by Tommy H. Thomason

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Navalized SNJ

Another recycled IPMS Tailhook Topics column. Boyd Waechter drew the illustrations. (The tailhook should angle downwards a bit rather than being parallel to the bottom of the fuselage - see the last picture.)
The addition of the C to the designation reflected the incorporation of carrier capability, minimally so in this case. The only significant changes were the addition of a tail hook and a protective fairing in front of the tail wheel.

The SNJ-4C depicted made the first landing aboard Bunker Hill on 21 June 1943. Unfortunately, this airplane ended up on its nose in the crash barrier that same day., an ominous beginning for CV-17. It was painted in the standard mid-1943 camouflage of blue gray over light gray feathered together, with the national insignia in four positions only.. This aircraft also had a .30 caliber machine gun in the nose and another in a tail gunner installation in the aft cockpit. There are photos of this airplane in the Winter 1969 Aero Album.

The SNJ-5C illustration is typical of the markings when used to qualify Naval aviator trainees in carrier takeoffs and landings aboard—for example, Monterey (CVL-26)— through the mid-1950s when they were replaced by the T-28C. The nose gun installation was faired over.

"DONT STALL" was stenciled in red on the fuselage just below the cockpit sill on some aircraft (note also the interior green turnover structure and that the canopy frames are not yellow).

At the time, the carrier approach was made just above stall speed without an angle of attack indicator for reference. Stalling was, of course, a very bad thing...

It would be hard to overdo the weathering...
Note also that the letters and numbers are stenciled on without much attention to sharp edges.

A set of detailed pictures of a fantastic SNJ-5C restoration can be found HERE.


  1. No intention to nitpick but the term "navalized SNJ" is kind of misleading, and should probably read as "SNJ--a navalized T-6 Texan."

    SNJ is a Navy/Marine designation standing for Scout (S) Trainer (N) North American company code (J).

    In the pictures above, the national insignia with red stripe in the "star-and-bar" was 1947-present day.

    R. Lewis

  2. Ron,

    Thanks. "Navalized" in this case was my shorthand for the addition of the hardware required for operation to an aircraft carrier, which resulted in the C suffix letter. As far as I know, most(?) SNJs were not "navalized" in this manner and were otherwise not distinguishable from the basic T-6.

  3. Tommy,

    Sorry about that--recognized the intent almost immediately after transmission of last comment. Understood what you were getting at and probably should have suggested "carrier-based," instead. My main concern was that many might not realize that the SNJ was a naval/Marine variant of the T-6. As I recall, the carrier use of the SNJ was minimal. The all-yellow versions did not appear until the Feb 55 BuAer color changes discussed elsewhere with the F4U. By that time, jets were coming in and the TO-1 version of the F-80 was being deployed. Most SNJ/T-6 types were land-based. In one photo, I don't know if it is just the angle or if the main landing gear seem shorter on these versions, but that would make sense, with more rugged gear for ops in a carrier environment. Incidentally, that is what ultimately killed the idea of Project Seahorse and the P-51D/H models as a concept being experimented with by the Navy: by the time you made the Mustang suitable for the punishment of carrier ops, it no longer had the attributes that made the Mustang the legend that it was.

    There are colored bands used on SNJs that denote different types of training functions. A green band on the wings and fuselage, for example, indicates a navigation trainer. The back seat was equipped with a hood to keep the student from getting a visual bearings, as though performing a night navigation mission.
    USN/USMC SNJs varied very slightly from Army Air Forces T-6s, primarily in radios, just as with another North American product, the Army B-25 and Navy/Marine PBJ ([P]atrol [B]omber North American [company code J]).

    R. Lewis

  4. I checked Dan Hagedorn's comprehensive T-6 book and found that there were SNJ-3C/-4C/-5C aircraft converted for carrier use. As I suspected, it was very hard on these aircraft and in short order, most of them were inoperable due to damage. Land-based planes just simply do not handle the rigors of carrier ops very well. You CAN do it, but not for long and not without a high penalty.

    R. Lewis

  5. The SNJ-5C and other variants were used extensively, not rarely, for carrier quals, followed by transition to the F4F Wildcat for advanced training, then on to the Hellcat or Corsair, or BDD, TBF/TBM. The SNJ was later replaced but the T-28C for carrier quals follows but the TA4J and later the T-2 Buckeye. Currently there are no prop quals, with carrier quads in the T-45C. However, there is a current study looking at delaying CQs until they get to their platform for training in the FRS.
    The C model SNJs were. Invented by the Navy using a parts kit. North American never built a C model. I am currently reinstalling the Tailhook on my SNJ-5C. Hope this helps.
    Snakeye, CDR USN