Five original 35mm black and white film negatives taken circa 1955, showing different views of a very interesting and extremely uncommon state-of-the-art United States Navy jet equipped with spy cameras in its nose cone.
It comes from the archive of a student who attended Amityville High School on Long Island, New York and left a photographic legacy of several thousand photographs documenting high school life on Long Island in the mid-1950s.
So these are NOT official military photographs. I cannot say for certain exactly where these photos were taken, but it is likely either the plane manufacturer's facility, which was located on Long Island, or a military aviation facility on the Island.
When you think about it, it's rather remarkable that at the height of the Cold War, a high school student had such open access to the newest American recon plane, such that he could leisurely take fine detailed photographs of it from all angles.
The plane shown is a Chance-Vought Cutlass F7U-3P — the photo-recon variant of the F7U-3 jet. Only 12 of these were made and they were delivered in December 1955. These photo-reconnaissance versions had 25-inch-longer noses and were equipped with photo flash cartridges. None of these aircraft saw operational service, being used only for research and evaluation purposes.
The Chance Vought F7U Cutlass was a U.S. Navy carrier-based jet fighter and fighter-bomber and design-wise was probably the most radical fighter aircraft to ever achieve fleet service.
Its highly unusual, semi-tailless design was based on aerodynamic data and plans captured from the Arado company in Nazi Germany at the end of World War II.
It was the first tailless airplane to go into production in the United States, the first jet fighter in the U.S. designed from the outset with afterburners, the Navy's first swept-wing jet and the first with a steerable nose wheel and irreversible power control system. It was the first production naval aircraft to achieve supersonic flight, first to release bombs at supersonic speed and carry rockets in an under-fuselage pack. It was one of the first combat aircraft to feature a head-up display, an inertial navigation system, and a turbofan engine.
Unfortunately, the Cutlass F7U was a dreadful aircraft — its loss rate was phenomenal. In 55,000 flying hours the Cutlass was involved in 78 accidents, of which 21 were fatal.
But man, was it a cool-lookin' bird — certainly a hands-down choice photographic subject for any American high school photographer in 1955 lucky enough to get up close to one.
A worthy addition to even the most advanced military aviation collection.