NORTH AMERICAN RA-5C VIGILANTE (FORMERLY A-3J)
The Vigilante was a supersonic, long range, all weather, carrier-based combat aircraft. Its first flight (attack version) was on 31 August 1958. Initial aircraft carrier suitability
trials took place on the USS SARATOGA in July 1960. First delivery to the fleet was on 30 June 1962. The first fleet operational squadron (RVAH-5) joined the USS Ranger in late 1964. A total of 79 Vigilantes
were built. The remaining attack versions (A-5A's and A-5B's) were subsequently converted to RA-5C's. The last RA-5C fleet squadron (RVAH-7) was disestablished in September 1979. Testing of the Vigilante started
at Patuxent River in the late 1950's and continued through the 1970's.
On 13 December 1960, the Vigilante set a world altitude record with payload, when it climbed to 91,450 feet with a payload of 1,000 kilograms.
This surpassed the existing record by over 4 miles.
Our display aircraft, RA-5C BUNO 156643, was the last Vigilante built. It spent its entire operational life in fleet squadrons; however, during its final years, it was often borrowed and utilized as a Naval Air
Test Center automatic carrier landing system (ACLS) certification aircraft for our aircraft carriers. The aircraft has the paint scheme used by our old Flight Test Division up to the mid 1970's. It's first flight
was in late 1970 and it joined our operational fleet (RVAH-9) on 9 November 1970. Its final flight was on 19 June 1979, when it was ferried from its squadron (RVAH-12) in Key West, Florida, to its retirement
site here at our Patuxent River Naval Air Museum.