North American XFJ-1 BuNo. 39053 prototype NATC Patuxent River

North American XFJ-1 BuNo. 39053 prototype NATC Patuxent River

Introduction

North American Aviation Inc. started with the design and manufacturing of aircraft when their holding company acquired in 1934 General Aviation. In fact this was the American Fokker company renamed after the Dutchman Anthony Fokker was forced to leave this company as managing director. First project started  was that for a two-seat mid-wing military observation plane  aircraft. Originally this was a General Aviation project know as GA-15. At the new North American company it became known as the O-47. First flight of the prototype took place in the early summer of 1935. The U.S. Army Air Force placed some small orders for the production version and all together 164 were manufactured. The O-45 was soon followed by a two-seat low wing trainer known as NA-16. It was built in large numbers and the final version became well known as the T-6 Texan, or Harvard for its Canadian built license product.

 North American FJ-1 BuNo. 120352 Naval Air Reserve at Oakland

North American FJ-1 BuNo. 120352 Naval Air Reserve at Oakland

Even more known was the North American NA-73. It was built under a British contract as an emergency fighter for the Royal Air Force, but later it gained fame as the P-51 Mustang fighter. It was produced in large numbers and played a very decisive role in the air war over Europe since it was the first long-range escort fighter on more than even terms with the best Luftwaffe fighters. North American also tried to develop a navalized version with folding wings and an arrester hook as a deck landing fighter. Although trials with a converted P-51D were successful the idea never progressed further. With the Mustang as an example and with a new propulsion method introduced as the turbojet engine, North American entered the jet era……..

The FJ-1 Fury

When the first jet engines (from British origin!) were introduced in the U.S. aircraft manufacturers were in 1944 requested for design proposals of a jet-powered naval fighter suitable for carrier operations. McDonnell, Chance Vought and North American were all three selected to build prototypes for operational evaluation.

FJ-1-with-parking-nose-wheel

FJ-1-with-parking-nose-wheel

The North American design, carrying the company designation NA-134, was powered by a single Allison J-35 engine offering a thrust of 1814 kg (4000 lbs). The J-35, originally a General Electric design, was the first U.S. jet engine with an axial-flow compressor.

The FJ-1 was named ‘Fury’. It featured a stubby fuselage with a central air intake            in front of the fuselage. It was fitted with a nose wheel and with a bubble-type canopy. Wings and tailplane were more or less based on these of the P-51 Mustang.

The U.S. Navy ordered three XFJ-1 prototypes (BuNo. 39053, 39054 and 39055). The first XFJ-1 prototype made its maiden flight in September 1946.

The U.S. Navy had already placed an order for 100 NA-141/FJ-1 production models in May 1945.

By the end of the Second World War in August 1945 this was cut back to 30.

Only one U.S. Navy squadron (VF-5A; later renamed as VF-51) used the FJ-1 operationally but its front-line service career lasted only 14 months.. It was used subsequently by U.S. naval Reserve pilots to gain their first jet experiences until replaced by more modern types.

North-American-FJ-1-and-XFJ-2B-in-flight-ca-1952

North-American-FJ-1-and-XFJ-2B-in-flight-ca-1952

Production:

XFJ-1 prototypes: BuNos. 39053, 39054 and 39055.
FJ-1: BuNos. 120342 to 120371.
Specifications (FJ-1 model):
Power plant:               Allison J-35-A-2 or -4 jet engine of  1814 kg thrust
Dimensions:
-wing span:                 11.62 m
-length:                       10.48 m
-height:                       4.36 m
-wing area:                  20.5 m2
Weights:
-empty:                       4010 kg
-loaded:                      6853 kg
Performances:
-max. speed:               880 km/h at 2743 m
-service ceiling:           9753 m
-range:                        2407 km with two external wing tip tanks
Armament:                 six .50 (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns with 1500 round in total.

The FJ-2:

North-American-XFJ-2-2nd-prototype-BuNo.-133755-on-CV-41-USS-Midway

North-American-XFJ-2-2nd-prototype-BuNo.-133755-on-CV-41-USS-Midway

The FJ-1 had only mediocre performances. In fact its relatively low speed and service ceiling made it already obsolete when it was introduced into military service.

