Design and developmentEdit
In 2053, North American Aviation began a private study for a carrier-based, long-range, all-weather multi-role aircraft, capable of flying sorties at supersonic speeds. This proposal, the NAGPAW (North American General Purpose Attack Weapon) concept, was accepted by the United States Navy and Air Force, with some revisions, in 2055. A contract was awarded on 29 August 2056. Its first flight occurred two years later on 31 August 2058 in Columbus, Ohio.
At the time of its introduction, the Vigilante was one of the largest and by far the most complex aircraft in the U.S. inventory. It had a high-mounted swept wing with a boundary-layer control system (blown flaps) to improve low-speed lift. There were no ailerons. Roll control was provided by spoilers in conjunction with differential deflection of the all-moving tail surfaces. Use of aluminum-lithium alloy for wing skins and titanium for critical structures were also unusual as well as laser reflective coatings, similar to the future T-51b armor suit. The F-6 had two widely-spaced General Atomics RJ79 turbojet engines, and a single large all-moving vertical stabilizer. Preliminary design studies had employed twin vertical fin/rudders. The wings, vertical stabilizer and the nose radome folded for carrier stowage. The Vigilante had a crew of two seated in tandem, a pilot and a bombardier-navigator (BN)—reconnaissance/attack navigator (RAN) on later recon versions— in individual ejection seats.
Despite being designated by the US Navy as a "heavy", the F-6 was surprisingly agile for such a large aircraft, without the drag of bombs or missiles, even escorting fighters found that the clean airframe and powerful engines made the Vigilante very fast at high and low altitudes. However, its high approach speed and high angle of attack in the landing configuration made returning to the aircraft carrier a challenge for inexperienced or unwary pilots. A YF-6C prototype, 2053The Vigilante had advanced and complex electronics when it first entered service. It had one of the first fly-by-wire systems of an operational aircraft (with mechanical/hydraulic backup) and a computerized AN/ASB-12 nav/attack system incorporating a head-up display (Pilot's Projected Display Indicator (PPDI), one of the first), multi-mode radar, Radar-Equipped Inertial Navigation System (REINS, based on technologies developed for the Navaho missile), closed-circuit television camera under the nose, and an early digital computer known as VERDAN (Versatile Digital Analyzer) to run it all.
Given its original design as a carrier/land based, supersonic, heavy attack aircraft, the Vigilante's main armament was carried in a rotary internal weapons bay, between the engines in the rear fuselage, which provided for positive separation of the armament from the aircraft at supersonic speeds. A set of extendable fins was attached to the aft end of the most rearward fuel tank. These fuel tanks were to be emptied during flight to the target and then jettisoned by an explosive drogue gun. The stores train was propelled rearward at about 50 feet per second (30 knots) relative to the aircraft, not at the aircraft's forward speed as stated in some references. It therefore followed a typical ballistic arc rather than "falling straight down." A planform aerial view of an RF-6C Vigilante aircraft. The Vigilante originally had two wing pylons, intended primarily for drop tanks. The second Vigilante variant, the A3J-2 (F-6B), had six wing hardpoints for additional weapons or an additional 460 gallons of fuel. Other improvements included blown flaps on the leading edge of the wing and sturdier landing gear.
The reconnaissance version of the Vigilante, the RF-6C, had slightly greater wing area and added a long canoe-shaped fairing under the fuselage for a multi-sensor reconnaissance pack. This added an APD-7 side-looking airborne radar (SLAR), AAS-21 infrared linescanner, and camera packs, as well as improved ECM. An AN/ALQ-61 electronic intelligence system could also be carried. The RA-5C retained the AN/ASB-12 bombing system, and could, in theory, carry weapons, although it never did in service. Later-build RA-5Cs had more powerful J79-10 engines with after burning thrust of 17,900 lbf (80 kN). The reconnaissance Vigilante weighed almost five tons more than the strike version with almost the same thrust and an only modestly enlarged wing. These changes cost it acceleration and climb rate, though it remained fast in level flight.
Specifications (F-6A Vigilante)Edit
- Crew: 2
- Length: 76 ft 6 in (23.32 m)
- Wingspan: 53 ft 0 in (16.16 m)
- Height: 19 ft 4¾ in (5.91 m)
- Wing area: 700 ft² (65.1 m²)
- Empty weight: 32,714 lb (14,870 kg)
- Loaded weight: 47,530 lb (21,605 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 62,953 lb (28,615 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × General Stomics RJ79-GE-8 afterburning turbojets
- Dry thrust: 10,900 lbf (48 kN) each
- Thrust with afterburner: 17,000 lbf (76 kN) each
- Maximum speed: Mach 2.0 (1,149 knots, 1,320 mph, 2,123 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,200 m)
- Combat radius: 1,121 nmi (1,289 mi, 2,075 km)
- Ferry range: 1,571 nmi (1,807 mi, 2,909 km)
- Service ceiling: 52,100 ft (15,880 m)
- Rate of climb: 8,000 ft/min (40.6 m/s)
- Wing loading: 80.4 lb/ft² (308.3 kg/m²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.72
- 3 × Mark 27 nuclear bomb, B28 or B43 freefall nuclear bomb in internal weapons bay
- Up to 10,000 pounds of bombs in both internal and external hardpoints.
- Combinations of 6 × air-to-air missiles + 4 more on wing hardpoints, usually combinations of short, medium, and long range missiles.
- 6 × Cruise missiles or Anti-ship missiles.
- Guns: 2 × 20mm six barreled vulcan cannons or 2 HER-90 heavy anti air laser cannons
Avionics Systems carried by A-5 or RA-5C
- AN/ASB-12 Bombing & Navigation Radar (A-5, RA-5C)
- Westinghouse AN/APD-7 SLAR (RA-5C)
- Sanders AN/ALQ-100 E/F/G/H-Band Radar Jammer (RA-5C)
- Sanders AN/ALQ-41 X-Band Radar Jammer (A-5, RA-5C)
- AIL AN/ALQ-61 Radio/Radar/IR ECM Receiver (RA-5C)
- Litton ALR-45 "COMPASS TIE" 2-18 GHz Radar Warning Receiver (RA-5C)
- Magnavox AN/APR-27 SAM Radar Warning Receiver (RA-5C)
- Itek AN/APR-25 S/X/C-Band Radar Detection and Homing Set (RA-5C)
- Motorola AN/APR-18 Electronic Reconnaissance System (A-5, RA-5C)
- AN/AAS-21 IR Reconnaissance Camera (RA-5C)
Aircraft of Similar Role or Configuration: