRODUCTION Only three of the original order for four prototypes was actually built. These were XP-82 (all NA-120) 44-83886 and 43-83887 (44-83888 and 43-83889 were cancelled) and, XP-82A 44-83887 (modified XP-82 with Allison V-1710 engines).
ENGINE: (XP-82) Two 1,380hp Packard Merlin V-1650-23 and -25; (XP-82A) Two 1,600hp Allison V-1710-119 WING SPAN: 51ft 2.75in LENGTH: 38ft 3in HEIGHT: 13ft 10in WING AREA: 408 sq/ft EMPTY WEIGHT: 13,400lb LOADED WEIGHT: 20,741lb MAX SPEED: 482mph CLIMB RATE: 4,700 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 40,000ft MAX RANGE: 2,240 to 2,700 miles
» JAN 7, 1944
Design proposal submitted to USAAF
» JUN 16, 1945 First ‘reluctant’ flight of XP-82
» AUG 30, 1945 Allison-powered XP-82A flies
COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 57
P82B, C & D TWIN MUSTANG P-82B, 44-65168 ‘Betty Joe’ (incorrectly spelt with an extra ‘e’ which was later removed) pictured during a ﬂight test of Los Angeles prior to its record breaking ﬂight. Note the large drop tanks
The B model of the Twin Mustang was meant to be the ﬁrst mass-produced example of the variant. An order for 500 P-82Bs (44-65180 to 65659) was placed by the USAF in March 1944 but by the time production was underway, the Second World War was drawing to a close and only 18 were ever built.
The P-82B had an undistinguished career with the USAF. The majority of the 18 aircraft delivered were only used as instructional airframes. However, one aircraft, P-82B, 44-65168, did make quite a name for itself. On February 28, 1947, the aircraft, ﬂown by Lt Col R Thacker and Lt J Ard and named ‘Betty Jo’ (after Thacker’s wife) took oﬀ from Hickham Field in Hawaii. 14 hours 32 minutes later after a ﬂight of 5,000 miles, the P-82B landed at LaGuardia Field having set the record for the longest non-stop ﬂight by a propellerdriven ﬁghter. To help achieve this astonishing distance the P-82B was backed up with four 310 gallon drop tanks. After brief service with NACA (as ‘NACA 132’), operating from the Lewis Research Centre, Cleveland, the aircraft was donated to the USAF Museum at Dayton, Ohio in 1957.
DESIGN The P-82B was virtually the same as the XP-82, other than a set of six upgraded 0.50in Browning machine guns. Two aircraft were taken from the P-82B production for conversion as night ﬁghters and these aircraft were designated as the P-82C and D. The P-82C (44-65169) was converted in late 1946, the main and most obvious feature was a large pod which was mounted under the centre wing section and extended forward beyond the line of the propellers. The pod housed a SCR-720C search radar, the same type used by the P-61. The sole P-82D (44-65170) was a similar machine but was ﬁtted with the smaller APS-4 radar and with both night ﬁghter variants, the operation of the radar was controlled from the starboard cockpit. Both of these Merlin-powered night ﬁghters were later redesignated as the P-82F and P-82G when they entered production.
PRODUCTION 18 P-82Bs (44-65160 to 65177) were built under company designation NA-123 from an original order of 500 aircraft placed before the maiden ﬂight of the XP-82. Under the same designation, only a single P-82C (44-65169) and P-82D (44-65170) were constructed.
TECHNICAL DATA P82B TWIN MUSTANG ENGINE: Two Packard Merlin V-1650-19 and -21 WING SPAN: 51ft 3in LENGTH: 39ft 1in HEIGHT: 13ft 10in WING AREA: 408 sq/ft EMPTY WEIGHT: 13,405lb
MAX WEIGHT: 22,000lb MAX SPEED: 482mph at 25,100ft CLIMB RATE: 20,000ft in 7 mins SERVICE CEILING: 41,600ft MAX RANGE: 1,280 miles with a 4,000lb bomb load
By far the most photographed of the Twin Mustangs, ‘Betty Jo’ was allocated for preservation in the early 1950s and today is preserved at the USAF Museum at Dayton, Ohio
The eleventh production P-82B, 44-65170, was converted into the only P-82D night fighter which would become, in production, the F-82G
‘Betty Jo’ taxies at a snow-covered LaGuardia Airport after its epic 5,000-mile flight from Hawaii in February 1947 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 59
P82E TWIN MUSTANG The second production P/F-82E Twin Mustang, 46-256, which is only one of two E models that survive today. The Twin Mustang is being restored back to ﬂying condition by James Harker who is based in Wisconsin
DEVELOPMENT All Twin Mustangs prior to the P-82E had been powered by Packard-Merlin engines. This had been tolerated by US engine manufacturers (especially General Motors (GM) who built the Allison and had a large stake in NAA) during the Second World War but proved to be ‘hot potato’ during the post-war period. The proposition to change to a US-built powerplant was strengthened when Rolls-Royce decided to apply a $6,000 royalty to every Packard-Merlin built; a charge that the company had wavered during the war. GM seized the opportunity to sell more Allison engines by oﬀering the twin-stage V-1710 for the next production variant of the Twin Mustang, the P/F-82E. This decision would prove to be one that, in the long run, would be considerably more expensive than the Rolls-Royce royalty fee.
DESIGN The USAAF ordered 250 P-82Es (F from 1947) in February 1946, although this was later downgraded to 100 aircraft; the remainder of this order was allocated to night ﬁghter production. On the surface, the F-82E was little diﬀerent from the F-82A other than the diﬀerent exhaust stacks of the Allison engine compared to the Merlins. By April 1948, NAA had completed all 100 airframes but all remained outside the factory without any engines. Allison had been experiencing many problems in trying to increase the performance of the V-1710 and as
a result were way behind the delivery schedule. These problems would carry on into the service career of the F-82E and engine failures were commonplace. NAA attempted to resolve many of the problems by modifying the V-1710 themselves with Merlin components, which did not go down well with Allison.
SERVICE The F-82E entered service with the 27th Fighter-Escort Group (FEG) of Strategic Air Command based at Kearny AFB, Nebraska in May, 1948. The 27th FEG, made up of the 522nd, 523rd and 524th Fighter-Escort Squadron was the only operational unit to ﬂy the F-82 which proved a troublesome beast with regard to the power plants. Despite recurring problems the Allison engine caused, the 27th FEG spent most of its time performing long-range missions to show oﬀ the aircraft’s excellent range. However, the increased use of air-to-air refuelling meant that the less-eﬃcient jet could ﬂy further and for longer making it more capable of performing longrange escort duties. After a move to Bergstrom AFB, Texas the F-82E was phased out of USAF service in March 1950.
PRODUCTION 250 P/F-82Es were ordered by the USAAF in February 1946, although this was later reduced to 100 aircraft. Under the company designation NA-144, the F-82Es were serialled 46-255 to 46-354.
TECHNICAL DATA P82E LATER F82E TWIN MUSTANG ENGINE: Two 1,600hp Allison V-1710-143 & -145 twelve-cylinder vee liquid cooled
EMPTY WEIGHT: 14,900lb MAX WEIGHT: 20,741lb MAX SPEED: 482mph
CLIMB RATE: 4,700 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 40,000ft MAX RANGE: 2,240 to 2,700 miles
The F-82E only served with Strategic Air Command’s 27th FEG from May 1948 to March 1950
The first production F-82E, 46-255, outside the Inglewood plant, which served until April 1951, when it was scrapped at Robins AFB
Excellent view of the port Allison V-1710 engine in an F-82E. Unreliable and temperamental, the V-1710 when running sweetly was a powerful unit, but lacked the performance numbers of the Packard-Merlin COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 61
FJ1 FURY The third prototype FJ-1 ‘straight-wing’ Fury in company with a ‘swept-winged’ FJ-2 in February 1952
DEVELOPMENT Developed as the NA-135, the FJ-1 Fury is often overlooked in military jet history. Not only was it the ﬁrst jet ﬁghter to serve at sea with the USN, it was also the ﬁrst and possibly last jet-powered aircraft to take oﬀ from a carrier without a catapult. The FJ-1 was popular with its pilots despite being virtually obsolete by the time it entered service. Regardless, the FJ-1 proved to be a very useful transition from the piston to the jet era.
DESIGN The FJ-1 was a straight-wing jet which utilised similar wing, tail surfaces and even the same bubble canopy from the P-51D. Swept wing designs at the time were seen as too high performance to be safely operated from the US Navy’s aircraft carriers. However, these would be ﬁtted to subsequent Furies. The ﬁrst of three prototypes, the XFJ-1, was ordered in late 1944 while jets were still in their development infancy. As a result, a great deal of time was spent trying to work out the best way of ﬁtting and removing the J35 engine. While Lockheed adapted to allow easy access by making the entire rear fuselage removable on its P-80 (later adopted for the XP-86), NAA chose to install the engine from above. This would later prove to be quite a diﬃcult task, especially onboard an aircraft carrier. The main wide track undercarriage retracted into the leading edge root of each wing. Speed brakes were mounted in the wings of the prototype but were later moved to the lower rear fuselage. As the wings did not fold, a novel ‘kneeling’ nose was installed in an attempt to save space below decks but in reality little was saved.
Armament was six .50in machine-guns; three on each side of the forward fuselage. Equipment was sparse in the cockpit; the pilot not having the luxury of an ejection seat or even a heater.
SERVICE The ﬁrst XFJ-1, 39053, was complete by January 1946 but had to wait until June before its J35 engine was available. Ground runs and taxying trials were carried out in August and, on September 11, test pilot Wallace Lien made the maiden ﬂight. The follow up prototypes, 39054 and 39055, took part in a successful test programme and, in September 1947, all three XFJ-1s were delivered to the USN. The original order for 100 FJ-1s was later cut to 30 aircraft with the ﬁrst delivered in October 1947. These were assigned to NATC, Patuxent River where trials were carried out by VF-5A. By November 18, VF-5A had 16 FJ-1s on strength in preparation for carrier qualiﬁcation. In March 1948, Lt Cdr E P Aurand led his squadron aboard USS Boxer, from which successful carrier trials followed. All operations were ﬂown from the carrier without the assistance of a catapult, which passed without incident but on every take-oﬀ the FJ-1s climbed uncomfortably slowly into the air, always on the verge of stalling into the sea. VF-5A was later renamed VF-51 and the FJ-1 was oﬃcially accepted into service from August 1948. In May 1949, the unit went to sea operationally aboard USS Boxer but by this time the type was already earmarked for replacement by the F9F Panther. The last FJ-1s were retired in 1953, having served with USN Reserve units.
TECHNICAL DATA FJ1 FURY ENGINE: (XFJ) One 3,820lb General Electric J35-GE-1 axial-flow turbojet; (FJ) One 4,000lb Allison J35-A-2 turbojet WING SPAN: 38ft 2in
EMPTY WEIGHT: 8,843lb LOADED WEIGHT: 15,118lb MAX SPEED: 547mph at 9,000ft
LENGTH: 34ft 5in
CLIMB RATE: 3,300 ft/min from sea level
HEIGHT: 14ft 10in
SERVICE CEILING: 32,000ft
WING AREA: 221 sq/ft
RANGE: 1,496 miles
Cdr Pete Aurand makes the first FJ-1 Fury carrier landing on USS Boxer on March 16, 1948
FJ-1 Fury, 114/S, of VF-5A (later renumbered as VF-51 in August 1948); the only unit to operate the type
The first prototype XFJ-1 Fury, 39053, being prepared for the ‘kneeling’ position by mechanic Ken Stoller, who is about to operate a hand pump to retract the nose gear. Designed to create more space below deck, the concept did not prove to be very effective COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 63
P/F82F, G & H TWIN MUSTANG The first of 91 P-82Fs (later redesignated as the F-82F from 1948), 46-405, pictured during an air test from Inglewood in 1948
The last of the Mustangs » 1946
USAAF places order
F-82F & G enter USAF service
F-82H begins service in Alaska
» JUN 27, 1950 First kill of the Korean War
» NOV 1951 Withdrawn from Korea
All Twin Mustangs withdrawn from service
DEVELOPMENT If it was not for the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the service career of the Twin Mustang would have been much shorter. As it was, the type only served, on average, for six years, all variants being virtually obsolete when they entered service. However, at the beginning of the Korean War, the promised jet-age air force had not yet arrived and the USAF had to rely on refurbished F-51Ds while the USMC still operated the F4U Corsair, pending the arrival of more modern equipment. This also placed the F-82 in a position of need, the night fighter variants, the F-82F, G and H being in particular demand.
DESIGN The P/F-82F (NA-149) was the first of three night fighters which were fitted with an APS-4 or APG-28 radar inside a massive radome mounted under the central wing. The radar was controlled from the starboard cockpit and armament consisted of the standard 0.50in machine-guns which fired from the leading edge of the central wing. The P/F-82G (NA-150) was the same as the F model except that the radar was a SCR-720C model which was lighter than APS/APG versions, thus making the G model a moderately better performer. The P/F-82H (also NA-150) were a small batch of aircraft adapted for extremely cold operations.
SERVICE The F-82F and F-82G first entered USAF service with Air Defence Command (ADC) in 1948, replacing the F-61 Black Widow. As with their predecessors, the aircraft were painted all black and the Allison engine’s exhaust stacks were dampened to hide any flame. The 325th FG 64
was the first unit to receive the F-82F and operated from Hamilton Field and McChord AFB and they were followed by the 51st FG and 52nd FG based at Mitchel and McGuire AFB respectively. In the Far East, the 347th FG in Japan received the F-82G in 1949, while the 449th F(All-Weather)S at Ladd AFB in Alaska began to receive the F-82H the same year. Envisaged as little more than an interim aircraft, the F-82 was not planned to be in service for long and was certainly not expected to go into action. This changed in June 1950 with the outbreak of the Korean War and the 449th FS suddenly found itself becoming the only USAF fighter unit in the entire region capable of providing cover. Their initial tasking was escort duties of C-47 and C-54 transport aircraft and it was not long before the F-82 began making a name for itself. On June 27, 1950, Lt W Hudson and Lt C Fraser in F-82G, 46-383 (or possibly 46-601), of the 347th FG, chalked up the first aerial kill of the Korea War (and the first victory of the ‘USAF’) by shooting down a North Korean Yakovlev Yak-7U. The same day, another F-82G, 46-392 flown by Mjr J Little, also shot down a North Korean Yak-9 and to this day it is not clear which of the two fighters actually achieved the first kill. The F-82 proved to be a very useful aircraft during the Korean War, both as an escort fighter and ground attack machine. The last of the Twin Mustangs were withdrawn from the Korean theatre in November 1951 and, by the middle of 1953, no longer appeared on the USAF’s inventory.
PRODUCTION Orders for 91 F-82Fs, 45 F-82Gs and 14 F-82Hs were placed by the USAF in 1946.
TECHNICAL DATA P82F, G & H TWIN MUSTANG ENGINE: Two 1,600hp Allison V-1710-143/145 WING SPAN: 51ft 3in LENGTH: 42ft 5in
MAX RANGE: 2,240 to 2,700 miles F-82G, 46-376, of the 68th FIS, pictured at his home base at Itazuke AB, in Japan
F-82G Twin Mustang, 46-375, of the 68th FS, 6160th ABW (Air Base Wing), taxies out for take-off at Itazuke during the autumn of 1950. The fighter was lost in a crash on December 16, 1950
An unknown F-82G fitted with a pair of long-range fuel tanks. The massive, centrally-mounted radome contained an APS-4 or APG-28 radar COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 65
XB45 & B45A TORNADO The prototype, XB-45, 45-59479, with protective layers still in place on the canopy and glazed nose section, pictured not long after its maiden flight in late March 1947. The aircraft was written off at Wright-Patterson on June 28, 1949
The first US-built jet to achieve flight-test status » MAY 1944
Me 262 first encountered over Germany
» SEP 13, 1944
NA-130 production design issued
» MAR 17, 1947 First flight of the XB-45
» JAN 29, 1948 USAF places production order
» JUL 27, 1948 Type accepted by USAF
» NOV 1948 B-45A enters USAF service
DEVELOPMENT It was the arrival of the jet-powered Me 262 over European skies which set in motion the immediate need for a jet-powered version of its quarry: the high-altitude bomber. Regardless of the fact that Hitler wrongly changed tactics by switching the Me 262 to the bomber role, it was clear that the era of the piston-engined bomber, just like the fighter, was over. Dutch Kindelberger had already decided to swiftly begin design work on a jet bomber for the USAAF. By introducing an aircraft as un-complex as possible, NAA became the first US manufacturer to put a jet bomber aircraft into the air.
