North American's AJ Savage is one of those aircraft that you don't read much about; it was the Navy's first nuclear strike aircraft that could recover aboard carriers (the P2V-3Cs could only launch from Midway class CVs, not make a trap) and was in service for over a decade, but it never fired a shot in anger, and was overshadowed by its A3D successor. Thus, I was delighted to learn of this footage, showing a Savage serving with NASA as an early "Vomit Comet" for weightless testing. There's a lot of great detail here, including opening of the inlet for the turbojet engine in the tail, and the jet being lit off. We also see a B-57 chase plane, in an interesting combination of the black intruder scheme with some day-glo for visibility.
Collect-Aire (#4826) 1/48 scale
Anigrand has 1/72 scale resin kits of the AJ-2 and the turboprop A2J Super Savage
Although the Doolittle Raid of 1942 marked the only operational use of twin-engined aircraft from US carriers during WWII, the concept of a carrier-based heavy bomber was far from dead. The need for such an aircraft became urgent as the Navy raced to ensure its relevancy in an era of slashed postwar defence budgets, as if the carrier force was to survive, it had to be able to deliver nuclear weapons at long ranges.
What emerged from designers at North American to meet the Navy's requirements was an entirely new design, although it built on the company's work on the B-25, XB-28, and B-45. The NA-146 would be powered by a pair of R-2800 Double Wasps, as well as a J33 turbojet in the tailfor takeoffs and high speed dashes over targets.
The first prototype XAJ-1 prototype flew in July 1948; such was the urgent need that the initial batch of forty production aircraft had already been ordered by that time. VC-5 would be the first operational unit, receiving its first Savages in 1949 and conducting carrier trials from the USS Coral Sea the following year.
The AJ-2 version, built at Columbus, had a stretched fuselage, uprated engines (both piston and jet) and a revised tail with a higher rudder and no dihedral on the tailplane. The first AJ-2 flew in February 1953, and North American built 55 new build aircraft, as well as reworking some of the earlier aircraft. The AJ-2 was actually proceeded by the photo-recon AJ-2P, these having reconfigured noses with provision for eighteen cameras.
AJ Savage Bibliography
"The American Bomber Plane" by Ted and Amy Williams Includes AJ-2 specifications and 3-view, large image of a Savage with a damaged wing aboard USS Randolph (CVA-15)
Photo: Savages aboard USS Midway. Naval Aviation News October 1951 back cover.
"VC-6's Heavyweight Champion" Naval Aviation News January 1955. AJs operating from USS Midway - includes a large shot of a Savage on an elevator.
Photo: A pair of Savages on the forward flight deck of CVA-19, one in the old blue scheme, one in gray/white. All Hands March 1956 p.2
Photo: AJ-1 (possibly of VAH-1) with VF-14 F3Hs. Naval Aviation News January 1961 p.53