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RA-5C Vigilante in World War III

One aircraft that had been entirely withdrawn from USN service prior to the outbreak of war was the North American (now Rockwell International) RA-5C Vigilante. The last USN cruise of this aircraft had been in 1979, and apart from a handful kept as Gate Guards, most were in long-term storage at AMARC in Arizona when the war began. Though a number of aircraft had to be broken down for parts, enough airframes were activated to form two squadrons for carrier duty, and a training unit at NAS Fallon, Nevada.

The aircraft's reconnaissance suite was largely unchanged, with cameras, SLAR, IR linescan, along with ECM and ELINT equipment. Enough Vietnam-era veterans returned to service, mostly as maintenance personnel or ground officers, to enable current USN air and ground crew to become proficient on the aircraft.

A list of Vigilante variants:

RVAH-1: Formed at NAS Fallon in March, 1986. Provided detachments for both land-based and carrier-based operations. Disestablished 1992 with arrival of RF-18 into USN service.

RVAH-3: Longtime training squadron during the prior service of the aircraft. Formed at NAS Fallon January, 1986. Disestablished in 1992.

RVAH-7: Formed at NAS Fallon, also in March, 1986. East Coast Vigilante unit, with detachments aboard carriers as needed, and to support land-based operations. At NAS Cecil Field, FL, for duration of the war, and Disestablished in 1992.

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