DESIGN Studies for the new jet bomber began in 1944 under the company designation NA-130, which simply applied jet-power to the same heavy bomber practices and techniques being flown at the time. Only the method of installation for the aircraft’s four General Electric turbojets within underslung nacelles, displayed an advance in design, the rest of the aircraft being of convectional configuration. A shoulder-wing monoplane, the B-45 Tornado, was fitted with a straight laminar-flow wing and conventional tricycle undercarriage. The fuselage, which had a wide elliptical shape, was divided into four compartments. The forward pressurised section housed the pilot, co-pilot and bombardier/navigator's positions, the rest of the fuselage being divided into bomb bay,
rear fuselage and pressurised rear gunner’s position. The pilot and co-pilot sat in tandem under a fully glazed canopy as did the bombardier who operated from the nose. The rear gunner controlled the aircraft’s only defensive armament, a pair of 0.5in M7 machine guns.
SERVICE XB-45, 45-59479, the first of three prototypes built, made its maiden flight from Muroc in the hands of George Krebs and Paul Brewer on March 17, 1947. After a period of evaluation which only saw Boeing, with its impressive B-47 left in contention, the USAF placed an order for 97 production aircraft designated the B-45A. The first production B-45A was flown on February 28, 1948 and, by November, the type had entered service with the 47th BG at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana; by 1952, this unit moved to RAF Sculthorpe. 14 aircraft from the initial production run were later modified to TB-45A target tug standard. Modifications included a cable reel being fitted into the bomb bay, the target generally being a Chance Vought glider-type. A single aircraft became the JB-45A when it was used by Westinghouse as an engine test-bed and the B-45B never left the drawing board. The latter was a proposal fitted with a new radar and fire-control system.
PRODUCTION Three XB-45 (NA-130) prototypes (45-59479-59481) followed by 22 B-45A1s (NA-147) (47-1-22) and 75 B-45A-5s (47-23-97).
TECHNICAL DATA XB45 & B45A ENGINE: (XB & A) Four 4,000lb Allison J35-A-7; (A) Four 5,200lb General Electric J47-GE-13/15 WING SPAN: 89ft LENGTH: (XB) 74ft; (A) 75ft 4in HEIGHT: 25ft 2in EMPTY WEIGHT: (XB) 41,876lb; (A) 45,694lb LOADED WEIGHT: (XB) 66,820lb; (A) 81,410lb
MAX SPEED: (XB) 516mph at 14,000ft; 575mph CLIMB RATE: (XB) 2,100 ft/min; (A) 5,950 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: (XB) 37,600ft; (A) 46,250ft COMBAT RADIUS: (XB) 1,700 miles with 8,350lb bomb load; (A) 1,100 miles with 10,000lb bomb load
Flight line of 47th (Light) Bomb Wing B-45A-5-NA Tornados at Langley AFB before departing for Sculthorpe, Norfolk in the summer of 1952
B-45A-1, 47-011, from the first batch of 22 Tornados built as the NA-147 pictured over California on a pre-delivery test flight
Several B-45s were converted for use as engine test-beds, including JB-45A 47-096 fitted with a Westinghouse J34 turbojet COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 67
P86 & F86A SABRE AKA ‘SILVER CHARGER’ The long and successful story of the Sabre began with the first of three XP-86 prototypes, 45-59597. America’s first swept-wing fighter made its maiden flight from Muroc on October 1, 1947
The USAF’s first jet fighter » AUG 8, 1947 First flight of the XP-86
» SEP 14, 1948
World speed record of 670.981 mph set by Dick Johnson
» FEB 14, 1949
Squadron deliveries of the F-86A begin
» DEC 13, 1950
F-86A arrives in the Korean theatre
» DEC 17, 1950 First MiG-15 shot down
F-86A retired from the ANG
DEVELOPMENT Deriving from the FJ-1 Fury, the F-86 Sabre family would go on to form the backbone of the USAF’s fighter inventory during the 1950s and for many years later with the ANG and a host of foreign air forces. Designed to meet a rigorous USAF day fighter requirement, the new jet began as the straight-wing NA-140 which hardly differed from the Republic P-84. However, this would change as swept-wing technology was acquired from German research data, resulting in a new approach to the NA-140, which was by then referred to as the XP-86.
DESIGN The XP-86, with its swept-back wing and tail surfaces was a beautiful looking aircraft. The design laid the foundation blocks for NAA’s work in transonic and later, supersonic flight. Work was well under way on developing the XP-86 when the decision was made to incorporate a swept wing and tail surfaces and this would delay the aircraft by almost a year. Wind tunnel testing of various models show great promise with estimated performance figures of 635mph at 15,000ft and a potential climb rate of 3,000ft per/min. The first prototype was rolled out at Mines Field on August 8, 1947 and, on October 1, test pilot George Welch made the historic first flight from Muroc Dry Lake (later Edwards AFB). Many years later it was revealed that Welch breached the sound barrier (Mach 1.02 and 1.03) on two separate occasions in November 1947. After just 30 hours of testing, the XP-86 was evaluated by the USAAF the following month. Accepted by the USAAF on November 30, 1948, an initial order for 33 P-86As and 188 P-86Bs had already been placed more than a year before the prototype first flew. Welch flew the first production P-86A-1 on May 20,
1948 and by the following month the P-86A and P-86B were redesignated by the USAAF as the F-86A-1 and A-5 and the name Sabre, was applied. The A-1 and A-5 only differed in the former having a manual canopy release and the latter an automatic one.
SERVICE The F-86A Sabre first entered service in 1949 with the 1st, 4th and 81st Fighter Groups. The honour fell to the 94th ‘Hat in a Ring’ FS, 1st FG to receive the first examples on February 14. On November 8, 1950, the F-86A Wing of the FEAF was offered up for service in the Korean War, which had broken out the previous June. This was partly in response to the first encounter by the USAF of the MiG-15, the Soviets having taken full advantage of the war to test their latest swept-wing jet fighter. The ensuing encounters between the F-86 and MiG-15 became legendary with so many combats having taken place that the area became known as ‘MiG Alley’. The F-86A remained in Korea until October 1952. Prior to this the F-86A was already being replaced in the front line by the F-86E, which allowed the old type to be released to the ANG. By late 1958, these had been retired and by December 1960 all of the F-86As which had been sent to Davis-Monthan for storage had been scrapped.
PRODUCTION Three XP-86 (NA-140) prototypes were built (4559597-59599) followed by 554 production F-86As. These were built in three batches, beginning with 33 F-86A-1s (NA-151), followed by 188 F-86A-5 and finally 333, F-86A-5s (NA-161). An order for 188 F-86Bs (NA-152) featuring a deeper fuselage and larger tyres was cancelled.
TECHNICAL DATA XP86 & F86A ENGINE: (XP) One 4,000lb Chevrolet-built General Electric J35-C-3 turbojet; (A) One 5,200lb General Electric J47-GE-13 WING SPAN: 37ft 1.4in LENGTH: 37ft 6½in HEIGHT: 14ft 5in EMPTY WEIGHT: (XP) 9,730lb; (A) 10,093lb
MAX WEIGHT: (XP) 16,438lb; (A) 15,876lb MAX SPEED: (XP) 599mph; (A) 679mph INITIAL CLIMB RATE: (XP) 4,000 ft/min; (A) 7,470 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: (XP) 41,300ft; (A) 48,000ft
Originally built as an F-86A, this aircraft, 48-217, named ‘Honey Bucket’ (aka ‘Every Man a Tiger’) was later converted to an RF-86A and assigned to the 16th TRS, 67th TRW. The aircraft was brought down by flak on June 27, 1952
F-86A-5-NA Sabre, 48-170, one of 521 A-5s built in two batches under company designations NA-151 and NA-161. The fighter was written off on June 9, 1950 near Uwalde, Texas
At least 15 F-86A-5-NA Sabres are visible in this shot of a squadron preparing for another operation during the Korean War COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 69
AJ A2 SAVAGE AJ-2P (NA-175) Savage, 129193 of VAP-61, operating from Guam, pictured in service during the mid-1950s
Designed to carry a single atomic bomb, the AJ Savage was not only the ﬁrst such USN combat aircraft to be capable of this, but also, at the time, the largest carrier-based aircraft in the world. The USN requirement for a nuclear bomber was a tough one and, to meet it, NAA would have to design a large aircraft which would need a great deal of power to get it oﬀ a carrier’s deck. To achieve this, a composite powerplant was designed, made up of a pair of powerful R-2800 Double Wasp radials plus a single J33 turbojet mounted in the lower fuselage.
Originally ordered in June 1946, progress was swift and the ﬁrst of three XAJ-1 prototypes, 121460, was ﬁrst ﬂown by Bob Chilton on July 3, 1948. The ﬂight test programme was destined to be dogged by incidents although the ﬁrst prototype enjoyed a long ﬂying career. The ﬁrst setback occurred when the second aircraft, 121461, was lost after the tail was ripped clean oﬀ during a max-rudder sideslip trial in February 1949, killing both test pilots. While the third, 121462, crashed at Edwards AFB following a structural failure of the wing. In early 1949, AJ-1 production began at Inglewood and by May, the ﬁrst aircraft was delivered to the NATC at Patuxent River. The AJ-1 entered service with VC-5 and, on April 21, 1950, the ﬁrst carrier take-oﬀ was performed from the USS Coral Sea, followed by the ﬁrst landing on August 31. AJ-1s went on to also serve with VC-6 and VC-7 from four diﬀerent USN carriers. An improved photographic reconnaissance variant was introduced in late 1950. Designated, at ﬁrst, as the AJ-1P, the production version, built at Columbus, was redesignated as the AJ-2P. The AJ-2P incorporated a host of improvements which led to the AJ-2 with slightly uprated engines, a longer fuselage and increased fuel capacity. By 1960, the majority of Savages had been phased out of USN service although two were used by NASA for weightless training during the 1960s and at least two others served as water bombers in California. One aircraft was used by Avco-Lycoming, remaining in service until May 9, 1984.
DESIGN A bulky yet eﬃcient design, the Savage was a big aircraft - the height to the top of the stabiliser alone was more than 20ft. Production aircraft would be equipped with folding wing tips and a stabiliser speciﬁcally for carrier operations. Ground clearance was not ideal, being a mere twelve inches above the ground because of the large diameter that the propellers needed to help deliver the necessary power. A crew of two were accommodated in a spacious cockpit in a side-by-side conﬁguration under a frameless, single-piece sliding canopy. Two R-2800-44W engines were mounted in nacelles, one under each wing, in a conventional layout, while an extra 4,600lbs of thrust, provided by an Allison J33, was mounted in the rear fuselage. This jet engine was actually used for high-speed runs and back-up in the event of one of the piston engines failing. An air intake for the J33 was positioned ahead of the vertical stabiliser, while the exhaust was located below the stabiliser. Conveniently, the R-2800 piston engines and the J33 turbojet used the same high-octane fuel and could be supplied from the same fuel tanks.
PRODUCTION Three XAJ-1 prototypes followed by an initial production run of 55 AJ-1s, later redesignated in 1962 as A-2As. 30 AJ-20 photo-recce variants built followed by the ﬁnal production aircraft, the AJ-2, redesignated as the A-2B in 1962 of which 55 were built.
TECHNICAL DATA AJ SAVAGE ENGINE: Two 2,300hp Pratt & Whitney R-280044W radials and one 4,600lb Allison J33-A-10 turbojet
EMPTY WEIGHT: 30,776lb MAX WEIGHT: 54,000lb MAX SPEED: 449mph
WING SPAN: 75ft 2in
INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 2,900 ft/min
LENGTH: 63ft 1in
SERVICE CEILING: 40,800ft
HEIGHT: 21ft 5in
RANGE: 1,732 miles
Many Savages were used as air-to-air tankers during their short careers, including AJ-2, 134043 of VAH-7, pictured supplying fuel to a pair of FJ-3M Furies of VF-62 on June 15, 1958
The last Savage built was AJ-2 (NA-184), 134072, pictured during an exercise about to launch from the USN carrier, USS Oriskany.
The first prototype, XAJ-1, 121460, unlike the second and third prototypes, survived the flight test programme and was not retired until March 1957 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 71
NAVION FAMILY The second prototype Navion (NA-143-2), NX18929, which was followed by more than 1,000 production aircraft built by NAA and over 1,200 built by Ryan
An attempt to create a civilian market for NAA » JAN 15, 1946 First flight of Navion
» JUN 1947
USAF order L-17A
Over 1,300 Navions still on CAA register
DEVELOPMENT As the Second World War drew to a close, NAA, like all big aircraft manufacturers saw their military order book radically reduced. A future producing items for the household beckoned but, determined to keep NAA in the aviation industry, Dutch Kindelberger and his team decided to produce civilian light aircraft instead.
DESIGN NAA chose to design a four-seat, all-metal light aircraft, complete with retractable landing gear under the company designation, NA-143. In October 1945 work began on the light aircraft, which was to be powered by a Continental engine developing a healthy 185hp. A very rugged aircraft, the NA-143 was designed to be easy to fly and straightforward to maintain. Unsurprisingly, the final aircraft’s configuration bore an uncanny resemblance the Mustang but also featured a few novel additions not normally seen on civilian aircraft. One of these was a large sliding canopy that allowed easy access for all four occupants. Dual controls were also fitted and instrumentation and controls were laid out clearly and functionally. By late 1945, the aircraft had been named the Navion and a pair of production prototypes, serialled NX18928 and NX18929, were complete. Two of the main production variants, the NA-145, were also built and would be used for flight testing.
SERVICE The maiden flight of NX18928 was carried out by Ed Virgin and Bob Chilton from Mines Field on January 15, 1946. Only engine cooling problems were experienced 72
on the first flight, and once rectified, the Navion was immediately put into production. Placed on the market for a price of $6,100 plus tax, the Navion was a very appealing aircraft thanks to its host of novel features. Capable of cruising at 150mph, the Navion also featured a variable-pitch propeller and hydraulically-actuated flaps. The Navion’s major competitor of the day was the Beechcraft Bonanza, which was powered by the same Continental engine but flew faster. The main problem with the Navion lay behind the scenes at NAA. Although the $6,100 price tag was good for the public, for such a well-equipped aircraft, the machine actually cost NAA $10,000 to build! Regardless, the NA-145 production version sold well and by the mid-1947, over 1,000 had been sold. At the same time, the USAAF ordered 83 examples which were designated as the L-17A (NA-154) and sold at $10,000 apiece. 47 of these aircraft later served with ANG units and a handful ended their days as QL-17 drones. The majority of the ANG aircraft were transferred to the US Army and served on as U-18s. Despite NAA’s doubts about the company’s future, post-war military contracts still came in, which resulted in the company selling the Navion, lock stock and barrel, to the Ryan Aeronautical Corporation based in San Diego. Ryan continued to build the Navion in both civilian and military guises until 1961.
PRODUCTION NAA produced 1,110 Navions, of which two were NA-143 prototypes, 1,025 were NA-145 production aircraft and 83 L-17As (NA-154). Ryan went on to build 1,077 civil variants and 163 L-17B and C models for the USAF.
TECHNICAL DATA L17A NAVION ENGINE: One 185hp Continental E185-3 flat six piston
DEVELOPMENT Any company that could secure a contract to replace the outstanding T-6 Texan trainer would do well to beat NAA at their own game. NAA’s proposal to replace its own iconic aircraft took the form of the NA-159. The company was successful in securing an order for a pair of XT-28 prototypes and the ﬁrst of these aircraft made its maiden ﬂight on September 24, 1949 with Skip Ziegler at the controls. Following successful evaluation trials, the USAF placed a production order for the T-28A, which was allocated the name Trojan when it entered service.
