The North American AJ Savage (later A-2 Savage) was a carrier-based medium bomber built for the United States Navy by North American Aviation. The aircraft was designed shortly after World War II to carry atomic bombs and this meant that the bomber was the heaviest aircraft thus far designed to operate from an aircraft carrier. It was powered by two piston engines and a turbojet buried in the rear fuselage. The AJ-1 first became operational in 1950 and several were based in South Korea during 1953 as a deterrent against the Communists. Of the 140 built, plus three prototypes, 30 were reconnaissance aircraft. Inflight-refueling equipment was deployed on the Savage in the mid-1950s. The bomber was replaced by the Douglas A3D Skywarrior beginning in 1957.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. Navy began a design competition on 13 August 1945 for a carrier-based bomber which could carry a 10,000-pound (4,536 kg) bomb that was won by North American Aviation. Later that year, the Navy decided that it needed to be able to deliver atomic bombs and that the AJ Savage design would be adapted to accommodate the latest Mark 4 nuclear bomb, the next step in development from the more sophisticated imploding plutonium sphere design Fat Man Mk3 used on Nagasaki. A contract for three XAJ-1 prototypes and a static test airframe was awarded on 24 June 1946. The first prototype made its maiden flight two years later on 3 July 1948. That same year the US Navy began an interim capability program employing the Lockheed P-2 Neptune carrying a crash program reproduction of the smaller simpler all uranium ‘gun’ design Little Boy nuclear bomb as its first carrier launched nuclear bomber aircraft until the Savage was in service.
When first deployed, the AJ-1 was too large and heavy to be used by any American aircraft carrier except for the Midway class. The modernized Essex class carriers with reinforced decks and the very large Forrestal class could also handle the Savage. The aircraft was not popular aboard ship as “it was so big and cumbersome that it complicated any other flight operations the ship was required to conduct.” One problem was that the wings had to be folded one at a time by a crewman on top of the fuselage with a portable hydraulic pump, a time-consuming process, so that the bomber could be moved out of the way to allow other aircraft to land or take off. One pilot reported that the AJ-1 was “a dream to fly and handled like a fighter”,