Today in History – December 27, 1951 – The F-86 gets a redo. 1st flight of the North American FJ-2/-3 Fury

27 December 1951 – The North American FJ-2/-3 Fury was a swept-wing carrier-capable fighter which was the Navy and Marine Corps attempt to modify the F-86 Sabre for use on aircraft carriers.

“These aircraft feature folding wings, and a longer nose landing strut designed to increase the angle of attack upon launch and to accommodate a longer oleo to absorb the shock of hard landings on an aircraft carrier deck.

Although sharing a U.S. Navy designation with its distant predecessor, the straight-winged North American FJ-1 Fury, the FJ-2/-3 were completely different aircraft. (The later FJ-4 Fury was again, a complete structural redesign of the FJ-3).

The FJ-2 was one of the aircraft used to evaluate the first steam catapult on a US Navy aircraft carrier.

By 1951, the Navy’s existing straight-wing fighters were much inferior in performance to the swept-wing Soviet MiG-15 then operating in the Korean War; the swept-wing fighters in the Navy’s development pipeline, such as the Vought F7U Cutlass and Grumman F9F Cougar, were not yet ready for deployment.

The first prototype North American Aviation XFJ-2B Fury, Bu. No. 133756, lifts off the runway at Los Angeles International Airport, 27 December 1951. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

As an interim measure, the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics ordered a direct development of the swept-wing F-86E Sabres as the FJ-2. As the F-86 had not been designed to be carrier-capable, this involved some risk, but Navy pilots had observed that the F-86A actually had a lower landing speed than the F9F Panther. During carrier qualification trials the Navy informed Grumman that if the F9F-5 stall speed was not reduced by 12 mph (10 kn; 19 km/h) it would be removed from carrier operations at the same time that the FJ-2 was already making its debut into navy squadrons.[2] North American’s chief engineer at the time stated that the swept-wing Sabre had handling and stall characteristics at low speeds comparable to the best straight-winged airplanes.[3] The urgency behind the program was such that 300 (later reduced to 200) FJ-2 fighters were ordered before the prototypes had flown.

The first prototype to fly was actually the third aircraft ordered: Designated XFJ-2B and first flown on 27 December 1951, it differed only from a standard F-86E-10 in its armament, having four 20-mm Colt Mk 12 cannons instead of the six Colt-Browning M3 .50 machine guns of the Sabre.”(1)

Source: (1) Wikipedia

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