DESIGN The T-28A Trojan was a cantilever low-wing monoplane, with a retractable undercarriage and was powered by a single 800hp R-1300 engine. The two-seat aircraft gave both the pupil and the instructor outstanding visibility from the fully enclosed cockpit.
SERVICE The original USAF contract, signed in 1950, was for 266 T-28As, the ﬁrst of them being delivered to Air Training Command later that year. Further contracts would see the ﬁnal production total for the T-28A reach 1,194. By 1952, standardisation was the key word in the US armed forces and this included training aircraft across the USAF and the USN. As a result, the USN ordered the Trojan as the T-28B version, which was powered by a 1,425hp R-1820 engine. The USN eventually received 489 T-28Bs and a further 299 T-2Cs – the latter having
the additional ability to land on aircraft carriers thanks to the ﬁtment of an arrestor hook. During 1962, NAA was tasked with converting a large number of T-28As to the counter-insurgency role, which led to the T-28D. This purposeful variant was re-engined with a Wright R-1820 engine and was ﬁtted with six underwing hard-points for various stores and weaponry. NAA carried out 321 T-28D conversions and Fairchild Hiller a further 72. A large number of T-28s were also converted into attack trainers, then being designated as the AT-28D. The T-28D saw a great deal of action in the Congo and Vietnam and went on to serve with several diﬀerent air forces. Sud-Aviation in France converted a large number of ex-USAF T-28Ds for close-support, patrol and reconnaissance duties, renaming the aircraft the Fennec.
PRODUCTION 1,987 T-28s were built between 1949 and 1964; this total was made up of two XT-28 prototypes, 1,194 T-28As (including one static test airframe), 492 T-28Bs (including one RT-28B built for Japan which served with 501st Recce Squadron, JASDF), 301 T-28Cs, 385 T-28Ds (rebuilt B and C models for the USAF), one Nomad (modiﬁed T-28A for commercial market) and three YAT-28Es. The latter, which ﬁrst ﬂew on February 15, 1963, was in competition with another NAA product, the OV-10 Bronco. Production total does not include 50 Aero Industry Development Centre T-CH-1, which was a Chinese-built version of the T-28A ﬁtted with a T53-L-701 turboprop.
TECHNICAL DATA T28D ENGINE: One 1,425hp Wright R-1820-86 Cyclone radial
MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 8,500lb
WING SPAN: 40ft 1in
MAX SPEED: 343mph
INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 4,000 ft/min
HEIGHT: 12ft 8in EMPTY WEIGHT: 6,424lb
SERVICE CEILING: 39,000ft NAA test pilot Bob Hoover with the prototype T-28B Trojan
The first of just three YAT-28E Turbo Trojan turboprops, AF52-1242 demonstrates its weapon carrying capability
A pair of South Vietnamese Air Force T-28Cs pictured during a counter-insurgency training flight in 1962. Both aircraft still retain their six-figure USN bureau serial COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 75
F86D F95A ‘SABRE DOG’ F-86D-45-NA Sabre, 52-4151, of the 512th FIS, 406th FIW one of a batch of 300 built under NAA designation NA-190
DEVELOPMENT In early 1949, NAA began work on a new single-seat all-weather interceptor to be equipped with very latest computers and fire-control systems. This was a time when the USAF were in desperate need for such aircraft to defend its shores from a perceived Soviet bomber threat which, in hindsight, was grossly exaggerated. While Lockheed worked quickly on a derivative of its own T-33, which became the F-94 Starfire, NAA worked on a version of the F-86, which was initially designated as the F-95A.
DESIGN The wings, slats, cockpit windscreen and canopy from the F-86A-5 were used in the design of the new F-95A. The engine’s air intake was completely re-designed to give the aircraft a much deeper appearance allowing room for the fitment of 30in in diameter radome which contained an AN/APG-36 search radar. To accommodate the afterburner and the F-95A’s J47-GE-17 engine, the fuselage was extended by three feet. General handling would be improved by increasing the size of the fin and the conventional stabilizer/ elevator configuration was replaced by an all-flying horizontal surface for better longitudinal stability. Armament was another novel feature of the D model. The aircraft was deleted of all guns, these were replaced by 24 2.75in FFAR ‘Mighty Mouse’ rockets. They were contained within a large internal magazine which was extended below the fuselage when fired, a process that could be completed within one second of the pilot
pressing his weapons button. Each rocket weighed 18lbs, had a range of 4,500 yards and the same explosive charge of a 75mm artillery shell.
SERVICE The first F-95A (redesignated as the YF-86D), 50-577, was first flown by Joe Lynch on December 22, 1949, followed by the first production F-86D, flown by George Welch on June 8, 1951. The same month, the USAF placed an order for 153 F-86D-1s followed between 1950 and 1952 by further orders for 2,351 aircraft. These huge orders were in response to the anti-communist paranoia that was sweeping the country at the time. The D model went on to serve with 56 Air Defence Command (ADC) Fighter Interceptor Squadrons, nine squadrons in the Far East and four with units operating as part of USAFE. By 1956, the F-86D was already being phased out of ADC squadrons, the task being completed by the spring of 1958. Many of these aircraft were transferred to the ANG and 26 units operated the type into the early 1960s. The F-86D also served with the air forces of Denmark, Japan, Republic of Korea, Republic of China, Philippines, Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia.
PRODUCTION Two prototype YF-86Ds, were followed by 2,504 F-86Ds were built under company designations, NA-164, NA-165, NA-173, NA-177, NA-190 and NA-201 in thirteen production batches from F-86D-1 to D-60.
TECHNICAL DATA F86D ENGINE: One 5,500lb General Electric J47-GE-33 turbojet WING SPAN: 37ft 1½in LENGTH: 40ft 3¾in
MAX WEIGHT: 19,952lb MAX SPEED: 693 mph at sea level INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 12,000 ft/min
HEIGHT: 15ft EMPTY WEIGHT: 13,498lb
SERVICE CEILING: 49,600ft
Hundreds of F-86s were withdrawn from the USAF during the late 1950s and transferred to the ANG. These F-86Ds belong to the 173rd FIS, Nebraska ANG
Ames Research Centre test pilot George E. Cooper poses in front of F-86D-30 Sabre 52-5986. After serving with NASA/Ames, the fighter was transferred to the JSADF and re-serialled 84-8134
Pristine line of F-86D-40-NA Sabres of the 181st FIS, Texas ANG at Dallas Hensley Field COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 77
B45C & RB45C TORNADO The first production B-45C Tornado, 48-001 (c/ 153-38477) which first flew in May 1949
Pioneering high-altitude surveillance » SEP 22, 1947 Work begins on the B-45C
» MAY 3, 1949 Maiden flight of the B-45C
» APR 1950
RB-45C flies for the first time
» OCT 1951 Last RB-45C delivered to the USAF
» APR 17, 1952
First clandestine sortie by RAF crews
Only one RB-45C on the USAF inventory
DEVELOPMENT The next major variant of the B-45 was the C-model which, in part, came about because of the loss of the first prototype on September 20, 1948, which claimed the lives of George Krebs and Nick Piccard.
DESIGN A large number of changes were introduced with the B-45C which was designed for close-support duties. The structure of the aircraft was made stronger, a longer span tail-plane was installed and 1,200-gallon capacity fuel tanks were fitted to the wing tips. The aircraft was made in-flight refuelling capable and the bomb load was raised by 2,000lb to 22,000lb. The strengthened structure of the B-45C allowed for much higher operating weights which rose by 20,000lb to 110,000lb. Another difference was the replacement of the original heavy framed canopy to a much neater looking frameless-type. Only ten B-45Cs were destined to be built, the remainder of the contract saw the next 33 aircraft built as RB-45Cs. This dedicated photographic reconnaissance variant could carry up to twelve cameras in four different positions. The rear guns were deleted, the glazed nose replaced by a solid one and the bomb bay was converted to carry up to 25 M122 photoflash bombs and extra fuel tanks which raised the RB-45C’s internal fuel capacity to 8,000 gallons. Several C-models were also fitted with a jettisonable
water tank under each engine nacelle which provided extra take-off power.
SERVICE Deliveries of the B-45C and RB-45C to the USAF began in June 1950 and were completed by October 1951, the first RB-45Cs arriving with the 91st SRW (Strategic Reconnaissance Wing) at Barksdale. The reactivated 47th BG, which was made up of the 84th, 85th and 86th BSs, were, at the time, NATO’s only long-range nuclear capable unit until the B-47 entered service. The 47th BG operated from Sculthorpe from 1952, a station that saw a lot of clandestine operations during the early stages of the Cold War, including B-45s being flown by RAF crews over the fledgling Eastern Block. RB-45Cs were also employed in the Far East. Operating from Yokota, the aircraft flew many long-range operations over Korea, China and the Sakhalin Islands, not far from Vladivostok. However, not enough RB-45Cs were built to keep up an effective coverage and, with spares in short supply, the type was superseded by the late 1950s with the Martin B-57 and Douglas B-66.
PRODUCTION Ten B-45C-1s (NA-153) (48-1-10) and 33 RB-45C-1s (48-11-43). One aircraft was converted to JB-45C standard and operated by General Electric as a test-bed. Under the designation NA-162, a further two B-45Cs and 49 RB-45Cs were cancelled.
TECHNICAL DATA B45C & RB45C ENGINE: Four 5,200lb General Electric J47-GE-13 or -15 WING SPAN: (B) 89ft; (RB with wingtip tanks) 96ft LENGTH: (B) 75ft 4in; (RB) 75ft 11in HEIGHT: 25ft 2in EMPTY WEIGHT: (B) 48,970lb; (RB) 49,600lb
LOADED WEIGHT: (B & RB) 110,700lb MAX SPEED: 579mph at sea level INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 5,800 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: (B) 43,200ft; (RB) 37,600ft COMBAT RADIUS: 1,900 miles with 10,000lb bomb load
Originally built as RB-45C, 48-017 was converted into the only JRB-45C for use on flight test programmes. Mounted in the bomb-bay was a retractable pylon that allowed a jet engine to be flight tested below the aircraft
B-45C, 48-001 which was later converted to an EDB-45C and was operated by the 3077th EG from Edwards AFB. The aircraft was destroyed in a ground accident at Los Angeles Airport on December 8, 1953
The most obvious difference between the B-45A and the B-45C was the large 1,200 US gallon tank which could be jettisoned in flight COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 79
XF86C/YF93A SABRE A much changed machine from the F-86 line of aircraft, warranted NAA’s entrant for a long-range penetration ﬁghter to be redesignated as the YF-93A. This is the ﬁrst of two prototypes, 48-317
DEVELOPMENT Following the cancellation of the contract to produce the P-86B with its deeper fuselage and larger tyres, 188 of the 190 ordered would be built as F-86A-5s instead, leaving two to become F-86C-1s (NA-157). This version of the Sabre was designed in response to a USAF requirement for a long-range penetration ﬁghter. The NAA design would be competing with the Lockheed and XF-90 and the excellent McDonnell XF-88; the latter becoming the F-101 Voodoo.
DESIGN The new ﬁghter diﬀered to such extent from the original F-86 that it was redesignated as the YF-93A in 1948. The aircraft had a much bulkier fuselage which could hold 1,561 gallons of fuel to meet the range requirement and was longer, to house a single afterburning 8,000lb Pratt & Whitney J48 engine (US-built version of the afterburning Rolls-Royce Nene). The area rule-designed fuselage narrowed at the wing roots and the single nose intake of the F-86 was replaced by twin intakes either side of the fuselage. The nose could now accommodate a SCR-720 radar and a larger calibre 20mm cannon replaced the six 0.5in Brownings of the F-86. The additional weight of the YF-93A called for the undercarriage to be reinforced and the twin air brakes
of the F-86A were replaced by a single air brake under the fuselage. Good performance and range could be enhanced by the aircraft’s hardpoints which could carry additional fuel tanks or up to 2,000lbs of various weapons.
SERVICE The ﬁrst of two prototype YF-93As, 48-317, made its maiden ﬂight in the hands of George Welch on January 25, 1950. Prior to this ﬂight, an original contract for 120 aircraft was reduced to just the two prototypes and, with money being at a premium at the time, the concept was dropped. The aircraft the YF-93 was designed to escort on operations was the B-47, and it was soon realised that the big bomber was fast enough to look after itself. Both YF-93 prototypes proved to be very useful research aircraft; both not only served NAA, but also the USAF and NACA. It was NACA who became the ﬁnal outright owners of the two aircraft which served into the late 1950s before both were scrapped.
PRODUCTION Two aircraft, originally built as F-86C-1 (NA-157) and serialled 48-317 and 48-381, redesignated as YF-93A in 1950. An all-weather variant, designated F-93A (NA-166) was cancelled (believed to have been an order for 120 aircraft (including two prototypes) in 1948).
SERVICE CEILING: 46,800ft Originally designated as the F-86C, the YF-93A differed in many ways, including a pointed nose and narrow twin intakes either side of the fuselage
48-317, pictured whilst serving with NACA out of Moffet Field in California during high speed flight trials to test the most efficient type of air intake. Both prototypes were also used as chase aircraft for the new ‘Century Series’ of fighters from the F-101 to the F-106
Only two prototype YF-93As were built, both of them going to serve with NACA until they were scrapped in the late 1950s COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 81
F86E & F86F SABRE The last of a batch of F-86E-10-NAs (NA-172), was 51-2849 which is pictured here being flown by Chuck Yeager
The definitive MiG-killer! » NOV 15, 1949 Order placed by USAF for F-86E
» SEP 23, 1950
First flight of F-86E by George Welch
» MAR 1952
First flight of F-86F-1 with J47-GE-27
» FEB 14, 1953
First flight of TF-86F by Ray Morris
» MAR 17, 1954 Test pilot Jo Lynch killed in TF-86F
» AUG 25, 1954
Joseph R McConnell killed in F-86H accident
On November 15, 1949, the USAF placed an order for 111 F-86Es (NA-170) in an effort to increase the number of day fighter wings. On the surface, the E, and later, F models were improved versions of the F-86A that would go on to serve with great distinction during the Korean War.
The first F-86E made its maiden flight on September 23, 1950 and, by early 1951, the first production aircraft had arrived with USAF fighter groups replacing tired F-86As. While the F-86E levelled the playing field with regard to combat with the MiG-15, the introduction of the F-86F raised the game still further in favour of the USAF. Out of the 40 fighter aces created during the Korean War, 39 of them flew the F-86, claiming approximately 800 MiGs shot down, compared to 80 Sabres. As with most air forces, the USAF claims may have been exaggerated but, even so, the F-86 came out as the victor over the Russian-built fighter. Becoming an ‘Ace’ during the Korean War made many US pilots stars overnight, the top scorers including Capt J D McConnell Jr (16 kills), Mjr J Jabara (15) and Capt M Fernandez (14). McConnell would later have a film made about his exploits. He was killed in an F-86 crash in 1954.
DESIGN The F-86E was equipped with much better flight controls than the F-86A, was fitted with a 5,450lb J47-GE-1 engine and most significantly had an all-flying tail controlled by hydraulic actuators. The new tail was brought into play because the original proved to be ineffective at transonic speeds and many pilots had experienced trouble in recovering from high speed dives. The all-flying tail cured this problem but, as it was controlled by an actuation system, the pilot was provided with an artificial feel system made up of counterweights and bungees. By 1951, a higher rated 6,090lb J47-GE-27 engine was available and, in April of that year, the USAF ordered more day fighters with the new powerplant and a new wing. Originally designated as the F-86E-10, of which 132 were built, the first F-86F-1 flew in March 1952. The F model was also fitted with a much stronger wing, complete with four underwing hardpoints which effectively made the aircraft a fighter bomber because bombs of up to 1,000lbs, napalm or 5in HVAR rockets could be carried. The F-86F continued to be modified through several production block batches until it was classed as the definitive model, proving to be not only popular with its pilots but also to be vice-free.
PRODUCTION 396 F-86Es were built by NAA and Canadair in five production batches, these were the F-86E-1 (60), F-86E-5 (51) and F-86E-6-CAN (60) all of which were factory designated as NA-170. F-86E-10 (225) were designated NA-172. 2,814 F-86Fs were built only by NAA in eleven main production blocks, not including 70 sets of airframe assemblies as NA-231, 110 as NA-238 and 120 as NA-256s all for Japan. Two aircraft were converted to TF-86F standard (52-5016 and 53-1228) while an RF-86F photo-recce version never left the drawing board.
