In late 1944 and early 1945, the US Navy ordered four carrier-based jet fighters, the Vought XF6U-1 Pirate, the McDonnell XFD-1 Phantom, the McDonnell XF2D-1 Banshee, and the North American XFJ-1 Fury. It was hoped that these four fighters would be available in time for Operation Olympic/Coronet, the invasion of Japan planned for May of 1946.
The North American entry, known as NA-134 on company rolls, called for a fairly conventional low-mounted, straight-winged monoplane of rather tubby cross section. The General Electric J35 axial-flow turbojet was fed by a nose intake and exhausted through a pipe in the tail. A bubble canopy was fitted, and the wing was fitted with retractable, slatted air brakes in the upper and lower surfaces.
The USAF ordered a land-based version of the Fury under the designation XP-86, but North American was eventually to adapt the aircraft to a swept-wing configuration to produce the famed Sabre of Korean War fame. However, being constrained by the need to retain good low-speed handling capabilities for landings aboard carriers, the Navy decided to stick with the straight-winged format and went ahead with three prototypes of the XFJ-1 Fury (Bu No 39053/39055).
In May of 1945, the Navy had ordered 100 production FJ-1s, which was later cut back to 30. Serials were BuNo 120342/120371. These were known as NA-141 on company rolls.
The first XFJ-1 (Bu No 39053) took off on its maiden flight on September 11, 1946, with Wallace Lien as the pilot.
The thirty FJ-1s were delivered from October 1947 to April 1948. The slatted wing-mounted air brakes of the three prototypes were replaced by more conventional fuselage-mounted "barn door" air brakes. The Fury has a small wheel mounted on the nosewheel strut which permitted the aircraft to "kneel" nose-down to facilitate parking aboard carriers.
The first (and only) squadron to receive the FJ-1 Fury was VF-5A based at NAS North Island near San Diego, California. The squadron began an exhaustive familiarization program, including landings aboard a simulated aircraft carrier deck. The first landing of a Fury on an actual carrier took place on March 16, 1948, when Commander Pete Aurand, CO of VF-5A, landed aboard the USS *Boxer*. He was immediately followed by his executive officer, Lt. Cdr. Robert Elder. Both officers then took off under their own power, landed again, then took off a second time with the aid of a catapult. Since jets accelerate relatively slowly at low speeds, a longer deck run was necessary and it was decided to adopt catapulting as the standard carrier jet launching procedure.
The pilots of VF-5A were fairly happy about the performance of the FJ-1. They used their FJ-1s to win the Bendix Trophy in 1948, beating USAF F-80 Shooting Stars in a cross-country race. However, VF-5A pilots did note that the performance of the FJ-1 was fairly poor when flying at its maximum gross weight and that the plane was uncomfortable to fly because of a lack of pressurization and temperature control. There were also problems with the wingtip tanks. It turned out that the tanks were not compatible with the thin wing, and North American was forced to redesign them. However, the problem was never entirely cured.
VF-5A was renamed VF-51 in August 1948. It operated the FJ-1 until July of 1949, when the squadron traded in its Furies for Grumman F9F-2 Panthers. Their FJ-1s were then transferred to the US Navy Reserve, whey they served as transition trainers for pilots moving onto the McDonnell F2H Banshee or to the Grumman F9F Panther.
Engine: One Allison J35-A-2, 4000 lb.st.
Weights: 8843 pounds empty, 15,115 pounds takeoff (clean).
Performance: Maximum speed 547 mph at 9000 feet. Initial climb rate 3300 feet per minute. Service ceiling 32,000 feet.
Dimensions: wingspan 28 feet 2 inches, length 34 feet 5 inches, height 14 feet 10 inches, wing area 221 square feet.
Fuel capacity included an internal load of 465 gallons and a pair of 165-gallon drop tanks at the wingtips, giving the FJ-1 a maximum range of 1500 miles.
Armament consisted of six 0.50-inch machine guns with 1500 rounds total. The
wing was too thin to accommodate any underwing ordinance loads.