North American RA-5C VIGILANTE

The RA-5C Vigilante was the reconnaissance variant of the A-5 Vigilante carrier supersonic bomber. They entered service in 1964 and were a milestone in combat aviation, especially in aerodynamics, electronics and structural design. It was an ultra modern aircraft with impressive performances for the time, being able to surpass Mach 2.5 without problem, although its operational maximum speed was limited to Mach 2. The RA-5C carried out the difficult BOA, (bomb damage assessment), missions, which consisted of photographing the bombed areas. This mission turned the Vigilante into the most shot down aircraft over Vietnam, since the North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery was waiting for them after the initial surprise of the bomber’s attack. They carried out optical, electronic and electromagnetic reconnaissance missions from a height of 16,000 meters with its Side Looking Airborne Radar, (SLAR), vertical and oblique cameras, low intensity TV camera, sensors for gathering electromagnetic intelligence and the DDS (Digital Data System) that encoded data on each exposure to have exact information where the picture was taken. A total of 140 units were built including conversions and new aircrafts until August 1970.

RA-5C VIGILANTE gallery and more info


Información adicional

Ficha Completa
Country of origin

United States


North American Aviation


Reconnaissance aircraft

Entered service




Combat weight

36,100 kg

Dimensions (length x wingspan x height)

23.32 x 16.15 x 5.92 meters

Wing area

70 m2

Power plant

2 x General Electric J79.GE.8 turbojet engines, 48 kN dry or 76 kN with afterburner (each)

Power, (total)

96 kN (51,264 hp) dry – 152 kN (81,168 hp) afterburner


Max. Mach 2.1 (2,232 km/h) – Cruise 900 km/h

Climb rate

2,430 meters per minute

Ceiling, (maximum)

16,000 meters


4,260 km