TECHNICAL DATA F86E & F86F ENGINE: (E) One 5,200lb General Electric J47-GE-13 turbojet; (F) One 5,910lb General Electric J47-GE-27 turbojet WING SPAN: 37ft 1.2in LENGTH: (E) 37ft 54in; (F) 37ft 1in HEIGHT: (E) 14ft 79in; (F) 14ft 1in EMPTY WEIGHT: (E) 10,555lb; (F) 11,125lb
TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: (E) (drop tanks) 16,346lb; (F) 15,198lb MAX SPEED: (E) 679mph at sea level; (F) 687mph at sea level INITIAL CLIMB RATE: (E) 7,250 ft/min; (F) 9,000 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: (E) 47,200ft; (F) 49,600ft RANGE: 1,525 miles
Ex-F-86F-30-NA after being converted to a TF-86F Sabre, the first of which, pictured, was 52-106. The two-seat trainer crashed on March 17, 1954, killing test pilot Joe Lynch
A line of F-86Es of the 25th FIS (Fighter Interception Squadron), 51st FIW (Fighter Interception Wing) during the Korean War
An F-86F-5-NA Sabre captured during flight testing over Southern California. Many of the 51 F-5 batch were later transferred to the Taiwanese Air Force COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 83
FJ2/3 FURY The first FJ-2 to fly was 133756, designated as the XF-2B, fitted with 20mm Colt Mk 12 cannons. Bob Hoover took the aircraft into the air for the first time on December 27, 1951
The ‘Blue 86’ » DEC 27, 1951
First flight of XFJ-2B by Bob Hoover
» JUL 3, 1953
William Ingram carries out maiden flight of FJ-3
» JAN 1954
FJ-2 joins VMF-122 ‘Candystripes’ at Cherry Point
» SEP 1954
FJ-3 joins VF-173 at Jacksonville
» OCT 1, 1962 Remaining FJ-3s in service became F-1Cs
The original XP-86 was passed over by the USN because of its high approach and landing speeds, which were not conducive to carrier operations. A few FJ-1 Furies were bought by the USN and were successfully operated so ever since, straight-winged machines, such as the Banshee, Panther and Skynight had been chosen. During trials with an F-86A at Patuxent River, the USN realised that a swept wing jet could be operated at the same low speeds as the Panther, resulting in a complete re-evaluation of what could and could not be operated from the latest US aircraft carriers.
Because NAA were concentrating and building as many F-86Fs as possible, initial FJ-2 production was put on the sidelines and, as a result, the type did not enter until January 1954 with VMF-122. By late 1956, the service career of the FJ-2 was over and by the following year the type had already been retired. The FJ-3 first joined the USN with VF-173, which underwent its first carrier trials on board USS Bennington in May 1955. Many aircraft carrier cruises followed for the FJ-3, the first of which took place in September 1955 when VF-33 toured the Mediterranean on board USS Lake Champlain. The FJ-3 became the first jet to land on one of the new generation of giant US carriers when Cdr R L Werner landed his VF-21 aircraft on USS Forrestal on January 4, 1956. Destined never to see action the FJ-3 did play a supporting role in the evacuation of US citizens during Suez in 1956 and again over Lebanon in 1958. By the early 1960s, the FJ-3 began to be withdrawn from the USN inventory; those that remained were redesignated as the F-1C Fury.
DESIGN Under the designation NA-179, three shipboard fighter prototypes were ordered based on the F-86E in March 1951. Two of the prototypes, designated XFJ-2 Fury by the USN, were modified with V-frame arrestor hooks, the necessary catapult attachment fittings. The nose wheel leg was lengthened to raise the angle of attack during take-off. While the first two aircraft were unarmed, the third machine, designated as the XFJ-2B, was a standard F-86E fitted with four 20mm Colt Mk 12 cannons. Due to the lack of modifications implemented, the XFJ-2B, 133756 was the first prototype to fly on December 27, 1951 with Bob Hoover at the controls. The FJ-3 was effectively an uprated version of the FJ-2, which was let down by a lack of power. A 7,720lb Wright J65-W-2 engine was fitted and the prototype, modified FJ-2, 131931, first flew on July 3, 1953. Other differences were a larger air intake; the ammunition for the 20mm was raised to a total of 648 rounds and increased cockpit armour.
PRODUCTION 742 FJ-2s and 3s were built between 1951 and 1956. These were a pair of XFJ-2 (NA-179) prototypes, 200 FJ-2 (NA-181) production aircraft and a single XFJ-2B (NA-185). 389 FJ-3s (NA-194) followed, one FJ-3 (NA-196) modified with a J65-W-2 engine and 149 FJ-3s (NA-215). Several of the latter were upgraded to FJ-3M standard, which included the ability to carry Sidewinder missiles.
TECHNICAL DATA FJ2 & FJ3 FURY ENGINE: (2) One 6,000lb General Electric J47-GE-2 turbojet; (3) One 7,650lb Wright J65-W-4B WING SPAN: 37 1in LENGTH: 37ft 7in
Ex-FJ-2, 131931, was modified to be powered by a J65-W-2 engine and redesignated as an FJ-3 (NA-196)
VMF-232 flew the FJ-2 Fury from 1954 to 1956 and, during March 1956, the unit set a record of 2,558 flying hours and 1,571 sorties in single month
FJ-3 Fury, 136135, was one of 389 aircraft built as the NA-194; a total of 538 were built as the NA-194 and NA-215 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 85
F86H SABRE A pair of F-86H-10-NH Sabres of the 101st FIS, 102nd TFW, Massachusetts Air National Guard
The most powerful Sabre of all » MAR 16, 1951 Work began on the NA-187
» MAY 1953
First flight of F-86H
» MAR 16, 1956 Production ends
F-86Hs join ANG
Last QF-86H drone written off
DEVELOPMENT The F-86H (NA-187) represented the end of the line of the development road which the Sabre had travelled. The aircraft incorporated all the knowledge and experience that had been gained during the Korean War from the A, E and F models. By the latter stages of the conflict, the need for more fighter-bombers proved to be greater than interceptors and while the F-86F performed reasonably well in this role, the aircraft’s general performance, range and manoeuvrability suffered. The F-86H would be more powerful and have an increased load carrying ability without any loss in performance.
DESIGN More power for the F-86H was provided by an 8,920lb J73-GE-3 engine which was a bigger engine than its predecessors. As a result, the fuselage of the H model was lengthened to accommodate the longer engine and jet pipe and the air intake was made bigger. The aircraft also had a fuselage that was six inches deeper which allowed an increase in the internal fuel capacity to 562 gallons. A new canopy and a new ejection seat were also installed. The wing of the F-86H was redesigned so that its stores carrying capacity could be increased allowing the aircraft to carry nuclear or conventional weapons, such as bombs, napalm and rockets. A LABS system was fitted for the delivery of nuclear weapons. The initial production batch was fitted with six 0.5in Browning
machine guns but later variants had a quarter of 20mm M-39 cannons installed.
SERVICE Two F-86H prototypes (52-1975 and 1976) were built at Inglewood. The first of them was rolled out in April 1953 and made its maiden flight the following month. Too late for the Korean War, the F-86H proved to be an outstanding aircraft; the new powerful engine in particular produced an excellent rate of climb. Manoeuvrability was very good and the F-86H would remain the best USAF fighter-bomber at high-altitude until the arrival of the F-15 Eagle in 1972. The H model was a superior performer in every department compared to the F-86A but the rate of aircraft development at the time still saw the F-86H being withdrawn from front line USAF fighter units as early as 1957. By that year, the type had been transferred to 14 ANG units and would remain with many of them into the 1970s. Many F-86Hs saw out their days as QF-86Hs, operating from China Lake into the late 1970s and several were transferred to the USN for aggressor training.
PRODUCTION Two prototypes were built at Inglewood and 473 production aircraft were built at the Columbus factory in three batches. These were F-86H-1 (113) and F-86H-5 (60) as NA-187s and F-86H-10 (300) as NA-203s.
TECHNICAL DATA F86H10 ENGINE: One 8,900lb General Electric J73-GE-3E and -3D WING SPAN: 39ft 1.4in LENGTH: 38ft 10in
COMBAT WEIGHT: 24,296lb MAX SPEED: 692mph CLIMB RATE: 12,900 ft/min
HEIGHT: 14ft 11in EMPTY WEIGHT: 13,836lb
SERVICE CEILING: 50,800ft F-86H-10-NH Sabre, 53-1298 is, today, one of many preserved H models. The aircraft is on display in Churubusco, Indiana
F-86Hs of the 195th FIS, California Air National Guard, over their home state during a mission from Van Nuys
F-86H-10-NH, 53-1383 during its service with the 137th FIS, New York Air National Guard. The Sabre was later converted to a QF-86H and remained in this role until August 6, 1980 when the aircraft was written off at China Lake. The nose of the Sabre is on display at the Chino Air Museum COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 87
YF100A & F100A The prototype YF-100, 52-5754, which exceeded Mach 1 on its maiden flight on May 25, 1953 in the hands of George Welch
NAA enters the ‘century fighter’ race » APR 24, 1953 George Welch flies YF-100A
» OCT 14, 1953
Second YF-100A makes maiden flight
» SEP 29, 1954 F-100A joins 479th FDG
» OCT 12, 1954
George Welch killed during test dive
» NOV 1954 All F-100As grounded
Withdrawn from operational USAF
DEVELOPMENT The story of the F-100 Super Sabre began in the late 1940s, a time when designers Raymond Rice and Edgar Schmued were attempting to stretch the F-86 into an aircraft capable of breaking the speed of sound in level flight. Increasing the wing sweep to 45° would not achieve this goal alone but when an uprated afterburning J35 engine was presented as an option, achieving supersonic flight without entering a dive seemed plausible. The design was taken a step further when it was named the Sabre 45. The aircraft took advantage of the best features of the F-86D/E, but would be powered by a J57 turbojet rated at 15,000lb static thrust. The Sabre 45 generated a great deal of interest within the USAF and in October 1951 they decided to push forward the development of the new fighter; this was accelerated by the fact that the US was embroiled in the Korean War. On November 1, 1951, the USAF placed an order for a pair of Sabre 45 prototypes and 110 production aircraft.
SERVICE The first YF-100 prototype carried out its maiden flight on April 24, 1953 and with little effort breached Mach 1 on its first outing. The first F-100A production aircraft first flew on October 29, 1953 and, at the same time, the first prototype set a new world speed record of 754.99 mph. The F-100A first joined the USAF with the 436th
Fighter Day Squadron, 479th Fighter Day Group based at George AFB on September 29, 1954, becoming the first operational jet capable of flying supersonic in level flight. Early production F-100As were powered by the 15,000lb J57-P-7 turbojet but the final 36 aircraft of a total of 203 built were upgraded with a 16,000lb J57-P-39 powerplant. The F-100A was not without its problems and many thought the aircraft was rushed into service too early and a spate of serious accidents caused by loss of control saw the entire fleet grounded by November 1954. The problem, which had been pointed out by USAF test pilots from the start was that the F-100A’s tail was too small, unlike that of the YF-100A, which was later retrofitted to the operational fighter. The modified F-100A was not cleared for service again until late 1955 but still carried several operational deficiencies that held the type back from being a good fighter. As a result, the service career in the front line with the USAF was short and by 1958 the type was being phased out to be allocated to ANG unit, the first being the 188th TFS. 70 F-100As would eventually serve with ANG units, while the remainder were used by the USAF for aircrew training only. 118 F-100As were sold to China; the majority of them were fully modified with F-100D tail units. Despite the modifications, the F-100A’s safety record was appalling with approximately 50 lost in service, which was a loss rate of around 25%!
TECHNICAL DATA YF100 & F100A ENGINE: (YF) One 13,200lb (reheat) Pratt & Whitney XJ57-P-7 turbojet; (A) One 14,800lb (reheat) Pratt & Whitney XJ57-P-7/39 turbojet
GROSS WEIGHT: (YF) 24,789lb; (A) 24,996lb MAX SPEED: (YF) 660mph at 43,450ft; (A) 852mph
F-100A-15-NA Super Sabre, 53-1585 of the 152nd Tactical Training Squadron, Arizona Air National Guard based at Tucson. The fighter displays three drone ‘victories’ under the cockpit and sports a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinders under the port wing
52-5754 taxying in after its second flight on May 25, 1953, during which George Welch breached Mach 1 again, on both occasions in level flight. By the end of the day NAA were proclaiming the F-100 to be the world’s first operational supersonic aircraft
The pilot of F-100A-10-NA Super Sabre, 53-1530, flies ‘hands-off ’ during a sortie over California COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 89
F100C SUPER SABRE The USAF aerobatic team the Thunderbirds, operated the F-100C Super Sabre from 1956 to 1964
‘The Hun’ goes ground-attack » MAR 1954
First flight of F-100C
» JAN 17, 1955
First flight of production aircraft
» APR 1955
First deliveries to USAF
Served with Thunderbirds
ANG reaches peak strength
Retired from USAF
DEVELOPMENT The F-100C was designed in response to the need for a variant with increased fuel capacity and the ability to carry out ground-attack operations which was required by the USAF. A ‘wet’ wing would be needed to achieve the necessary increase in fuel although the prototype would have a dry wing, the same as the F-100A.
DESIGN Production F-100Cs were all fitted with a ‘wet’ wing which raised the internal fuel capacity by 451 US gallons. The internal structure of the aircraft was strengthened so that it could withstand the stresses and strains placed upon it when releasing under-wing stores. For the latter, eight under-wing hardpoints were built into the F-100C. On these points could be carried a pair of external fuel tanks of 335 gallon capacity, bombs of between 500 and 2,000lb, up to twelve 5in High Velocity Air Rockets, a nuclear weapon and/or provision for a variety of special stores. Power was provided by a J57-P-21 engine which raised the maximum speed and lowered the time needed to reach 35,000ft by 10%.
SERVICE The F-100C first flew in March 1954 and on May 27 the 90
USAF placed an order for 564 aircraft (later modified, as 224 of this order were built as F-100Ds). The first production aircraft took to the air on January 17, 1955 in the hands of Alvin S. White. Thanks to the F-100C’s extra power, the aircraft soon found itself in the record books starting on August 20, 1955 when Col H Hanes set a new world speed record of 822.135 mph over Palmdale. Deliveries to the USAF started in April 1955 and the F-100C first became fully operational with the 450th Fighter Day Squadron at Foster AFB later in the year. Approximately one-third of all F-100Cs built would serve with units in Europe (USAFE) including the 36th Fighter Day Group who formed the Skyblazers aerobatic team which thrilled crowds until 1961. The USAF Thunderbirds also operated the F-100C from 1956 until 1964. By 1959, the F-100C began to be withdrawn to ANG units, full strength being reached in 1966. Like its predecessor, the F-100A, the C-model had a short service career and, in 1970, the type flew its last USAF mission.
PRODUCTION A total of 476 F-100Cs were built made up of 70 F-100C-1s (NA-214), 381 F-100C-1, C-5, C-15, C-20 and C-25 (NA-217) and 25 F-100C-10s (NA-222), the latter being built at the Columbus factory.
MAX WEIGHT: 32,549lb MAX SPEED: 924mph INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 21,600 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 38,700ft COMBAT RADIUS: 572 miles
F-100Cs of the 479th Fighter Day Wing out of George AFB, California not long after the unit received the fighter in the spring of 1956
F-100C-20-NA Super Sabre of the 36th FDW, 53rd FDS during a demonstration flight. The fighter was lost on March 4, 1958 when it crashed near Pirmasens in West Germany
Originally built as an F-100C-1, 53-1709 was redesignated as a JF-100C to serve with NASA between 1962 and 1972. Today the aircraft is preserved at the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, California COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 91
F86K & L SABRE A quartet of F-86K Sabres of 700 Sqn Royal Netherlands Air Force which operated the type from 1955 to 1964
Simplifying the D Model for NATO » JUL 7, 1954 YF-86K makes first flight
» MAY 23, 1955 First Fiat-built aircraft flies
Fiat-built F-86K enters service
F-86L joins Air Defence Command
IAF F-86Ks retired
In January 1953, the US Government approached NAA with the idea of equipping the air forces of NATO members with the same all-weather fighter; namely the F-86D. The idea was for NAA to build a simplified version of the D model, with funds provided by the US Mutual Defence Assistance Program (MDAP). Main production of the new variant would be carried out by Fiat in Italy.
