The FJ- series of U.S. Navy aircraft were developed by North American Aircraft at the same time the highly successful USAF F-86 Sabre Jet — in the 1940’s. The FJ-1 was straight-winged, subsonic and used the 3,820 lb. thrust GE J-35 engine. The capture of German data on swept-wing aerodynamics resulted in the design of the F-86 and the later FJ- series. The FJ-2 was swept-winged, and used the GE J-47 with 6,000 lbs. of thrust. Folding wings were designed to enable tighter parking on carrier decks. The six 50-caliber F-86 machine guns were replaced with 4 20 mm. cannons. The FJ-2 was 1,000 lbs. heavier than the F-86A and performance suffered, so the FJ-3 was developed with the 7,600 lb. thrust Wright J-65 engine — a much superior aircraft. The FJ-4 was developed as a long-range fighter, with a larger fuselage and larger, thinner laminar flow wing enabling it to carry more internal fuel. The wing was of the multi-spar design using chemically milled structural skins, made from a single billet of aluminum.
The FJ-4B was the attack version; the first jet designed to carry a nuclear weapon off a carrier. It has mid-span ailerons with spoilers on the upper surface of the flaps for greater roll authority at low altitude transonic speeds. High lift landing flaps, coupled with drooping leading edge slats allowed the low speed handling required for carrier operations. The horizontal stabilizer and elevator function together as a stabilator, to allow supersonic speeds (Mach 1.2), with the elevator functioning as a damping device to reduce low altitude, high speed, pilot induced oscillations (PIO). A splitter plate rudder (solid aluminum plate reinforced with external ribs) solved rudder flutter problems that resulted in the loss of a test aircraft. The rudder is cable actuated and a yaw damper is incorporated. All the other control surfaces are hydraulically actuated, with non-reversing, dual channel servos with completely separated dual hydraulic systems. A hydraulic Ram Air Turbine (RAT) may be deployed in the event of dual hydraulic failure (eg. with a failed and seized engine).
For carrier operations, the FJ-4 has wide-track landing gear, with a long-stroke, trailing link design to cushion landings. A catapult hook, holdback fittings and retracting A-frame arresting hook were incorporated. Power for the FJ-4B was supplied by the Wright J65-W-16A axial flow turbojet engine, producing 7,700 lbs. of thrust. The -4B version also incorporated a “buddy system” for refueling another FJ-4B. The two aircraft would depart the carrier, one carrying the “special external store” (read nuclear weapon) and the other with the buddy refueling system. They would progress to a pre-determined refueling point, where the attack plane would refuel and proceed on to the target; the other returning to the carrier. The FJ-4B was the first attack aircraft to incorporate the Low Altitude Bombing System, or “LABS”. It automates a low altitude attack where the LABS system indicates the start of a pull-up, automatically releases the weapon at the proper angle and speed, and the aircraft continues a half-cuban eight maneuver to avoid the nuclear blast.
Empty weight of the FJ-4B is 13,500 lbs. and it can take off with a gross weight of 28,000 lbs., more than twice it’s empty weight. Optimum range for the FJ-4B, on internal fuel alone, is 1640 nautical miles. This can be extended to 2,500 nautical miles using four 200 gallon expendable drop tanks.
Nine Navy and three Marine squadrons were equipped with the FJ-4B, which was ultimately replaced with the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.
MiG Fury Fighter’s FJ-4B, the last one flying in the world, was built in 1958 in the second to last batch of 222 aircraft, and was delivered to VA-192 “Golden Dragons” on board the USS Bon Homme Richard. It operated with several other Navy squadrons, finishing its Navy career with VA-216, the “Black Diamonds”, aboard the USS Hancock in Vietnam. It was sent to Litchfield Park, Arizona, for disposal but somehow missed demolition. In 1971, Bob Laidlaw, the President of Flight Systems in Mojave California and a former NAA Test Pilot, was looking for an aircraft that would stay subsonic in a near-vertical dive from 50,000 ft. and came upon the idea of using the FJ-4B. It has four large speedbrakes that were part of the LABS system, which provided sufficient drag to keep the aircraft subsonic. There was a civilian contract to test the radar pattern-matching guidance system of the Pershing II intermediate range ballistic missle and it required such a profile. BuNo 143575 was restored to flight status and flew over 700 hours of roller coaster re-entry paths, while measuring the ability of the Pershing warhead hung beneath the wing to guide itself to various targets around the U.S.. While operating with Flight Systems, BuNo 143575 was registered as N400FS, the registration she bears today.
Some of the other firsts for the FJ-4B “Fury” include an absolute positioning longitudinal trim system, set with a thumb wheel on the stick (allowing precise trim setting for carrier launches), the first sealed wet wing, and single point refueling of all five internal fuel tanks.
When “575” finished the Pershing program she was again put to pasture at Mojave, where she sat until 1991 when Larry Mockford of T-Bird Aviation purchased the aircraft and started restoring her. We purchased her from Larry in 2002 and finished the restoration at Mojave with Scott MacDonnell (her former crew chief and mechanic) and at Teton Aviation in Driggs, Idaho where she now resides. The paint scheme is that of the FJ-4’s of the Fleet Air Gunnery Unit at NAS El Centro, California. It was chosen for its uniqueness as well as an honor to all FJ pilots, who did their gunnery training at FAGU El Centro.
We fly the “Fury-4” in the U.S. Navy Tailhook Legacy Flight at airshows, mostly in the western U.S. promoting Naval Aviation through the display of historic, and current, Navy aircraft.
Number Still Flying Today: ONE, you are looking at it!
Manufacturer - North American Rockwell
Model - FJ-4B
Serial # - 143575
Year - 1958
N-Number - N400FS
Engines - One, Wright J65-W-16A Turbojet Thrust: 7,700 lbs.
Length - 36’ 4”
Height - 13’ 11”
Wingspan - 39’ 1”
Empty: 13,210 lbs.
Max Takeoff: 23,700 lbs
Range: 2,020 Miles
Max Speed: 590 kts