North American FJ-1 Fury - United States, 1947
Detailing the development and operational history of the North American FJ-1 Fury Carrierborne Fighter Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 8/4/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Though serving in limited numbers for a limited time, the FJ-1 Fury was a major stepping stone in American jet fighter design.
As with the post-World War 2 United States Air Force (USAF), the United States Navy (USN) benefitted from jet technology furthered in America, Britain, and Germany. The service was slower to adopt carrier-based jet aircraft than its USAF brethren but nonetheless begat generation after generation of capable fighter types in time. One of the more overlooked achievements was the North American FJ "Fury" line which appeared after the war and managed only limited production numbers. However, the type was very influential in the design and development of the Korean War-era classic North American F-86 "Sabre" still to come.
Jet technology of the war years revolved around the "turbojet" and it was the Germans that were first to the skies with their famous Messerschmitt Me 262 "Schwalbe" fighter. The British followed a short time later with the introduction of the Gloster Meteor while the Americans managed only the limited stock Bell P-59 Airacomets (66 were built) before settling on the improved Lockheed P-80 Shooting Start - production totaling 1,715 fighters. With jet technology still at its infancy, there was always room for improvement in engine reliability, thrust output, and endurance leading to a sharp scale of advance during the post-war period benefitting the West greatly due to the captured German data on jets and swept-wing technology.
With jets already the perceived future of aerial warfare as far as the Americans were concerned, authorities were already laying down the groundwork for fleets of new jet-powered fighters and bombers. A request during the late-war years called for a straight-wing, jet-powered, single-seat fighter and a North American design was selected of competing designs from Douglas and Vought. North American would forever be tied to the wartime successes of its P-51 Mustang but that prop-driven fighter had seen its technological end by the end of the war. The USN selected the North American submission as the "XFJ-1" and ordered in prototype form during late 1944. Three were completed and powered by a single General Electric J35-GE-2 turbojet of 3,820lb thrust.
North American moved ahead in its construction and manufactured a flyable XFJ-1 prototype which first took to the air on September 1th, 1946. By this time, the World War was over and many military programs curtailed or cancelled outright. The XFJ-1 was advanced enough and in need that it was allowed to remain in development. Satisfied with its new product, the USN commissioned for 100 of the type as the FJ-1 with the nickname of "Fury" shortly thereafter. These were to be powered by an Allison J35-A-2 turbojet engine of 4,000lb thrust. Armament was settled on 6 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns - a U.S. fighter tradition dating back to World War 2. Some 1,500 x rounds of 0.50 caliber ammunition were carried for all guns. Initial deliveries then commenced during October of 1947 with the first recipient becoming squadron VF-5A. The 100-strong order was then trimmed to thirty airframes and these were used primarily in a development role out of Naval Air Station North Island, California.
The FJ-1 did not end up the long-term USN solution for a jet fighter. It lacked many essentials accepted widely today such as folding wings and swept-back wings. Folding wings allowed space-strapped carriers to stock more than a handful of aircraft on a single ship while swept-back wings gave the appropriate performance and stability in high-speed flight. Folding wings could not be instituted into the Fury's straight appendages due to the dive brake spans. To work around the storage issue, engineers added a "nose-down" feature to the nose leg in which the aircraft could be lowered at its front when stored. This alleviated some of the profile excess of the aircraft on USN carriers but was not a popular solution on the whole. American carriers were also still of the World War 2-era which lacked catapult-launching support for its aircraft. The Fury was able to get airborne under its own power but the take-off phase taxed the turbojet engine to its maximum and the ascent was a slow process unsuitable for carrier warfare - particularly in the intercept role.
Performance numbers of the FJ-1 included a maximum speed of 547 miles per hour, a range out to 1,500 miles, a service ceiling of 32,000 feet and a rate-of-climb of 3,300 feet per minute.
The FJ-1 was never exported beyond the United States and managed a career up to 1953. Its final flying days were with the USN Reserve as frontline USN units began receiving the straight-wing Grumman F9F Panther fighters which saw combat service in the Korean War (1950-1953) with USN and USMC forces.
During its short time aloft, the Fury managed some highlights - earning the Bendix Trophy Race during September 1948 and becoming the first USN jet-powered carrier-based fighter to reach squadron-sized strength.
The related FJ-2, FJ-3, and FJ-4 Furies were swept-wing versions of the original FJ-1 with enough changes to become wholly their own aircraft designs. All are detailed elsewhere on this site.