The first YF-86K (NA-205) made its maiden flight from Los Angeles International Airport on July 15, 1954 in the hands of NAA test pilot Ray Morris. The first Fiatassembled F-86K was flown for the first time by Col Arthur DeBolt on May 23, 1955. Work began after 50 complete airframes, minus engines and ordnance were built at Inglewood as NA-207s, for assembly in Italy. These aircraft entered service with the Italian Air Force (IAF) in mid-1956 and would continue to serve until 1964. A total of 221 F-86Ks were built by Fiat, 60 of them going on to serve with the French Air Force and a further 88 going to the West German Air Force. Those F-86Ks that were destined to serve with the Netherlands and Norwegian air forces were built at Inglewood; 120 were eventually delivered under the designation NA-213. The F-86L joined the USAF Air Defence Command in 1957 as an effective stopgap until the arrival of the F-102 Delta Dagger and the F-106 Delta Dart. The majority of F-86Ls continued to provide good service with the ANG from 1960 until the type was declared as obsolete in 1965.
DESIGN Working with a pair of F-86D-40s (52-3630 and 52-3804), NAA redesignated the two aircraft as YF-86Ks. Modifications included replacing the rocket pack with four 20mm cannon and fitting a M-4A-1 fire-control system, which was less complicated than the original E-4 system, which was also unreliable. The AM/APG-7 radar was retained but revised slightly. To accommodate the 20mm cannon, the fuselage was extended by eight inches forward of the leading edge of the wing. Vent holes were put in each of the cannon bay doors to release recoil gases which had proved to be a problem in the past. By 1956, an extended service life programme was started by NAA for the F-86D which would see 981 D-10 models upgraded to F-86Ls. Under the title Project Follow-On, the main upgrade revolved around the installation of Semiautomatic Ground Environment (SAGE) targeting control equipment. This state of the art system could instantly feed the range, bearing, speed and altitude of a target into the fighter’s receiver via an AN/ARR-39 data-link.
PRODUCTION Two YF-86K prototypes plus 340 F-86K production aircraft; NA-207 (50), NA-213 (120), NA-221 (70), NA-232 (56) and NA-242 (45). With the exception of the NA-213, all of these F-86Ks were built as airframe sets for NATO. 981 low-hour F-86Ds modified to F-86L standard.
TECHNICAL DATA F86K & L ENGINE: (K) One 7,950lb (with afterburner) General Electric J47-GE-17B; (L) One 5,550lb J47-GE-33 WING SPAN: (L) 39ft 1.4in
COMBAT WEIGHT: 16,252lb MAX SPEED: 692mph at sea level
LENGTH: (K) 40ft 11in
INITIAL RATE OF CLIMB: (K) 12,000 ft/min
SERVICE CEILING: 49,600ft
EMPTY WEIGHT: (K) 13,811lb
COMBAT RADIUS: 272 miles
The F-86L first entered service with the USAF in late 1956 and was destined only to serve in the front line for four years. Transferred to the ANG, the F-86L remained with the ‘weekend warriors’ until 1965
The Italian Air Force operated a total of 93 F-86Ks between 1956 and 1965. This aircraft is MM54905 (aka USAF serial 54-905)
The French Air Force operated a pair of F-86K Sabre units. This aircraft, an ex-Italian Air Force, is 54860/13.QV of EC 1/13 ‘Artois’ based at Colmar, circa 1958 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 93
FJ4 FURY A trio of FJ-4s (later redesignated as the F-1E) of the USMCs VMF-323
Columbus designed and built » JUN 4, 1953
NA-208 issued for two FJ-4 prototypes
» DEC 1953 Work begins on the FJ-4
» OCT 28, 1954
FJ-4 Fury prototype, 139279 first flight
» FEB 1955
First production aircraft built
Last FJ-4 Fury delivered
FJ-4s final operational cruise
DEVELOPMENT The last of the Fury variants was the FJ-4, which came about almost by accident following the grounding of the USN’s F3H-1 fleet because of engine problems. In haste, the USN approached NAA for an alternative aircraft that would become the first machine totally designed and developed at the Columbus Division. It would be quite a challenge, as the USN required an aircraft that had the same performance as the F3H, could fly as fast without drop tanks and be ready in less than two years.
DESIGN On June 4, 1953, General Order NA-208 was issued for a pair of FJ-4 prototypes powered by J65 engines. Priority in the design was internal fuel capacity, so the fuselage was bulked out to carry 50% more fuel than the FJ-3. The FJ-4 gained a new, heat-treated wing with a milled skin and a 6-3 drooped leading edge allowed more fuel to be carried. Span was increased by two feet, totalling 37 sq/ft and the outer wing panels, outboard of the main underwing hard point, could be raised to the vertical for additional room below decks. The FJ-4 was lightened by removing forward armour plating and reducing the amount of ammunition carried for the four 20mm cannon. Four underwing hardpoints were designed to carry a 1,000lb bomb in the inboard and a 500lb on the outboard or Sidewinder missiles. The new wing was much thinner and as a result the undercarriage had to be redesigned to fit into a smaller space. The solution was achieved by using a new levered system.
SERVICE On October 28, 1954, the first of two FJ-4 prototypes, 139279, made its maiden flight in the hands of NAA test pilot Dick Wenzell. At the same time as the order for the 94
two prototypes was placed, the USN ordered 221 production FJ-4s (NA-209) and a single static test aircraft. The first production aircraft were ready in early 1955 and by February the FJ-4 began to arrive with VMF-451. By early 1957, all of the original contract had been delivered, the type also equipping VMF-232 and VMF-235, like VMF-451 these were all Marine Fighter Squadrons. The only USN unit to operate the FJ-4 was VA-126 at NAS Miramar, which was later given the task of retraining pilots on the FJ-4B. The FJ-4B was a ground attack version of the original aircraft fitted with six underwing pylons capable of carrying up to 6,000lbs of weapons or fuel. The FJ-4B was also equipped with the same LABS system as the F-86H. The FJ-4B was actually built in greater numbers than the original machine and first entered service in early 1957. The B model equipped ten USN Attack Squadrons and three Marine Attack Squadrons, all of them serving with the Pacific Fleet. The FJ-4B carried out its first operational cruise onboard USS Hancock with VA-214 and its final with the same aircraft carrier in 1962 with VA-216. One other development of the final Fury was the FJ-4F, which first flew in April 1957 as the NA-234 (later NA-248 and NA-251). The aircraft were used to test externally attached rocket engines in a variety of configurations, which resulted in some very impressive performance results.
PRODUCTION 379 FJ-4 variants were built, including two FJ-4 (NA-208) prototypes and 221 FJ-4 (NA-209) production aircraft. The last 71 of the NA-209 contract were built as FJ-4Bs. Further orders for 45 FJ-4 NA-220s and 46 NA-229s were cancelled. 151 FJ-4Bs (NA-244) were followed by 5 FJ-4Fs. NA-234 was used for mono-propellant rocket engine testing, NA-248 for bi-propellant testing and NA-251 for variable-thrust testing.
TECHNICAL DATA FJ4 & FJ4B FURY ENGINE: One 7,700lb Wright J65-W-16A turbojet
139284, the fourth FJ-4 was built after conversion to FJ-4F standard to test the NAA-developed AR-1 bi-propellant (JP-4 and Hydrogen Peroxide) which is mounted in the tail
The prototype FJ-4 Fury (NA-208), 139279, during early flight trials in the summer of 1953
Three FJ-4B Furies (redesignated as AF-1E) of VA-146 out of NAS Miramar COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 95
F100D SUPER SABRE F-100D-85-NH Super Sabre, 56-3408, of the 401st FDW (Fighter Day Wing) based at England AFB, circa early 1958
Finally, the fighter-bomber that the USAF really needed » JAN 24, 1956 Maiden flight by Dan Darnell
» JUN 12, 1956
First Columbus-built D model flies
» SEP 1956
USAF receive first deliveries
» AUG 1959
Last F-100D rolls off production line
Served with the Thunderbirds
» JUL 1971
Last F-100Ds left Vietnam
DEVELOPMENT Without doubt the definitive version of the Super Sabre, the D-model filled the crucial fighter-bomber role for the USAF just in time for its most testing conflict of the second half of the 20th Century.
DESIGN The F-100D introduced a flapped-wing and a larger vertical stabiliser which helped to improve general handling. Internal ECM equipment was now fitted and a LABS (Low-Altitude Bombing System) which was designed for toss delivery of tactical nuclear weapons. The F-100D was also equipped for in-flight refuelling.
SERVICE The first F-100D made its maiden flight on January 24, 1956 and by September was being delivered to the 405th FBW at Langley AFB. Later, all F-100Ds in USAF service would be upgraded under Project Hire Wire which saw all aircraft become standardised and modified to carry a variety of non-nuclear weapons. Hire Wire cost the US tax payer $150 million and was carried out between April 1962 and the middle of 1965. From 1964, the F-100D replaced the F-100C as the preferred mount of the Thunderbirds and remained in this role until 1969. It was during one routine by the
USAF aerobatic that an aircraft lost both wings at an airshow during a high g manoeuvre in October 1967. As a result, operational F-100Ds were restricted to manoeuvres under 4g (The Thunderbirds accident is believed to have occurred at 6.5g) until the wings of all service aircraft were reinforced. In Vietnam, where the type was affectionately called ‘The Hun’, the F-100D proved to be a very effective ground-attack aircraft. In Vietnam, the F-100D had a wide range of weapons made available to it including 750lb iron bombs although the 500lb version proved to be the most effective and widely used. Deadly napalm was also delivered using a 2.75in Folding-Fin Air Rocket. The F-100D remained in South East Asia until the US involvement in the region began to fade and, by 1972, the majority of Super Sabres were back in the USA. Many were put out to pasture not long after while others served as QF-100D drones. The type was still being used on these one way missions until the 1980s.
PRODUCTION The most prolific of all Super Sabres, 1,274 F-100Ds were built. 496 of them were designated as the NA-223, 221 as the NA-224, 444 as the NA-235 and 113 as the NA-245. 13 F-100Ds (NA-254) were cancelled
MAX WEIGHT: 38,048lb MAX SPEED: 864mph at 36,000ft INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 19,000 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 36,100ft COMBAT RADIUS: 534 miles
A F-100D of the 352nd TFS over the typical, heavy forest terrain of South Vietnam. This Super Sabre is dropping a napalm bomb near Bien Hoa
F-100D-90-NA Super Sabre, 56-3262, of the 48th TFW (Tactical Fighter Wing) pictured at Lakenheath, circa 1970
When the first F-100Ds arrived in Southeast Asia they were painted in their original natural silver but as the war progressed all were camouflaged. These Super Sabres are serving with the 481st TFS (Tactical Fighter Squadron), circa early 1966 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 97
YF107A NA212 The third YF-107A prototype, 55-5120, pictured on Rogers Dry lakebed in 1959
Innovative and radical tactical fighter-bomber » AUG 4, 1954 TAC order placed
» SEP 1954
» SEP 10, 1956 First YF-107 flight by Bob Baker
» NOV 3, 1956 Mach 2 breached by J O Roberts
» JAN 1957
USAF order reduced to three
» AUG 1, 1959
Final YF-107 flight by Scott Crossfield
DEVELOPMENT In June 1953, NAA began a design study for an all-weather version of the F-100 but with the arrival of the F-102 Delta Dagger, the idea was shelved. However, the study did not go to waste because, in August 1954, the Tactical Air Command (TAC) placed an order for a new all-weather fighter-bomber version of the F-100, complete with an air-to-air track-and-find radar system. Designated as the Air Force Weapon System 305B, NAA’s design would be up against the F-105 Thunderchief.
DESIGN Originally designated the YF-100B, it was soon realised that the aircraft’s ultimate mission capability would need a new designation, so it became the NA-212, or YF-107A. The first design layout saw the radar placed in the nose and the air intake located directly below the fuselage in a similar vein to the F-86D family. This layout was later found to be aerodynamically poor so the designers thought outside the box and placed the air intake on top of the fuselage instead. Airflow into the engine was further improved by splitting it into a two-position inlet duct; a system that was fitted to the first two prototypes, while a Variable Air Inlet Duct was fitted to the third. The ‘area rule’ concept was applied to the fuselage, which had a very sharp nose profile housing the radar and four 20mm cannon. The storage of weapons was also neatly designed into this attractive looking machine. The wing looked very similar to that of the F-100 but it was, in fact, a brand new design which incorporated spoilers on both upper and lower
surfaces in place of ailerons. The fin and tail plane were single, all-moving surfaces.
SERVICE When signed, the USAF contract called for nine flight-test and a single static-test aircraft. By September 1954, a full-scale mock-up was approved by the USAF and, on May 1, 1955, design of the production machine began. The first YF-107A, 55-5118, made its maiden flight from Edwards AFB on September 10, 1956 in the hands of Bob Baker. The flight was a success that was only marred when the brake chute failed to deploy on landing, forcing Baker to brake so hard that the nose leg failed. Damage was minimal and by October the aircraft was back in the air. On November 3, 1956, NAA test pilot J O Roberts pushed the aircraft through Mach 2 for the first time. The second aircraft, 55-5119, flew for the first time on November 28, 1956 and the third, 55-5120 on February 18, 1957, by which time the original contract had been reduced to three prototypes. Flight testing progressed very well for all three YF-107s but ultimately the F-105 won the contract by a whisker – the Republic’s design of a concealed bomb bay sealing the deal. Scott Crossfield made the final YF-107 flight on August 1, 1959 and today two of the three prototypes are preserved in the USA. 55-5118 can be seen at Pima County Air Museum, Tucson and 55-5119 is extant at the USAF Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB. 55-5120 was written off in a take-off accident in September 1959 and later scrapped at Edwards in 1963, having seen out its days as a hulk for fire fighting training.
MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 41,537lb MAX SPEED: 1,295mph at 36,000ft INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 39,900 ft/min
HEIGHT: 19ft 8in
SERVICE CEILING: 53,200ft
EMPTY WEIGHT: 22,696lb
MAX RANGE: 2,428 miles
A fine study of 55-5119 showing the aircraft’s pleasing lines and dramatic colour scheme which helped to publicise NAA’s latest jet fighter, while the USAF would have preferred the machine to have been kept under wraps
The prototype YF-107A, 55-5118, which was leased to NACA and given the buzz number ‘207’, pictured at Edwards AFB
The second prototype YF-107A, 55-5119, pictured at Edwards AFB in 1958. The aircraft is preserved in the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 99
F100F SUPER SABRE F-100F-5-NA Super Sabre, 63-759, in company with an F-100D, both aircraft serving with the 118th TFS, Connecticut ANG circa 1978
Two-seat supersonic combat trainer » AUG 3, 1956
Modified TF-100C flies for the first time
» JAN 1958
First deliveries to the USAF
» NOV 1965
‘Wild Weasel’ arrives in Southeast Asia
» DEC 3, 1965
First ‘Wild Weasel I’ operation
Withdrawn from USAF
Retired from RDAF service
DEVELOPMENT The loss rate of the F-100 was very high and it was thought, quite rightly, that part of the problem was the fact that inexperienced pilots were being let loose in a very complex supersonic aircraft without an instructor keeping a close eye on proceedings. The solution was a two-seat Super Sabre and in September 1954 the USAF loaned NAA a single F-100C for conversion into a trainer. 54-1966 was converted to TF-100C (NA-230) standard and flew for the first time in August 1956 only to be lost during a spinning test in April 1957. In the meantime, the idea of the two-seater was taken a step further to become a fully operational combat trainer, which was effectively a two-seat version of the workhorse F-100D.
