North American FJ-3 Fury

Last revised October 31, 1999






The design of a new Fury version, the NA-194, began in March of 1952. The engine was to be the Wright J65-W-2, a license-built version of the British-designed Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire turbojet engine. The thrust of the J65 was 7800 pounds, as against the 6000 pounds offered by the J47-GE-2 of the FJ-2. The higher thrust provided by the J65 offered the Navy the possibility of markedly enhanced performance, and a contract for 289 examples of the NA-194 was given to the Columbus plant on April 18, 1952. The designation FJ-3 was assigned by the Navy. Serials were BuNos 135774 through 136162.

In order to serve as a testbed for the FJ-3, the fifth FJ-2 (BuNo 131931) was fitted with a J65-W-2 engine. The NAA designation NA-196 was assigned to this project, and the modified FJ-2 flew for the first time on July 3, 1953.

The modified FJ-2 (131931) had retained the original nose intake of the stock FJ-2, but it was discovered during flight tests that the increased power offered by the J65 required that the nose air intake be made somewhat larger. Consequently, the production FJ-3 had a larger nose intake than that of the FJ-2. However, the slatted wings and the hydraulic power-operated horizontal tail and ailerons of the FJ-2 were retained. Four 20-mm cannon were provided, with 648 rounds of ammunition. Cockpit armor included a 52-pound back plate and an 88-pound plate in front of the instrument panel.

The first production FJ-3 (BuNo 135774) rolled out of the Columbus factory and flew for the first time on December 11, 1953. William Ingram was the pilot. The engine was the 7650 lb.st. J65-W-4.

By July of 1954, twenty-four FJ-3s had been delivered, and the aircraft began its Fleet Introduction Program at the Naval Air Testing Center (NATC) at Patuxent, Maryland. The flavor of the test flying environment at Patuxent during the mid-1950s was described very well by Tom Wolfe in his book *The Right Stuff*. Most of the early Navy jets had lots of quirks and were often quite dangerous to fly, and there were numerous accidents. I lived just across the Chesapeake Bay from Patuxent at that time, and scarcely a month would go by without at least one crash of a jet fighter being tested there. However, by the standards of the day, the FJ-3 went through its test program with relatively few problems being uncovered, although 135785 did manage to explode in midair and crash because of the ingestion of a foreign object, and the pilot of 135786 got himself lost, ran out of fuel, and had to ditch in the Patuxent River.

Navy Squadron VF-173 based at Jacksonville, Florida was first to receive the FJ-3, becoming active with the fighter in September of 1954. The FJ-3 made its first carrier landings aboard the USS *Bennington* (CVA-20) on May 8, 1955. On January 4, 1956, an FJ-3 flown by Cdr. Ralph L. Werner of VF-21 became the first aircraft to land aboard the USS *Forrestal*, the first of the new class of post-war giant carriers.

During the mid 1950s, the US Navy developed a mirror system to replace (at least partially) the paddle-waving LSO in guiding a pilot's approach to a carrier landing. The first mirror landing was made by Cdr. Robert D. Dose on August 22,1955, when he landed his FJ-3 aboard the USS *Bennington*.

On July 1, 1955, the Navy abandoned the deep blue color scheme that had been used throughout the Korean War, and adopted a color scheme in which the upper surfaces were dull grey and the undersurfaces were white.

The early FJ-3s had wing slats. On later FJ-3s, the wing slats were abandoned in favor of extended wing leading edges with a leading edge fence on each wing. The wing area went from 287.9 to 302.3 square feet. Space in these wing leading edges was used to accommodate 124 gallons of additional fuel, and many earlier FJ-3s were retrofitted with this extended wing leading edge.

Beginning with 136118, four additional store stations were added underneath the wings. The inboard stations could carry 500-pound bombs or rocket packs, whereas the intermediate stations could carry 1000-pound bombs or launching rails for AAM-N-7 (AIM-9) Sidewinder missiles. In 1956, Furies equipped to carry Sidewinders had their designation changed to FJ-3M. The first Sidewinder equipped Furies entered service in 1956, and approximately 80 FJ-3s were modified to FJ-3M standards.