It was soon succeeded by a much more performing type, the FJ-2. This type designation suggests it was an improved FJ-1.  In fact it was a totally new and different plane and the type designation FJ-2 was only used as an easy way to obtain financial funding for this type.

The FJ-2 was in fact a navalized version of North American’s highly successful swept wing F-86 Sabre jet fighter. North American used the U.S.A.F. F-86E Sabre as basic design. Three prototypes XFJ-2 were built; the first one made its maiden flight on 27 December 1951. Main difference with the F-86E except for its arrester hook and folding wings was the replacement of the six .50 machine guns by four 20mm cannon. The XFJ-2 was powered by a General Electric J-47-GE-2 turbojet giving 2722 kg thrust. North American produced for the U.S. Navy 200 similar powered FJ-2 production models. The U.S. Navy was not entirely satisfied, preferring the Grumman F9F Cougar for its better slow speed handling at deck landings and the FJ-2’s were soon assigned to the U.S. Marines. It was used until 1957. Under the new aircraft type numbering FJ-2 was changed into F-1B.

North-American-FJ-2-Fury-VMF-312-BuNo.-132057-ca-1955-Checkerboard-tail

North-American-FJ-2-Fury-VMF-312-BuNo.-132057-ca-1955-Checkerboard-tail

Production:

XFJ-2 (NA-179) prototypes:             133754, 133755 and 133756 (3)
FJ-2 (NA-181) production models:   131927 to 132126 (200)
Specifications:
Power plant:               General Electric J-47-GE-2 jet engine of 2722 kg thrust
Dimensions:
-wing span:                 11.31 m
-length:                       11.45 m
-height:                       4.16 m
-wing area:                  26.7 m2
Weights:
-empty:                       5353 kg
-loaded:                      8523 kg
Performances:
-max. speed:               1088 km/h at sea level
-service ceiling:           14,300 m
-range:                        1593 km
Armament:                 four 20 mm cannon

The FJ-3:

North-American-FJ-3M-Fury-BuNo.-136142-of-VF-121-1957

North-American-FJ-3M-Fury-BuNo.-136142-of-VF-121-1957

With the FJ-2 more or less being rejected by the U.S. Navy, North American started to develop a more advanced and improved version as the FJ-3. It was fitted with a more powerful Wright J-65 engine offering 3470 kg thrust. External visual difference with the  FJ-2 was a much larger air intake. The FJ-3 prototype made its first flight on 3 July 1953. The first production model appeared in December of that year. North American further improved low speed handling by fitting a new type of wing leading edge slats. When it was operational, an in-flight refuelling system was retro-fitted. The FJ-3 remained in service at various U.S. Navy squadrons until 1962. Under the uniform U.S. Navy/U.S.A.F. type designation of 1962 the FJ-3 became the F-1C. A number of FJ-3’s were modified to drone-control versions as FJ-3D (DF-1C) for the use of Vought Regulus guided missiles. Some were also used as drone-control version for use with Grumman F9F-6K target drones.

North-American-FJ-3-BuNo.135815-with-mutual-U.S.-Navy-and-marines-marking.

North-American-FJ-3-BuNo.135815-with-mutual-U.S.-Navy-and-marines-marking.

Production:

FJ-3/NA-194:
BuNos. 135774 to 136162, 139210 to 1039278 and 141364 to 141443 (535 in total)

Specifications:

Power plant:  General_Electric_J47 Wright J-65 Turbojet of 3470 kg thrust
Dimensions:
-wing span:                 11.31 m
-length:                       11.45 m
-height:                       4.14 m
-wing area:                  28.1 m2
Weights:
-empty:                       5536 kg
-loaded:                      9536 kg
Performances:
-max. speed:               1096 km/h at sea level
-service ceiling:           14,300 m
-range:                        1593 km
Armament:                 four 20 mm cannon plus two AA-N-7 Sidewinder missiles on last series FJ-3M

FJ-4, the final Fury:

KB-50J-refueling-VMA-214-FJ-4B

KB-50J-refueling-VMA-214-FJ-4B

The final FJ-4 version was a major redesign of the basic aircraft with a much larger wing fitted with a number of hard points. It carried 50% more internal fuel that the previous version without any loss of performance. This was accomplished by fitting the last and most powerful version of the J-65 engine in combination with a thinner wing and further aerodynamic refinements on fuselage and tailplane. Basically the FJ-4 was intended as a fighter-bomber.