DESIGN Under the NAA designation, NA-243, and USAF designation F-100F, the two-seat trainer was made fully capable of combat operations and could carry the same loads as the F-100D. The only difference was that the internal armament of four 20mm cannon was reduced to two. The F model evolved into the F-100F-20 (NA-255) which was specifically modified for the Pacific Air Forces. The F-20 featured an AN/ASN-7 dead-reckoning computer, PC-212 Doppler radar and a J-4 compass system. A batch of 15 F-100Fs was also modified to operate the GAM-83A Bullpup air-to-surface missile. As with the F-100D before, the F-100F had its fair share of problems and all were upgraded during Project High Wire.
SERVICE The first production F-100F, 56-3725, was first flown by Gage Mace on March 7, 1957 and, by January 1958, the first aircraft were being delivered to the USAF; priority being given to F-100D units operating overseas. 100
The F-100F was destined to make a name for itself during the Vietnam War, which was already proving to be a costly one for the US. A major problem was North Vietnamese SAM sites and their radar stations, which were taking a heavy toll of USAF aircraft. In 1965, work began on fitting a few F-100F with the necessary equipment to home in on the SA-2 fire control radar by using an AN/ APR-25 radar homing and warning receiver. The system operator in the rear seat of the F-100F had a display and CRT which gave a bearing to the SA-2 signal. An AN/ APR-26 receiver picked up missile guidance launch signals and a sensitive IR-133 backed up the process through being able to analyse the nature of threat. So the USAF’s first ‘Wild Weasel’ was born, and those equipped F-100Fs were also armed with two LAU-3 rocket packs which could be used as markers for the SAM site or could, in their own right be used to knock out a radar site. Usually the ‘Wild Weasel’ would have bombers for company who would obliterate the SAM once it was identified and marked. By later 1965, the first ‘Wild Weasel I’ aircraft were in Southeast Asia and, on December 3, the first operation, called Iron Hand was flown by one F-100F and four F-105s. By the late 1960s, many F-100Fs had been withdrawn from the USAF, the last serving until June 1972. Several foreign air forces also operated the F-100F, the last TF-100F serving the RDAF until 1983. Several of these continued to serve into the late 1980s and 1990s with Flight Systems Inc.
PRODUCTION 339 F-100Fs built, beginning with the main production batch of 295 F-100F-1, F-5, F-10 and F-15 as NA-243s; 29 F-100F-20 (NA-255), nine F-100F-15 (NA-261) and six F-100F-15 (NA-262). Only eight F-100F-20s were converted to ‘Wild Weasel I’ standard.
TECHNICAL DATA F100F ENGINE: One 10,200lb (dry), 16,000lb (reheat) Pratt & Whitney J57-P21/21A turbojet
MAX WEIGHT: 39,122lb
WING SPAN: 38ft 9in
INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 23,800 ft/min
LENGTH: 50ft 4in
MAX SPEED: 852mph at 35,000ft
HEIGHT: 16ft 2¾in
SERVICE CEILING: 44,900ft
EMPTY WEIGHT: 21,712lb
MAX RANGE: 1,294 miles
A large number of F-100F Super Sabres served with ANG throughout the 1970s (all from 1972). This aircraft, 63-746, an F-100F-5-NA is pictured serving with the 181st TFG, 122nd TFW in July 1976. Retired by 1979, this Super Sabre was later converted into a QF-100F drone
F-100F-10-NA Super Sabre, 56-3780, pictured in USAF service before it was transferred to the Royal Danish Air Force in 1974 as GT-870. The aircraft survives today as a gate guard at Skyrdstrup
An F-100F pictured in Southeast Asia whilst serving as a Forward Air Controller aircraft as party of Operation Misty. The Super Sabre replaced the slow-flying light aircraft traditionally used for this role that were falling victim to AAA, SAMs and enemy fighters at an alarming rate COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 101
YA3J1 A5A VIGILANTE The prototype YA3J-1 (later redesignated XA-5A), 145157, which was rolled out at Columbus in May 1958 before making its maiden flight in August
Carrier-based supersonic nuclear strike bomber » AUG 31, 1958
First flight of YA3J-1
» JUL 1960
Carrier trials aboard USS Saratoga
» DEC 13, 1960 World altitude record set at 91,451ft
» JUN 1961
A3J-1 enters service with VAH-3
Last A3J-1s delivered
DEVELOPMENT The US Navy had acquired a nuclear strike capability during the post-war period with the AJ Savage and subsequent A-3 Skywarrior, but neither of these aircraft could fly at supersonic speeds and both rapidly became obsolete. In November 1953 NAA took it upon themselves to design such an aircraft, which was referred to as the ‘North American General Purpose Attack Weapon' and designated as the NA-233.
DESIGN By mid-1956, the USN had ordered a pair of prototype aircraft which would be known as the YA3J-1 Vigilante with a planned schedule that would see a Mach 2 nuclear bomber rolled out in two years. The Vigilante was a dramatic looking aircraft with a long, thin fuselage, mounting a relatively small swept-back wing of only 754 sq/ft plus an all-moving fin and tailplane. The tricycle undercarriage, all of which had a single wheel, retracted into the fuselage. The main gear had to rotate through 90° so as to fit into the limited space available. Power was provided by a pair of YJ79 engines while their bays were made up of titanium and coated in gold film to deflect heat. The Vigilante introduced many novel construction features, including that of the skin of the wings, which was made of aluminium-lithium alloy, variable engine inlets, a stretched acrylic windscreen and a retractable refuelling probe. The crew were accommodated in tandem and provided with NAA HS-1 rocket-boosted ejection seats. New technology was prevalent throughout, starting with a AN/ASB-12 Bomb Directing Set, a multi-mode
radar, a radar computer with a head-up display, a TV camera fitted under the nose for daylight target sighting, a Radar-Equipped Inertial Navigation System and, to top all that, the Vigilante was the first aircraft to be fitted with fly-by-wire. The main weapon of the Vigilante, a single free-fall nuclear bomb, was ejected rearwards from the internal bomb bay out of an aperture between the twin jet pipes. This method was designed to give the aircraft a better chance of escaping the blast of its own deadly weapon.
SERVICE The prototype YA3J-1, was rolled out at Columbus, as planned on May 16, 1958 and, on August 31, 1958, NAA Chief Test Pilot Dick Wenzel made the first flight. The second prototype first flew in November 1958 but was lost following a total hydraulic and systems failure on June 3, 1959. In July 1960, carrier trials had been successful completed aboard USS Saratoga and, by the following year, the first production version, the A3J-1 (later A-5A) entered service with VAH-3 in June 1961. VAH-7 was the first operational unit to fly the Vigilante from USS Enterprise in January 1962 and was followed by further deliveries to VAH-1 and VAH-3 operating from Forrestalclass aircraft carriers.
PRODUCTION Designated as the NA-247, two YA3J-1 prototypes (145157 & 145158) were built followed by nine A3J-1s (146694146702). Production A3J-1 (A-5A) version followed as the NA-263 and NA-269 of which 14 (147850-147863) and ten (147924-148933) were built respectively.
TECHNICAL DATA YA3J1 ENGINE: Two 16,500lb (reheat) General Electric J79-GE-8 turbojets
SERVICE CEILING: 52,100ft MAX RANGE: 1,290 miles with Mk.27 weapon and two 400gal drop tanks
Another view of prototype, 145157, after it was rolled out at Columbus in May 1958. The name of the aircraft was deliberately made as large as possible along the nose for publicity purposes
Lt Cdr E A Decker makes the first carrier take-off from USS Saratoga in, A3J-1, 146697, in July 1960
A-5A Vigilantes of VAH-7, nicknamed ‘Peacemakers of the Fleet’ pictured on the deck of the USS Enterprise during a Fleet Mediterranean cruise between August and October 1962 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 103
T2 BUCKEYE The prototype YT2J-1 (T-2A), 144219, which first flew on January 31, 1958 in the hands of Dick Wenzell
Multi-role jet trainer » JAN 31, 1958 First flight of the YT2J-1 (T-2A)
» MAY 1959
USN trials aboard USS Antietam
» APR 17, 1968 First flight of the YT-2C
T-2C enters service with USN
Venezuela orders twelve T-2Cs (T-2D)
T-2E delivered to Greek Air Force
DEVELOPMENT In 1956, the USN issued a new requirement for a multi-role jet trainer. With little competition, NAA won the contract on the back of its NA-241 design, which incorporated a host of tried and tested components and proven equipment that had already been manufactured by the company.
DESIGN The order was placed by the USN for the T2J-1 (later redesignated as the T-2A), which made full use of a wing basically inherited from the FJ-1 Fury and of the control systems of a T-28C Trojan. Power was provided by a single 3,400lb J34-WE-36 turbojet, which would make the little trainer, which only had a span of just over 38ft, a sprightly performer. Both student and instructor were accommodated in a tandem configuration with ejection seats and these were later upgraded to zero-zero seats.
SERVICE The first T-2A, 144217, was rolled out at Columbus on December 27, 1957 and was first flown by Dick Wenzell on January 31, 1958. The first production T-2A made its maiden flight on January 31, 1958, although the first deliveries to the USN did not begin until July 1959. By this time, the T-2A had been given the name Buckeye
and was being operated by USN training squadrons, VT-4, VT-7, VT-9 and VT-19. Of the 217 T-2As built, a pair became YT-2B (T2J-2) prototypes powered by a pair of 3,000lb Pratt & Whitney J60-P-6 turbojets, which dramatically raised the aircraft’s engine failure safety margins and raised the power available by 88% over the single J34. The YT-2B made its maiden flight on August 30, 1962 and was followed by 97 production aircraft. The B model was followed by the C, beginning with a single YT-2C prototype, which was a converted T-2B fitted with J85 turbojets. 273 T-2Cs were built for the USN; this figure was made up of 231 standard T-2Cs specifically for the navy, along with a dozen T-2Ds for the Venezuelan Air Force and 30 T-2Es for the Greek Air Force. The T-2C served with several USN and USMC units including VT-4, VT-7, VT-9, VT-10, VT-19, VT-23, VT-26, VT-43 and VT-126. The Venezuelan T-2Ds were delivered between 1973 and 1977 and incorporated minor avionics plus an attack capability with six hardpoints but, unlike the USN models they could not operate from an aircraft carrier. The Greek machines retained their arrestor hooks and featured bulletproof wing tip tanks, for protection against small arms fire. The USN Buckeyes were earmarked for replacement by the T-45 Hawk in 1987 but many went on to serve well into the 21st Century.
TECHNICAL DATA T2C ENGINE: Two 2,950lb General Electric J85-GE-4 turbojets
EMPTY WEIGHT: 8,115lb
WING SPAN: 38ft 2in
MAX SPEED: 521mph
LENGTH: 38ft 8in
SERVICE CEILING: 44,400ft
HEIGHT: 14ft 9in
MAX RANGE: 910 miles
MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 13,180lb
The T-2C Buckeye was the perfect aircraft for teaching deck landing trainer, as this aircraft of VT-23 demonstrates on final approach to USS Lexington
A pair of successful NAA products both serving with VT-10 out of NAS Pensacola. Furthest from the camera is T-39D, 150980, and nearest is T-2C, 156712, the latter was not SOC until March 13, 2003
T-2C, 158330, of the USN Test Pilot School departing Patuxent River not long before the aircraft was SOC in 2006 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 105
SABRELINER The prototype NA-246 ‘UTX’ T-39 with civilian registration, N4060K, pictured high above the desert near Palmdale in late 1958
Successful in both civil and military markets » AUG 1956
USAF UTX issued
» SEP 16, 1958
First flight of Sabreliner from LA
» OCT 1960 T-39A enters USAF service
» AUG 1963 T-39B enters USN service
Sabreliner production ends
Sabreliner Division sold
DEVELOPMENT Originally developed as a private venture, the NA-246 Sabreliner was actually launched in response to a USAF UTX (Utility Trainer Experimental) specification. This specification, which was issued in early August 1956, fell timely for NAA, which launched its new aircraft on August 27.
DESIGN The Sabreliner was a compact ‘biz-jet’ with pleasing lines, a swept wing and a pair of powerful turbojets, pod-mounted on the rear fuselage. Comfortably fitted out for six passengers and operated by a two-man crew, the civilian-registered prototype was finished by May 1958. Problems finding a pair of engines delayed the maiden flight until September 16. The original powerplant was a pair of 2,500lb General Electric YJ85 turbojets and with these engines the prototype carried out its military evaluation programme at Edwards AFB in December 1958.
SERVICE The USAF was obviously impressed because within a month an order was placed for seven NA-265 (T-39A) aircraft, to be powered by a pair of 3,000lb J60 turbojets. This tentative first order soon blossomed, eventually totalling 213 aircraft. All T-39 models were later certificated to civilian airworthiness standards on March 23, 1962. The civilian market now beckoned for NAA, who launched a commercial version of the T-29, the NA-265-40 Sabreliner 40, which was type-approved on
April 17, 1963. The ‘40’ was a nine-passenger business variant which was followed by stretched ten-seater Sabreliner 60, 65 and 75 models. By the end of the production nearly 400 civilian variants had been built. In 1983, the Sabreliner Division was sold by Rockwell to a specially formed Sabreliner Corporation. While there was hope that production would continue, the corporation only existed to provide product and maintenance support for all Sabreliner operators.
PRODUCTION Military: T-39A (143) first flew June 30, 1960 and delivered to the USAF in October. T-39B (6), fitted with R-14 NASARR search and ranging radar and APN-31. T-39D ex-T3J-1 (42), USN radar operator trainer equipped with a Magnavox APQ-94 interceptor radar to train F-8 and F-4 crews. CT-39E (7), VIP transport. T-39F (3), ex-T-39As for use by the USAF Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB for ‘Wild Weasel’ training. CT-39G (12), USN fleet transport. Civilian: Sabreliner 40, nine-passenger business aircraft. Sabreliner 50, one aircraft used by NAA Autonetics Division. Sabreliner 60, 3ft 2in stretch for ten passengers, 3,300lb JT12A-8 engines. Sabreliner 65, powered by TFE731-3-1D turbofans, first flown June 29, 1977. Sabreliner 75, first flown December 4, 1969 with deeper fuselage and square windows. Sabreliner 75A, superseded ‘75’, first flown October 18, 1972 and powered by CF700 engines. Total production of 599 aircraft, 204 T-39 variants and 395 civilian variants.
TECHNICAL DATA T39 ENGINE: Two 3,000lb Pratt & Whitney J60 turbojets WING SPAN: 44ft 5in LENGTH: 43ft 9in
MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 17,760lb CRUISING SPEED: 502mph
SERVICE CEILING: 44,000ft
EMPTY WEIGHT: 9,257lb
MAX RANGE: 1,950 miles A fine study of T3J-1 (later redesignated to T-39D) Sabreliner 151341 which served the USN until late 1985
Seven NA-282 Sabreliners were converted to personnel transports and redesignated as CT-39Es. These were described as ‘off the shelf’ aircraft because very few military modifications were needed
13 NA-306 Sabreliner 60s were purchased by the USN/USMC and redesignated as CT-39Gs. The number 3060 on the fin of this aircraft refers to the NAA numbers while the USMC badge and name on the fuselage appear to have been applied onto the photo rather than the aircraft COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 107
X15 The second X-15 built was 56-6671 pictured at Dryden in 1965. The distinctive large twin external fuel tanks were part of the type’s conversion to A-2 standard
The most successful experimental aircraft ever built » NOV 1955
NAA win contract
» MAR 10, 1959 X-15 airborne under mother ship
» JUN 8, 1959 First unpowered release
» SEP 17, 1959 First X-15A powered flight
» NOV 15, 1960 XLR-99 used for first time
» JUN 28, 1964 First flight of the X-15A-2
DEVELOPMENT The X-15 was undoubtedly the most successful research vehicle that was produced within the X-series. The requirement of the day was for an aircraft that could reach an altitude of 250,000ft and a maximum speed of Mach 6, which was more than 4,000mph. Funded jointly by the USAF and the USN, the former was charged with overlooking the design and construction of the new aircraft, although NACA would be overseeing the technical direction of the project. Request for Proposals was issued to a dozen airframe manufacturers on December 30, 1954 and to a further four engine manufacturers on February 4, 1955. The latter was specifically for the rocket motor contract. In November 1955, NAA won the contract for the airframe, based upon their NA-240 design, and Reaction Motors Inc. won the contract for the rocket motor in September 1956.
