Losses and Aviation Safety

Impressive photo shows RA-5C Vigilante doing successful barricade arrestment aboard USS Constellation

The RA-5C was damaged by antiaircraft fire during a combat mission over Vietnam

Taken on Aug. 18, 1968 the impressive picture in this post shows an RA-5C Vigilante of Reconnaissance Attack (Heavy) Squadron 5 (RVAH-5) damaged by antiaircraft fire during a combat mission over Vietnam going into the barricade on the flight deck of the carrier USS Constellation (CVA 64).

During the Vietnam War, RVAH-5 completed five combined Western Pacific (WESTPAC) and Vietnam deployments, and two Atlantic / Mediterranean (LANT/MED) deployments on the following carriers:

  • Aug. 5, 1964 – May 6, 1965, USS Ranger, WESTPAC and Vietnam
  • Nov. 30, 1965 – Jul. 10, 1966, USS America, LANT/MED
  • Jan. 10 – 20 Sep. 1967, USS America, LANT/MED
  • May 29 1968 – Jan. 31 1969 USS Constellation, WESTPAC and Vietnam (On Nov. 25, 1968, RA-5C BuNo 149293 was lost in combat. The pilot, CDR Ernest Stamm,   ejected successfully, was captured, but died in captivity 16 Jan. 16, 1969 as a POW in North Vietnam; he was posthumously promoted to CAPT and his remains were returned to the U.S. in March 1974. The navigator, LTJG Richard Thum was killed during the shootdown and his remains were returned to the U.S. in September 1977.)
  • Oct. 14 1969 – Jun. 1 1970, USS Ranger, WESTPAC and Vietnam
  • Jun. 11, 1971 – Feb. 12, 1972, USS Enterprise, WESTPAC and Vietnam
  • Nov. 16, 1972 – Jun. 23, 1973, USS Ranger, WESTPAC and Vietnam

The A-5 Vigilante was a carrier based supersonic bomber designed by North American for the U.S. Navy. Its service in the nuclear strike role (replacing the Douglas A-3 Skywarrior) was very short. However, as the RA-5C, it saw extensive service during the Vietnam War in the tactical strike reconnaissance role.

Starting in August of 1964 hazardous medium-level reconnaissance missions were carried out.

Even though the Vigilante was fast and agile, 18 RA-5Cs were lost in combat during the Vietnam War: 14 to anti-aircraft fire, three to surface-to-air missiles, and one to a MiG-21. Due in part, to these combat losses, 36 additional RA-5C aircraft were built from 1968 to 1970 as attrition replacements. These aircraft were significantly different from previous RA-5Cs. Uprated engines, Leading Edge Extensions over the intakes, revised intake shape, and other modifications made these worthy of being called RA-5Ds – but the previous designation was retained. This last batch of Vigilantes are known as 156 Series aircraft since their BuNo. start with the numbers 156 (some earlier RA-5Cs were rebuilt to the same standard so there are exceptions).

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. RA-5C Vigilante RVAH-6 Fleurs, AJ601 / 156620 / 1972

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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