The last aircraft on the original FJ-3 contract was finished in February 1956. A total of 389 were built, covering serials 135774 to 136162. A second order for FJ-3s had been given to North American on March 15, 1954 under the company designation of NA-215. This called for 214 aircraft, but was later but back to 69, but 80 more were added on November 2, bringing the final total to 149. The serials for this batch were BuNos 139210/139178 and 141364/141443. The first of these aircraft was delivered in December of 1955, and the last (an FJ-3M) rolled out of the factory in August of 1956.

The FJ-3 Fury was retrofitted in service with a long probe under the port wing for midair refuelling. Furies were usually refueled from North American AJ-2 Savage tankers. However, they could also "buddy refuel" from other tactical jets such as the Douglas A4D-2 Skyhawk. The midair-refuelling option extended the combat radius from 645 to 1237 miles.

A few FJ-3s were modified in 1957-60 to serve as drone directors. Those modified to handle the direction of surplus Vought Regulus missiles were redesignated FJ-3D, whereas those modified to handle controlled F9F-6K drones and KDA targets were redesignated FJ-3D2.

The FJ-3 had engine problems which did not fully manifest themselves until the type was well into service. The J65 had some severe lubrication problems which could cause the engine to seize up and lose all power during a catapult launch, forcing the aircraft to drop into the ocean. Don't you just hate it when this happens? :-) :-). The FJ-3 was also prone to engine flameouts, but probably not much more so than many other jet fighters of its day. The J65 also suffered from occasional catastrophic turbine blade failures, which would cause the engine to shed its turbine blades and send them flying out the sides of the fuselage. New types of blades were fitted during service to help correct this problem.

The FJ-3 served with the following squadrons:

Atlantic Fleet:

Pacific Fleet:

Despite their engine problems, the FJ-3s were fairly popular with their pilots. Commander J. J. Boydston of VF-154 spoke well of the aircraft. Captain James Powell of VF-142, who had also flown F9F-6s, felt that the FJ-3 got off the ground a lot faster than did the Cougar. He felt that his FJ-3 could outfight any aircraft in service during those times, with the sole exception of the F-86H.

I don't think that the FJ-3 ever fired its weapons in anger, although it did fly support during the American intervention in Lebanon during 1958.

On October 1, 1962, the FJ-3 was redesignated F-1C in the new Tri-Service designation scheme. The Fury was given the honor of the first slot in the new system, although by this time most FJ-3s had been retired from service. The FJ-3D was assigned the designation MF-3C, and the drone directors FJ-3D and FJ-3D2 were redesignated DF-1C and DF-1D respectively. It seems that the FJ-1 and FJ-2 were not redesignated, since by this time they were no longer in service, even with reserve units. However, it is an odd fact that the designations F-1A and F-1B were never assigned. Perhaps these designations were reserved for the FJ-1 and the FJ-2, although I am only guessing.

Serials of FJ-3 Fury:


135774/136162	North American FJ-3 Fury
139210/139278	North American FJ-3 Fury
141364/141443	North American FJ-3 Fury

Specification of the FJ-3:

Engine: One Wright J65-W-4B turbojet, 7650 lb.st. Dimensions: wingspan 37 feet 1 inch, wing area 302.3 square feet, length 37 feet 7 inches, height 13 feet 8 inches. Weights: 12,205 pounds empty, 15,669-17,926 pounds combat weight, 21,024 pounds gross. Performance: Distance to clear a 50-foot obstacle was 2750 feet. Initial climb rate: 8450 feet /minute (7100 ft/min with two Sidewinders). Climb to 30,000 feet in 5.2 minutes Ferry range: 1784 miles. Combat range (clean), 990 miles. Combat radius 370 miles (clean), 645 miles with 2 200-gallon drop tanks. Maximum speed: 681 mph at sea level, 623 mph at 35,000 feet (clean) 670 mph at sea level, 612 mph at 35,000 feet (two Sidewinders). Armament consisted of four 20-mm cannon in nose plus two AA-N-7 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (on the FJ-3M version).

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