DESIGN The NA-240, by then referred to as the X-15, was designed from the outset to be air-launched from a modified B-52. Two were modified to carry the aircraft under the starboard wing, the X-15 fitting snugly between the fuselage and the inboard set of engines. The X-15 had a long cylindrical fuselage with lateral fairings which provided the space for the aircraft’s control systems and the large fuel tanks. The thick wedge-shaped dorsal and ventral fins were also
attached to the fairings, while the lower section could be jettisoned so that the main undercarriage, a pair of retractable skids, could be lowered for landing. The modified X-15A-2 was fitted with jettisonable external fuel tanks below the fuselage.
SERVICE The first two airframes built were designated as the X-15A, each powered by a pair of XLR-11 rocket engines. The first of these aircraft was carried into the air under the wing of its NB-52 mother ship on March 10, 1958. Scott Crossfield carried out the first unpowered release on June 8 and also the powered flight, in the second X-15A on September 17. The second machine was the first to be fitted with the XLR-99 and this flight was carried out on November 16, 1960. The third X-15 to fly, which was also supposed to be the first fly with the XLR-99, was damaged in a ground accident, however, the aircraft was repaired and all three research vehicles began a performance evaluation programme. Nearly 200 flights were eventually flown, including a rebuilt second aircraft which was modified, following a landing accident, with a 2ft fuselage extension, external auxiliary tanks and a heat resistant surface. This aircraft, the X-15A-2, made its first flight on June 28, 1964 and went on to achieve a maximum altitude of 354,200ft and an eye watering maximum speed of 4,534mph.
MAX WEIGHT: 33,000lb; (A-2) (56,130lb MAX SPEED: 4159mph; (A-2) 4,520mph (Mach 6.72) MAX CEILING: 354,200 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 354,330ft (67 miles) MAX RANGE: 280 miles
Hard working NB-52B, 52-0008, carries an X-15 into the air for another test flight in 1961 with a USAF T-38 keeping a close eye on proceedings
X-15 56-672 carried out 64 flights before it was lost during re-entry over Edwards AFB on November 15, 1967. Major Michael J Adams was killed
Destined to become the first man to walk on the moon, NASA pilot Neil Armstrong is pictured in the cockpit of an X-15 in 1961. Armstrong carried out seven flights in the X-15, three in 56-6670 and four in 56-6672 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 109
A3J2 A5B & A3J1P RA5C VIGILANTE RA-5C Vigilante, 156608, pictured serving with RVAH-7 from USS Ranger in 1979. On November 20, 1979, this aircraft carried out the last Vigilante flight and today is preserved on the gate of NAS Memphis
Reconnaissance capability, outweighs attack » JUN 30, 1962
First flight of RA-5C
» JUN 1964
Enters service with USN
» AUG 1970
Last RA-5C off the production line
Final Vietnam operations
Early aircraft withdrawn from service
DEVELOPMENT While NAA were trying to improve on the attack capabilities of the A3J-1, the USN changed its policy on the use of such aircraft and began to focus on the possibility of using the Vigilante for very long range unarmed reconnaissance operations. At the same time, NAA had already presented an improved attack variant, the A3J-2 (A-5B), which would, in turn, make way for the most useful variant of the breed, the A3J-3P (RA-5C).
DESIGN As the A3J-1 entered service, NAA was already looking at improving the aircraft, and this would be helped by the powerful J79-GE-8 engine becoming available, which allowed for a potential gross weight increase of 60%. On the surface, the new aircraft, designated the A3J-2 (A-5B), only differed by having a noticeable humpbacked fuselage which contained an additional 500 gallons of fuel. Much larger flaps were also fitted and the Boundary Layer system was greatly improved over the original aircraft. 18 A-5Bs were initially ordered from a contract commitment of 42 but in the end the A-5B was not required and only six were built. At the same time, NAA was carrying out work on a dedicated reconnaissance version which was briefly known as the A3J-3P but better known as the RA-5C. This variant incorporated all of the features of the A-5B but differed in the equipment that was fitted. The reconnaissance equipment was superior to any aircraft flying at the time. Only the TV camera under the nose was retained from the original aircraft, while the main ‘reconnaissance pack’ was carried on a long, thin pod under the aircraft’s centreline, running from the rear of the nosewheel undercarriage door to under the fin. The comprehensive pack contained a KA-51A/B oblique camera at the front, KA-50A, KA-51A or KA-62A vertical
cameras behind and a Passive Electronics Countermeasures antenna for an AN/ALQ-61 Electronic Reconnaissance System. The latter was ELINT-capable, which meant it could pick up enemy radar and plot their position, frequency and pattern. APD-7 side-lookingradar and AAS-21 linescan along with many more devices were contained within the RA-5C’s comprehensive electronic armoury.
SERVICE The first RA-5C, converted A3J-1, 146696, made its maiden flight on June 30, 1962 and was in full production by the following year. 69 new RA-5Cs were built plus a further 43 that were converted from A3J-1s (A-5A). RVAH-5, on board USS Ranger, was the first unit to operate the RA-5C in June 1964 and was followed by RVAH-1, RVAH-7, RVAH-9 and RVAH-11. The RA-5C saw extensive service during the Vietnam War, from 1964 through to 1972. The type regularly flew reconnaissance operations over the Hanoi and Haiphong regions. At least 60 RA-5Cs were operated over South-East Asia at this time and, during an eight-year period of operations, only 18 of them were lost in action. From 1974, many early production RA-5Cs were placed in storage, but the last operational unit did not relinquish the type until 1979. The RA-5C Vigilante remains the only dedicated reconnaissance aircraft operated by the USN that was capable of Mach 2.
PRODUCTION 69 RA-5Cs built from new beginning with 20 NA-279s (150823-150842), 23 NA-283s (151615-151634 & 151726-151728) and 36 (last ten cancelled) NA-316s (155608-156653). 43 aircraft were converted from A3J-1 standard to RA-5C; 27 NA-296s and 16 NA-298s.
TECHNICAL DATA RA5C ENGINE: Two 17,000lb (reheat) General Electric J79-GE-10 turbojets
SERVICE CEILING: 49,000ft MAX RANGE: 944 miles with four 400gal drop tanks
156612 of RVAH-6 enjoys some shore leave from USS Forrestal in 1976. The RA-5C also served with RVAH-1, -9 and -12 before being retired and put on display at NAS Key West in 1979
RA-5C, 156628 of RVAH-12 which operated from the USS Enterprise during 1974 and 1975
156624, ‘AJ/603’ of RVAH-9 makes up the numbers on the busy flight deck of USS Nimitz in 1976 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 111
XB70 VALKYRIE XB-70A Valkyrie 62-0001 or Air Vehicle No.1 at speed over Nevada in the late 1960s. Note the wings are in the full 65º position
A new super-bomber for SAC » OCT 1954
GOR issued for B-52 replacement
» MAY 11, 1964
XB-70A-1 rolled out
» SEP 21, 1964 First flight from Palmdale
» OCT 14, 1965 AV/1 reaches Mach 3
» JUN 8, 1966 AV/2 lost in mid-air collision
» FEB 4, 1969 AV/1 makes final flight
DEVELOPMENT It was in 1954 that Gen Curtis E. LeMay, the commander of SAC, began pressing for the development of a new long-range, high-speed bomber. LeMay declared that the B-52 and B-58 already in service had a limited capability and would need a replacement ‘with as few deficiencies as possible’. By 1955, SAC had begun three new expansion programs; one of them, the WS-110A, was a proposal for a Chemically Propelled Bomber. Six aircraft manufacturers made bids for the project but only Boeing and NAA received Phase I design contracts. Eventually, NAA won the contract outright in December 1957 and, by the following year, XB-70 Valkyrie began to take shape.
DESIGN The aircraft displayed a unique configuration for the day with a long sleek fuselage fitted with a pair of small canards near the cockpit, with lift provided by a massive 1,865sq.ft delta wing topped off with twin tailfins. The J93-3 engines, weapons bay and undercarriage were all contained in the same wedge shaped unit which was positioned on the centreline directly below the massive delta. One of many unique features of the B-70 was that the outer 20ft of the 57ft 5in wing could be folded down. Wind tunnel research had shown that the shockwave generated by the nose of the aircraft could be harnessed below it to create very high lift. On take-off, the wingtips were flat but at subsonic speeds they were lowered to 25° and, by the time the aircraft was at Mach 1.4, they were down to their maximum of 65°. The loss of a U-2 over the USSR on May 1, 1960 did not help the B-70’s cause in the face of much improved SAM defences. High-altitude, high-speed flight was not seen as much of a defence anymore and, on March 1, 1961, John F. Kennedy announced that the programme
would now be scaled back to just three aircraft: two XB-70 test prototypes and a single YB-70 operational prototype. The YB-70 would never come to fruition.
SERVICE By now, the aircraft was referred to as the XB-70A-1-NA Valkyrie and, on May 11, 1964, the first aircraft, 62-0001 (aka Air Vehicle No.1 (AV/1)), was rolled out at Palmdale. On September 21, 1964, the Valkyrie was taken into the air for the first time by Col Joe Cotton and Al White. The eventful first flight was flown with the undercarriage down and, on touching down at Edwards AFB, a brake fault caused two of the left rear tyres to burst. Regardless of the teething problems, the XB-70 looked promising and Mach 1 was breached on October 12. By Flight No.17, carried out one year later, the aircraft demonstrated its ability to push on to Mach 3. In the meantime, the second XB-70A-2-NA Valkyrie, 62-0207 (AV/2), had joined the flight programme, first flying from Palmdale on July 17, 1965. It was this aircraft that demonstrated the full mission potential of the Valkyrie on May 19, 1966 when it flew a simulated attack operation. After climbing to cruise height, 62-0207 accelerated to Mach 3.08 and maintained this speed for 33 minutes around a 2,700-mile course which stretched across eight western US states. By this time, the Valkyries were being used to support the proposed US supersonic transport (SST) which involved trailing sonic booms across instrumented routes in California and Nevada. Sadly, after completing the first sonic boom test for the National Sonic Boom Program on June 6, AV/2 was lost following a mid-air collision with an F-104. The surviving aircraft took part in a ‘control of structural dynamics’ flight programme from April 1967 through to its last flight in February 1969, when it was delivered to Wright-Patterson AFB for preservation.
TECHNICAL DATA XB70 VALKYRIE ENGINE: Six 28,000lb (reheat) General Electric YJ793-GE-3 turbojets WING SPAN: 105ft LENGTH: 196ft 6in HEIGHT: 30ft 8in EMPTY WEIGHT: 231,215lb
MAX WEIGHT: 534,792lb MAX SPEED: 1,982mph at 75,500ft INITIAL CLIMB RATE: 27,450 ft/min SERVICE CEILING: 75,500ft MAX RANGE: 1,254 miles
After making its final flight on February 4, 1969, XB-70A, 62-0001, was delivered to the USAF Museum at Dayton, Ohio where it is preserved to this day
A unique and beautifully designed aircraft whose fate was in the hands of politicians and changing policy regarding how nuclear weapons should be delivered
XB-70A, 62-0001 pictured at Edwards AFB, after its eventful first flight on September 21, 1964 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 113
OV10 BRONCO North American Rockwell OV-10A-10-NH Bronco 67-4619 makes the type’s first public appearance over Vietnam in August 1968 as part of Operation Combat Bronco
Light Armed Reconnaissance Airplane (LARA) » 1963
LARA specification issued
» JUL 16, 1965 First flight of YOV-10A
» AUG 6, 1967 First production aircraft flies
» JUL 6, 1968
VMO-2, USMC see action in Vietnam
OV-10 retired from USAF
Retired from USMC service
DEVELOPMENT During the early 1960s, the USMC’s requirement for a new LARA was addressed by NAA’s design, designated the NA-300. By 1964, a contract had been awarded for seven YOV-10A prototypes and the first of these was in the air on July 16, 1965.
DESIGN The OV-10, later christened the Bronco, had a slim fuselage and the crew were accommodated in tandem, sitting high under a huge canopy giving both excellent visibility. The wing was set high on the fuselage, from which twin booms extended to a high set tailplane between raked fins. The booms extended from the rear nacelles of the two engines, into which the main undercarriage units retracted. Six of the seven prototypes were powered by 600hp Garrett T76 turboprops. The seventh was fitted with a pair of Pratt & Whitney YT74-CP-8/10 turboprops for comparative trials.
SERVICE The production version of the OV-10A had its wing span increased by 10ft and was powered by Garrett T76 turboprops. The first production aircraft flew on August 6, 1967 and the first 114 aircraft were delivered to the USMC. A further 157 were ordered by the USAF, the majority of them entered operational service in Vietnam from 1968 as part of Operation Combat Bronco to evaluate the type. By October, the operation was complete and the USAF began deploying large numbers of OV-10s in Southeast Asia. Many OV-10s were upgraded during the early 1970s
as part of Pave Nail with laser designators, a new night periscope system and LORAN equipment. Nail aircraft proved very efficient at illuminating targets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The OV-10 attrition rate was high for the USAF, out of the 157 delivered 64 were lost and by the 1980s the type was slowly being superseded by the OA-10A and OA-37B. However, the Bronco soldiered on with the 19th and 21st TASS until September 1991. The USN and the USMC also operated the OV-10A in Vietnam until the end of the war. The USMC used the type extensively for FAC work and retained the Bronco until 1995. Overseas, air forces who operated the OV-10 included Columbia, Germany, Indonesia, Morocco, the Philippines, Thailand and Venezuela and, in civilian hands, the aircraft has been operated by NASA, the US Department of State Air Wing, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and CALFIRE. The latter is the Californian Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who have flown the OV10 since 1993 when six ex-BLM and 13 ex-USMC aircraft were purchased to co-ordinate fire fighting operations.
PRODUCTION 360 North American (later Rockwell) OV-10s were built between 1963 and 1977. 278 of these were OV-10As including seven YOV-10A prototypes that were built under company designations N-300, -301, -302, -305 and -321. 18 OV-10Bs and B(Z)s were built for Germany and 32 OV-10Cs were delivered to Thailand. 20 OV-10Ds were constructed as part of a night FAC programme, two of these were YOV-10Ds while the remainder were conversions of OV-10As. 16 OV-10Es were built for Venezuela and 16 OV-10Fs for Indonesia.
TECHNICAL DATA OV10D BRONCO ENGINE: Two 1,040hp Garrett T76-G-420/421 turboprops
EMPTY WEIGHT: 6,893lb MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 14,444lb
WING SPAN: 40ft LENGTH: 44ft HEIGHT: 15ft 2in
MAX SPEED: 288 mph at sea level SERVICE CEILING: 30,000ft The OV-10 was operated by the USMC, USAF and USN in Vietnam from 1968 through to the end of the conflict
OV-10A-10-NH, 67-14623 of the 601st TCW (Tactical Control Wing) on final approach into Sembach AB in West Germany. The aircraft was retired in the early 1990s and is preserved today at the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB
USAF ground crew load 2.75in FFAR (Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket) into the tube launchers of an OV-10A COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 115
B1A B-1A, 74-0160, shows off its graceful lines during an air to air demonstration in 1982. By this stage, the concept was back in favour and an order for 100 B-1Bs had been placed by the USAF
A victim of changing policy » NOV 3, 1969 Request for Proposal issued
» JUN 5, 1970 First contracts received
» MAR 15, 1972 Assembly of first B-1A begins
» DEC 23, 1974
B-1A makes maiden flight from Palmdale
» FEB 14, 1979 Fourth B-1A prototype flies for the first time
» AUG 29, 1984 Second B-1A prototype crashes
DEVELOPMENT The development of the NAA/Rockwell B-1 was a protracted affair that spanned two decades, only to be cancelled just before the final hurdles were reached. Designed to replace the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 was a victim of US military policy which was being altered from a position in favour of more manned bombers, to being against. By the time the policy had swung back in the 1980s, the B-1A had gone but thankfully all the knowledge gained, would be put to good use in the re-born B-1B.
