A-5 Vigilante

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The A-5 Vigilante was a carrier-based long-range strike bomber. It was designed to replace the A-3 Skywarrior in the Navy nuclear deterrent role.

An A-5 on the runway.


In 1953, North American Aviation began plans for a supersonic carrier-based bomber which could deliver nuclear weapons at long range. The United States Navy, in need of an aircraft to replace the A-3 Skywarrior, contracted the company to build it in 1956; the first prototype was two years and two days later in 1958. Although a large, unwieldy aircraft, it was surprisingly fast and maneuverable. It also featured a 'linear bomb bay', where the bomb was ejected back from the bomb bay at the same speed of the aircraft. This obliviated the need for forward-looking bombsights. It was equipped with a downward-firing ejection seat.


Further reading

  • RA-5C Vigilante Units in Combat, by Robert Powell, Osprey Publishing, 2004