FJ-2 Fury

Around 1944, the Navy started to get interesting in a jet powered, carrier capable fighter. The advent of jets in the European theater, coupled with the diminishing  returns of increased horsepower of piston engines meant sooner or later then Navy would have to operate jet powered fighters simply to keep up.

North American Aviation (NAA), with little experience working on Navy products, put forward a proposal for what was essentially a jet powered P-51 Mustang. The Wings and empennage were very similar to its piston engined predecessor.

Designated the FJ-1 (Fighter, first type built by NAA, first model) and name Fury, it first flew in September of 1946. It was not a resounding success, and only 31 were built.

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FJ-1 Fury

But while the FJ-1 wasn’t terribly successful as a carrier borne aircraft, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it structurally, and most of the basic design concept was quite sound.

So when the Air Force started to look for replacements for its first generation F-80 and F-84 jets, NAA took their experience with the FJ, and melded it with German World War II research in swept wings to provide higher speeds. The result was the legendary F-86 Sabre. Beyond the swept wing, the F-86 was pretty much an entirely new design, though the basic layout was similar, and the FJ experience also provided a great deal of experience in designing a jet fighter.

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F-86 Sabre.

The success of the F-86 prompted the Navy to take another stab at an NAA product, this time a virtual clone of the F-86 modified for carrier operations.

In spite of being a completely new design, this second attempt was still designated in the FJ series, being the FJ-2 Fury (being a completely new design, it more properly should have been designated the F2J-1).

This new Fury first flew 62 years ago today, on December 27, 1951. Low speed handling around the carrier was still less than wholly satisfactory. Additionally, production of the FJ-2 competed with the Air Force’s need for F-86s. Eventually, 200 FJ-2s would be built, with most serving with Marine Corps land based squadrons.

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FJ-2 Fury. It’s similarity to the Air Force F-86 is obvious in this pose.

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FJ-1 (Left), FJ-2 (Right)

The re-engined FJ-3 was externally very similar, but replaced the FJ-2’s J47 engine with the more powerful J65.  While the FJ-3 was still not a particularly good carrier aircraft, it was a significant improvement over the FJ-2, and eventually over 500 would be built, operated by both Navy and Marine fighter squadrons.

FJ-3s would eventually be equipped with the AIM-9/GAR-8 Sidewinder missile, and a fixed air-to-air refueling probe, in both cases, among the first Navy aircraft to be so equipped.


FJ-3 Fury equipped with Sidewinder missiles.

Even as the FJ-2/3 series was in testing, the Navy sought a further improved variant. With a completely redesigned wing, and a new internal arrangement that shared only the basic configuration, this final Navy version, the FJ-4 Fury, was really a new plane, and more properly should have been designated the F3J. Even so, the FJ-4 Fury clearly shared some of the DNA of its predecessors.

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FJ-4 armed with 2.75” rocket pods. Note the refueling probe on the port wing.

The FJ-4B would introduce a new, critical capability to Navy carriers. Mated with the new, second generation of “small” tactical nuclear weapons, the FJ-4B introduced an ability for the Navy to perform nuclear strikes that didn’t require huge bombers such as the AJ Savage or the A3D Skywarrior.

The FJ-3 and FJ-4 would serve into the 1960s, though mostly replaced in frontline service by F-8 Crusaders and A-4 Skyhawks. After the 1962 Tri-Service designation system was adopted, the FJ series became the F-1.

The introduction of the FJ-2 with its swept wing and near transonic speeds meant Naval Aviators would have to learn some new concepts about flying, particularly about critical Mach numbers. And so the Navy helpfully produced a video for the fledgling Fury flyer.

Incidentally, given the shennanigans with the FJ designation, you should know there was yet another FJ fighter. Back in 1944, there was interest in a “navalized” carrier capable version of the P-51.  A Mustang was modified and carrier trials were conducted but it was not adopted for production or use. The modified Mustang was designated the FJ-1 Seahorse, and so the FJ-1 Fury really should have been the F2J.  The Seahorse is a story for another day.


Filed under marines, navy, planes

3 responses to “FJ-2 Fury

  1. Esli

    i was going to toss off a sarcastic comment about not being able to place what famous event occurred 62 years ago today and then you confirmed first flight of the FJ-2 for me. Now I need to go research the AIM-9/GAR-8 Sidewinder instead. I have a guess about this “GAR” thing, but we’ll see….


  2. Bill Brandt

    If there had been a Seahorse it would have complimented the Spitfire. It was tghe Seafire.

    I used to think I knew a lot about historic military aircraft, till I started hanging around with you guys ;-)

    BTW a thought brewing to a question that perhaps could get a lot of debate.

    When a new fighter is developed the Navy has some particular needs – sucn as strong landing gear and fuselage to take the pounding from carrier landings – think of the stress on the empennage every time the arresting hook catches – going form ~150 to zero in a second.

    Many a “multi service fighter” has met its doom because it can’t meet the Navy requirements.

    Does the Air Force have requirements unique to it?

    Other than folding wings which the Air Force doesn’t need – I would think one could design a plane for the Navy that would be good for the Air Force?


    • The F-4 did well in AF service. For awhile, it was the main tactical fighter I saw around AF bases. OTOH, As Lex pointed out many times, the AF’s role is different than just a Tactical AF. The AF doesn’t fulfill the tactical role well because it doesn’t want to. OTOH, it does fulfill the strategic role quite well, and if you want to disassemble a country’s ability to fight the AF is the one you call. As such, the aircraft the AF needs must posses both load hauling ability as well as range. The BEagle (Strike Eagle), for example, does this well, but it is a large aircraft. The BUFF dwarfs anything the Navy has ever had, and the old B-36 was even bigger.

      The F-35, now under late development/early deployment, while meant to be interservice, I have serious doubts as to its long term success. Problems with the earlier Navy version of the Aardvark, was not limited to the engines. It didn’t even work out well in the role the AF envisioned for it. While it did OK in its repurposed role, the country can’t afford many false starts like it. I have the feeling, the F-35 is going to be similar to the Varks in that manner.

      The big dividing line is that 4 acres of steel island the Navy has to operate off of. It is a very serious design constraint.