DESIGN One of the main design features of the B-1A was its swing wing which gave the bomber a wide performance range from Mach 0.85 at sea level up to Mach 2.2 at 50,000ft. The B-1A was a very impressive looking aircraft, its slim, aerodynamic fuselage contributing to the bomber’s blistering performance. Power was provided by four GE F-101 turbofans which provided a total of 120,000lbs of thrust at sea level when the afterburners were engaged. Each engine also had its own variable geometry air intake. The weapons load was also impressive; 75,000lbs, made up of nuclear or conventional weapons, or a combination of the two could be carried internally and a further 40,000lb externally. The aircraft was operated by a crew of four, made up of pilot, co-pilot, offensive systems officer and defensive systems officer, all contained within an escape capsule which ejected the entire cockpit section. From the fourth B-1A prototype onwards and for subsequent B-1Bs, the escape system was in the form of more conventional, individual, ejection seats.
SERVICE NAA/Rockwell was awarded a contract to build just four 116
B-1A prototypes, the first of these, 74-0158, was rolled out at the USAF’s Plant 42 at Palmdale on October 26, 1974. 10,000 people were in attendance that day, such was the amount of attention that the aircraft received. On December 23, 1974, with Charles Brock Jr. at the controls, the first B-1A took to the air and during an uneventful flight the undercarriage was not retracted and the wings were not swept. Both these systems were successfully operated on the aircraft’s second flight on January 23, 1975. All four of the B-1As went on to carry out a series of highly productive flight test programs, 74-0158 was used specifically as an evaluation test bed. This aircraft flew 79 times and, in October 1975, was the first to breach Mach 1.5 then in April 1976 also breached Mach 2. The second aircraft, 74-0159, served as a structural load test bed flying 60 times. During one of these flights, 74-0159 reached Mach 2.22 in October 1978. The third aircraft, 74-0160, was by far the busiest and the B-1A flew 138 times in the role of offensive and defensive systems test bed. The final aircraft, 76-0174, was also tasked with weapons development and, along with 74-0160, continued flying in this role until 1981. Prior to this, the whole concept had been cancelled by President Carter in June 1977. Luckily for the USAF, NAA/Rockwell continued development work and, by the early 1980s, the project was back on.
PRODUCTION Only four B-1As were built, 74-0158 to 0160 and 76-0174, constructed between 1973 and 1978. 0158 ended its days as a weapons trainer at Lowry AFB, 0159 crashed near Edwards on August 29, 1984 and 0160, following conversion to GB-1A standard, is today on display at the Wings Over the Rockies Aviation and Space Museum. 76-0174 is preserved at the Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland.
TECHNICAL DATA B1A ENGINE: Four 17,000lb (dry), 30,000lb (wet) General Electric F101GE-100 turbofans WING SPAN: (minimum sweep of 15°) 136ft 8½in, (maximum sweep of 67.5°) 78ft 2½in LENGTH: 143ft 3½in HEIGHT: 34ft
NORMAL LOADED WEIGHT: 389,000lb MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 395,000lb MAX SPEED: Mach 2.2 at 50,000ft SERVICE CEILING: 62,000ft
B-1A, 60-0174, pictured at the Farnborough Airshow in September 1982 in black and tan camouflage. The aircraft was allocated to the 6510th Training Wing , based at Edwards AFB at the time
A mock-up of the B-1A which weighed in at 45,000lb and took 150 Rockwell employees eight months to build. The work was completed in September 1971. After being inspected by the USAF, a list of 297 alterations was requested
A promising order of 244 B-1As was placed by USAF in 1970. The first of just four aircraft was planned for delivery in 1975 and the last in 1981 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 117
B1B LANCER AKA ‘BONE’ Beautiful, yet at the same time menacing, the B-1B holds over 100 world records for speed, payload and distance
Changing the mission profile » JAN 1982
USAF order 100 B-1Bs
» SEP 4, 1984 First production B-1B flies
» MAR 15, 1985 Assigned to 4018th CCTS at Dyess AFB
» MAY 2, 1988 100th and final B-1B is delivered
» DEC 16, 1998
Operation Desert Fox, B-1B combat debut
Saw service in Gulf War 2
DEVELOPMENT In was in the same year that the final B-1A flights were made that the US Congress decided the flight program should be continued. By October 1981, the USAF had decided that the LRCA (Long-Range Combat Aircraft) variant of the B-1A should be chosen, rather than the FB-111H. This decision, combined with the arrival of President Reagan, brought about an order for 100 derivatives of the B-1A to be designated the B-1B. Within weeks, Rockwell had signed a contract with the USAF worth $1,317,000,000 to modify the original four B-1A prototypes to B model standard with a further contract for the production of the B-1B which totalled a further $886,000,000.
DESIGN The main difference between the early B-1Bs, and its predecessor was that the aircraft’s mission profile was changed to a dedicated low-level penetration role. The ground-hugging style of operation brought about no need for the aircraft to breach Mach 2. The variable air intake system was discarded and the B-1B’s maximum speed was reduced to Mach 1.25. The B-1B’s defensive systems were updated and consisted of four sub-systems; these were made up of expendable countermeasures such as chaff and flare, a tail-warning system, radio and electronic countermeasures and a defensive management system. With regard to weapons, the B-1B is one of the world’s most versatile delivery systems. Nuclear weapons can still be carried, such as attack missiles or B-38 free-fall nuclear bombs. The aircraft can also be used as a cruise-missile platform or, more conventionally, 172 Mk 82 bombs can be carried both internally and externally.
SERVICE By late 1982, two B-1As, 74-0159 and 76-0174, were 118
upgraded to B standard, complete with sub-systems but retaining their original air intakes. 74-0159 made its maiden flight as a B-1B on March 23, 1983 only to be lost on August 29, 1984 following fuel management problems. The aircraft’s escape pod deployed successfully but hit the ground at an awkward angle, killing Rockwell test pilot Doug Benefield. The first B-1B proper was 82-0001, although this aircraft was hand built and made use of the main sub-assemblies of the fifth B-1A. This aircraft first flew on October 18, 1984 and, in the hands of test pilot M L Evenson, was delivered direct to Edwards AFB. The first USAF unit to receive the B-1B as the 4108th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) based at Dyess AFB in Texas. The first operational unit was the 337th BS (Heavy) which replaced their B-52Hs and, by October 1986, the unit was ready for action. By early 1990, the B-1B had gained the name Lancer but was known by those who worked with as the ‘Bone’ (as B-One). Late in 1991, with the Cold War drawing to a close, all USAF bombers were stood down from nuclear alert, including the B-1Bs. The type then exploited a vast range of conventional weapons, the first of which it used in anger during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, following Iraq’s attempts to obstruct UN weapons inspectors. The B-1B also saw action during the second Gulf War in 2003 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Ironically, the B-1B was not fully deployed in this conflict until the Iraq ground defences had been pulverised by the B-52! Designed to replace the B-52 (just like every other US bomber since the 1950s), it looks like both aircraft have a role to play well into the middle of the 21st Century.
PRODUCTION 100 B-1Bs built between1984 and 1999 in the serial ranges, 82-0001, 83-0065-0071, 84-0049-0058, 85-00590092 and 86-0093-0140.
TECHNICAL DATA B1B ENGINE: Four 14,600lb (dry), 30,780lb (wet) General Electric F101-GE-102 turbofans WING SPAN: (minimum sweep) 136ft 8½in, (maximum sweep) 78ft 2½in LENGTH: 147ft HEIGHT: 34ft 7¼in
EMPTY WEIGHT: 182,360lb MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 477,000lb MAX SPEED: Mach 1.25 at 50,000ft SERVICE CEILING: 60,000ft MAX RANGE: (unrefuelled) 7,455 miles
A B-1B of the 7th Bomb Wing based at Dyess AFB takes on fuel from a New Jersey ANG Boeing KC-135R
A B-1B heads for the heavens over Nevada during the 1990s. Although primarily designed for low-level operations, the B-1B is still comfortable at 60,000ft
The B-1B Lancer has spent more operational hours flying over the Middle East, more than any other region since first arriving in the region in 1998. This B-1B, 86-0104, is flying in support of Operation New Dawn in February 2011 COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 119
XFV12A NA356 The unique XFV-12A displaying its array of diffuser flaps in the VTOL position
VTOL, supersonic, US Navy fighter » NOV 1971 NASC invite proposals
» MAY 1972
USN selected Rockwell design
Engineering work begins
» AUG 6, 1977
XFV-12A rolled out
» NOV 1977
Aircraft transported to Langley
DEVELOPMENT In late 1971, the Naval Air Systems Command (NASC) made public a proposal for a shipboard, vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighter and ground attack aircraft for the USN’s new 12,500 ton Sea control aircraft carriers, due into service by the late 1970s. The proposal was only offered to US-based aircraft manufacturers and, along with North American Rockwell, ideas were also submitted by Fairchild Republic, General Dynamics, Grumman, LTV Aerospace and McDonnell Douglas; the latter being a proposed supersonic version of the already outstanding Harrier.
DESIGN The proposal submitted by North American Rockwell stood out from the rest because it adopted a thrust augmentation system which involved engine air being drawn through the upper fuselage then piped through ducts along the wings. Three augmentor flaps were fitted along the trailing edge of the wing, through which thrust was expelled via a line of exit nozzles. When the aircraft carried out a VTOL or was in the hover, the flaps were in the vertical and as the aircraft transitioned to horizontal flight, the flaps were raised. This system was claimed by Rockwell engineers to be 150% more efficient than that used by the Harrier. The aircraft was a canard design which, to help keep
costs down, utilised a large number of components from USN aircraft which were already in service. For example, the undercarriage and canopy was from an A-4 Skyhawk, while several major components were taken from the F-4 Phantom. Powered by P&W F401 engine, a maximum speed of Mach 2 was hoped for in level flight and as a result of the promising performance figures presented, the USN chose the aircraft in May 1972. Not long after, two prototypes were ordered under the designation XFV-12A.
SERVICE The XFV-12A was a very complex and time-consuming build and following many setbacks the first aircraft, serialled 161080, was rolled out on August 6, 1977. Ground testing was completed within a fortnight before the aircraft was transported to Langley AFB inside an Aero Spacelines Guppy for tethered flight testing. The gantry originally used to test the lunar lander was used for the V/STOL testing, which was carried out during the remainder of 1977 and into 1978. The XFV-12A was destined never to break free from the tethered flight gantry despite promising handling characteristics being displayed. Before the aircraft achieved free flight, all funding for the project was terminated in 1981 and the XFV-12A was cancelled before the second prototype was completed.
TECHNICAL DATA XFV12A ENGINE: One 16,000lb (21,800lb lift thrust) Pratt & Whitney F401-PW-400 turbofan
Rockwell claimed that the XFV-12A had the potential to achieve Mach 2 in level clean flight as pictured here. Unfortunately, the aircraft was cancelled before this could be demonstrated
A very unfamiliar looking arrangement using many familiar components. The XFV-12A made use of the A-4 Skyhawk’s canopy and undercarriage and large sections of the main wing, fuel tanks and forward air intakes of the F-4 Phantom
The XFV-12A working hard in the training gantry at Langley AFB, Virginia. The aircraft is pictured in ‘unrestrained’ mode from above which gave the most accurate flight simulation possible without carrying out full free flight COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 121
X31A EFM The second Rockwell/MBB/Boeing North American/Daimler-Benz Aerospace X-31A EFM, 164585, which today is on display in the Flugwerft Schleissheim Museum in Munich
Pushing the thrust vectoring envelope » 1977
Joint venture announced
» FEB 23, 1987 X-31A announced by US DoD
» MAR 1, 1990 First flight of 164584
» JAN 19, 1991 First flight of 164585
» JAN 19, 1995 164584 crashes near Edwards AFB
» MAY 29, 2003 164585 airlifted to Flugwerft Museum
DEVELOPMENT Back in 1977, a joint venture between the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and West Germany (at the time) was announced to carry out development of a combat aircraft capable of extremely high turning rate manoeuvres. The aircraft at this stage was only known as the EFM (Enhanced Fighter Manoeuvrability). By 1983, Rockwell joined the project for its own research and, as the preliminary research progressed it was clear that to achieve the required standard of manoeuvrability, thrust vectoring would be needed. This had already been successfully trialled on an F-14 and it was a feature that Rockwell would design into the EFM. The project continued to gain momentum into the late 1980s when, on February 23, 1987, the US Department of Defence announced that the aircraft would be designated as the X-31A and a pair of prototypes would be built.
DESIGN Even during the 1980s, keeping the cost of the X-31A down was the key to the success of the project and, to achieve this, 43% of the aircraft was ‘off the shelf’. Components such as the canopy, undercarriage (including wheels), brakes, hydraulic parts and many electrical units were all available, therefore substantially reducing the cost. The main structure of the X-31A was made up of seven different materials, although the majority, 51%, was constructed from aluminium. A graphite/epoxy combination was used for the skin of the outer wings and the thrust-vectoring paddles, which were able to withstand temperatures of more than 1,500° C. The nose cone, lower leading edge of tail and canopy frame were made of fibreglass. Carbon, steel and titanium and several composites were used for 25% of the X-31A’s structure. Control of the aircraft was in the hands of fly-by-wire, which was controlled by Honeywell/Sperry computers.
The all-moving forward canards operated like weathervanes during normal flight but were preprogrammed to automatically recover the aircraft from high-angles of attack should the vectoring thrust fail. On the rear fuselage, strakes were fitted to aid nose-down pitch control at high angles and smaller strakes were mounted on the nose to help address side-slip.
SERVICE The first of two X-31As, serialled 164584, was rolled out at Air Force Plant 42 at Palmdale, California on March 1, 1990. On October 11, the first flight was carried out by Rockwell Chief Test Pilot, Ken Dyson, who described the 38 minute flight as ‘picture perfect’. The second aircraft was not far behind; 164585 first flew on January 19, 1991 with MBB (Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm) test pilot Dietrich Seeck at the controls. Both aircraft were quickly put through their paces and, during 1991 alone, the X-31As flew 108 test flights. By the following year, the test programme was moved to NASA’s Dryden Flight Test Centre at Edwards AFB so that the flight test envelope could be expanded. By late 1992, the X-31A was being flown at an angle of attack of 70° but still under complete control and, on April 29, 1993, 164585 managed to perform an 180° post-stall turn – a manoeuvre that was way beyond the limits of a conventional aircraft. Later in the year, the X-31s were flying simulated combat manoeuvres against F/A-18s and at the same time chalked up their 300th flight and were achieving speeds up to Mach 1.28. Flight tests were concluded in 1994 but some further flying continued until, on January 19, 1995, the first aircraft was lost in an accident near Edwards. Test pilot Karl Lang managed to eject safely but the aircraft was a total loss. The X-31 program was a great success, gathering a huge amount of data during the 52 month-long flight test programme. During this period, the two aircraft made 524 flights with 14 different pilots, both from the USA and Germany.
TECHNICAL DATA X31A ENGINE: One 16,000lb General Electric P404-GR-400 turbofan WING SPAN: 23ft 10in LENGTH: 43ft 4in HEIGHT: 14ft 6in
EMPTY WEIGHT: 11,410lb MAX TAKE-OFF WEIGHT: 16,100lb MAX SPEED: Mach 1.28 SERVICE CEILING: 40,000ft The first X-31A, 164584, which was first flown from Palmdale, California in the hands of Ken Dyson on March 1, 1990
During late 1993, the X-31As were flying simulated combat sorties against NASA’s own F/A-18 Hornet
X-31A, 164584, pictured not far from its home base of Edwards AFB during one of hundreds of test flights. Note the thrust-vectoring paddles at the rear of engine which were crucial in achieving the incredible levels of manoeuvrability COMPANY PROFILE | NORTH AMERICAN 123
NORTH AMERICAN North American Aviation Inc. aircraft model designation, aircraft designations, serials/registrations and production numbers
The NAA designation system, on the surface, seems rather complex but it has evolved to become one of the most organised and thorough created by a US aircraft manufacturer. The listing that follows is a ‘watered down' version of NAA’s Airframe Contract Record which, hopefully, helps to make sense of the myriad of ‘NA’ designation numbers. All numbers prior to NA-15 were prefixed GA for General Aircraft.
Total, North American and North American Rockwell aircraft completed, 1934-1999, including license-built models = 66,750
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