A Vigilante ensures justice in their own way, taking matters into their hands and fight for what it’s right.
Such were the objectives for North American Aviation’s A-5 Vigilante, or Vigi, a state-of-the-art Cold War-era aircraft, and the last strategic bomber ever built for the Navy.
The Vigi’s Mach 2+ speed capability appealed to the Navy, as they wanted to deliver nuclear payloads at high speeds and in the shortest amount of time possible. That meant catapulting them off of aircraft carriers stationed in the world’s most dangerous military hot zones.
But regardless of its technological superiority, the Vigilante was disappointing in its original purpose as a carrier-based strategic nuclear bomber.
Quite simply, it was a dangerous idea. Even the most skilled pilots were afraid of flying the plane and the missions. During testing, its bomb and fuel tanks would drop off of the plane when launched from a catapult. Having a nuclear bomb falling and rolling around on deck was last thing a carrier needed.
Conveniently during this period, submarine missiles became the best option for bomb payloads, and the Vigilante became outdated.
Out of all the things that could go wrong in a bomber aircraft, the Vigi seemed to have suffered most of them.
Despite its failure in the bomber role, engineers took advantage of its speed capabilities. They modified the A-5 to perform fast reconnaissance aircraft in Vietnam, where it conducted pre and post-strike photography missions.
These kinds of operations were dangerous but critical for the war.
Although the Vigi didn’t deliver its original role, its heroic reconnaissance ops performance went down in the Vietnam War’s history.