Characteristic offensive load consisted of six Bullpup air-to-ground missiles or high-explosive bombs or napalm tanks. If necessary it could fulfill nuclear attack missions using LABS delivery of this weapon.

The project was started under the company designation NA-208 in the summer of 1953.

North-American-FJ-4-Fury-drone-of-VU-7-BuNo.-139429-NAAS-Brown-Field-California-USA-in-1960

North-American-FJ-4-Fury-drone-of-VU-7-BuNo.-139429-NAAS-Brown-Field-California-USA-in-1960

The two prototypes XFJ-4 had to meet the U.S. Navy requirements of Mach 0.95 max. speed and a combat ceiling of 14,935 m (49,000 ft) without the use of an afterburner. The both FJ-4 prototypes could easily meet these requirements which resulted in a final starting order of 25; later followed by another 107. It entered service in 1955 at one single U.S. Navy squadron (VA-126) and three U.S. Marine squadrons (VMF-232, VMF-235, and VMF-451). All aircraft were delivered by March 1957.

The further improved FJ-4B was the final dedicated ground attack version with six underwing hardpoints with a total capacity of up to 2722 kg (6000 lbs) fuel tanks, bombs or rockets.

All FJ-4B’s had a fuel probe for in-flight refueling.

The last of the FJ-4 (no. 222) was delivered in May 1958. The FJ-4B served with Naval Attack Squadrons VA-55, VA-56, VA-63, VA-116 (VA-144), VA-126, VA-146, VA-151, VA-192 (VA-216), VA-212, VA-214 and with Marine Attack Squadrons VMA-212, VMA-214, and VMA-223, all with the Pacific Fleet. Under the new common type designation system introduced in 1962 the FJ-4 became the F-1E and the FJ-4B the AF-1E. The FJ-4B’s remained operational until the mid-sixties and was as far as known never used in military combat.

North-American-FJ-4F-Fury-1957-BuNo.-139284-withou-rocket-motor

North-American-FJ-4F-Fury-1957-BuNo.-139284-withou-rocket-motor

A further variant of the FJ-4B was the FJ-4F. It featured a 2268 kg (5000 lbs) thrust Rocketdyne AR-1 rocket motor in the tail. Two FJ-4B’s (BuNos 139282 and 139284) were converted for this purpose. With the rocket motor the FJ-4F had a much higher climbing rate bur the project was not continued. At North American the FJ-4F was designated as the NA-234. Final production models would have been the NA-248.

Production:

FJ-4 prototypes (NA-208): BuNos. 139279 and 139280
FJ-4 (NA-209):
BuNos: 139281 to 139323; 139424 to 139530 (132)
FJ-4B (NA-209 and NA-229):
BuNos: 139531 to 139555; 141444 to 141489; 143493 to 143643 (222)

Specifications (FJ-4B):

Power plant: General_Electric_J47 J-65W-16A Turbojet of 3492 kg thrust
Dimensions:
-wing span:                 11.92 m
-length:                         11.45m
-height:                          4.23m
-wing area:                    31.46 m2
Weights:
-empty:                         6250 kg
-loaded:                        12,701 kg
Performances:
-max. speed:                 1110km/h at sea level
-service ceiling:           +13,700 m
-range:                        2390 km on internal fuel tanks
Armament:                 four 20 mm cannon; at later versions sometimes reduced to two plus up to 2268 kg load under six underwing hard points

North-American-FJ-4F-Fury-1957-BuNo.-139284-with-rocket-motor-installed

North-American-FJ-4F-Fury-1957-BuNo.-139284-with-rocket-motor-installed

Colour schemes:

The FJ-1 flew in an all-over non-specular extra dark sea-blue scheme. The FJ-2 and FJ-3 flew initially also in this scheme. Later this was replaced by light sea grey at the underside and medium sea gray on the upper sides.

The FJ-4 had standard the light/medium sea grey scheme. Sometimes colorful squadron markings were applied. The drone version flew with non-specular blue fuselage, yellow wings and orange tail.

Nico Braas

Literature:
Steve Ginter, North American FJ-1 Fury, naval fighters number seven (1983)
Swanborough, North American-an aircraft album, Ian Allan UK (1973)