Bjornstrom From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 329 posts, RR: 1 Posted (8 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 6672 times:
The Vigilante originally had two wing pylons, mostly intended for the carriage of drop tanks. Its main armament was carried in a so-called linear bomb bay, a cylindrical bay between the engines in the rear fuselage that carried a "stores train" with two disposable fuel tanks and a single nuclear weapon, commonly the Mk 28 bomb. The idea was for the fuel tanks to be emptied during flight to the target and then jettisoned along with the bomb by an explosive drogue gun. In practice the system was never reliable and was often dangerous. The stores train sometimes dropped out during catapult launches, dumping fuel and sometimes a live nuclear weapon on the deck, and it was prone to 'trailing' behind the aircraft in flight, ruining any semblance of accuracy. Even later in the Vigilante's career, when the bay was used solely for fuel, it often proved troublesome.
Sidishus From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 521 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (8 years 11 months 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 6479 times:
Quoting Bjornstrom (Thread starter): The stores train sometimes dropped out during catapult launches, dumping fuel and sometimes a live nuclear weapon on the deck,
There were a couple of cases of the fuel cans coming loose during cat shots which caused a rather colorful scene. Both of those incidents were RA-5Cs and not A3J/A-5As. Also, there was one aircraft loss over Laos that may have been caused by the fuel lines hooked up to the cans coming loose in a high g turn and causing an internal fire and explosion. But based on the eyewitness reports from the F-4 escort there was also heavy caliber AAA in the vicinity as well, so that was what was deemed the official cause of the loss.
The fuel can filled tunnel was a pain maintnenance wise becuase it required defueling and pulling the cans to get at many components.
There was never a live nuke dropped on a deck by a Vigilante. As a matter of fact, by 1967 the RA-5C was slated to carry only external weapons in the event of a nuclear strike. The "tunnel" was no longer considered a viable bomb bay, and was given over entirely to fuel cans.
[Edited 2006-06-29 21:52:22]
the truth: first it is ridiculed second it is violently opposed finally it is accepted as self-evident
AislepathLight From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 562 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (8 years 11 months 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 6193 times:
Quoting N911ME (Reply 6): Wasn't the RA-5C a reconnaissance aircraft (hence the 'R' prefix)?
Yes, but the main point of the discussion was that A-5s had rather useless bomb bays that made sense as an extra place for fuel cans. Which was fortunate for the plane, because it didn't do all that much aside from recon over North Vietnam, and you don't what to run out of 'gas there. With its speed and payload, it made a nice switch to a recon plane, but that happened after the very few were produced. These tanks allowed for endurance that made its escorting F-4s work hard to keep up.
"We have slain a large dragon, but we now live in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes."
No, they were never even loaded on the carriers with live nukes. It was a mission that the plane was original designed for to give the Navy a nuclear presence. In practice it proved to be almost impossible to actually accomplish. So the airplane was changed over to fleet recon which it proved to be a good fit. It could carry heavy load different configurations of recon gear, particularly flares and stores necessary to do specialized missions for per strike recons and post strike analysis. Low level high mach ingress and egress gave it a very low time over the target area. Mix that with the two engine airframe and that enhanced its survivability. But to answer the question, the nuke mission was never put in service.
Quoting Texfly101 (Reply 8): No, they were never even loaded on the carriers with live nukes. It was a mission that the plane was original designed for to give the Navy a nuclear presence.
The A3J/A-5A did deploy operationally as a nuke bomber for a little over two years. Even with the problems, the plan was to use the linear bomb bay. Now how well that would have worked in practice...? Not that it would have matter much anways of course.
Quoting Texfly101 (Reply 8): It could carry heavy load different configurations of recon gear, particularly flares and stores necessary to do specialized missions for per strike recons and post strike analysis.
Flares didn't work well since the aircraft was too fast over the target. Also, the wing strobes were never used operationally since they lit up the aircraft as much as the surrounding countryside. The IR system and SLAR were used extensively at night operationally though. It was pretty spooky watching them practice with the strobes across central Florda at night. These big cones of light would march along looking some monster devouring the landscape.
The RA-5C was more than just an aircraft with cameras. It was part of a comprehensive intelligence gathering system called the IOIS...Integrated Operational Intelligence System. The RA-5 was the gathering platform and the infromation was processed in the IOIC -Integrated Operational Intelligence Center- aboard the Forrestals and larger carriers. In the Kitty Hawk and Nimitz's that original space is now the CVIC.
The sensor suite included side looking radar (SLAR) and IR-both classified in their day, along with the fast film development porcess you see in any drugstore now. In the late '60s the RA-5 sensor suite was essentially the same as that carried by the SR-71. Nobody wanted to advertise that much though because RA-5s had been lost over North Vietnam.
Needless to say the Vigi community was a secretive one, and not well understood by other Naval Aviation communities. Here are some links (FYI, I was in Sanford from 59-65, 67-68 and in Albany 68-70):
Checksixx From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 1164 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (8 years 11 months 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 5993 times:
Unless it was armed, dropping a nuclear weapon on the ground, burning it, even blowing it up would not cause a nuclear detonation. At the most you would have a limited exposure of material but no explosion.
DeltaGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (8 years 11 months 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 5933 times:
Quoting Sidishus (Reply 9): Needless to say the Vigi community was a secretive one, and not well understood by other Naval Aviation communities. Here are some links (FYI, I was in Sanford from 59-65, 67-68 and in Albany 68-70):
Indeed...I've enjoyed reading this thread, as my uncle was a Vigi driver at both Sanford and Albany, as well as Key West....he speaks fondly of the jet, but certainly has his share of painful memories from the war...that aircraft did take quite a few losses.
Sidishus, I may have asked you this before, but what squadrons/boats were you on with the Viggie?