The J52 was developed in the mid-1950s for the US Navy as a scaled-down derivative of the J57/JT3A. It was initially intended to power the A4D-3 Skyhawk, an advanced avionics model that was canceled in 1957. After being canceled, the U.S. Air Force selected the J52 to power the AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missile. The engine was designed with several unique features for this application, including a "conical centerbody mounted in the intake" and a "variable central plug ... in the nozzle". Then, in 1958, the US Navy selected the engine to power what became the A-6 Intruder.
The J52-P-6 model, designed for the YA2F-1 (YA-6A) Intruder, had a unique nozzle that could be angled downward at 23 degrees for STOL takeoffs; this was not used on production A-6s. Returning full circle, the J52 was selected to power the A4D-5, another model of the A-4 Skyhawk, remaining in all subsequent new-built models.
The twin-spool J52 employs a split 12-stage axial compressor consisting of a five-stage low pressure unit and a seven-stage high pressure unit. Behind the compressor is a nine-unit can-annular combustion chamber and a two-stage split turbine.
AGM-28 Hound Dog nuclear cruise missile, powered by the J52-P-3 jet engine.
One of eight Grumman YA2F-1 Intruder prototypes, showing the original tiltable tailpipes.
Flown in: AGM-28 Hound Dog. This variant produced 7,500 lbf (33,000 N) of thrust. The design of the P-3 model included a variable inlet duct to improve engine efficiency at the various altitudes the cruise missile was designed to fly at.
Flown in: A-6A. This variant produced 8,500 lbf (38,000 N) of thrust and included the 23-degree downward swiveling nozzle.
Flown in: A-4E, TA-4J, EA-6B (the first few). This variant produced 8,500 lbf (38,000 N) of thrust.
Flown in: A-4F/G/H/K, TA-4E/F/G/H, A-6E, EA-6B. This variant produced 9,300 lbf (41,000 N) of thrust.
Flown in: A-4M/N, TA-4KU, EA-6B. This variant included variable inlet guide vanes (VIGV) in the LPC, air-cooled turbine blades, and produced 11,200 lbf (50,000 N) of thrust. Still in operation with Israel, Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia
Also known as PW1212. 12,000 lbf (53 kN) thrust version of the J52-P-408 with an improved low pressure turbine (LPT) and faster acceleration. Designed for the EA-6B and was additionally marketed as an upgrade for the A-4. The J52-P-409 was also proposed as a cost-effective upgrade to the A-6E as an alternative to the A-6F Intruder II, but was not purchased. The P-409 engine was also proposed for use in the EA-6B ADVCAP, but that program was canceled after three prototypes were built and flown. The P-409 would have been available as a new engine or as an upgrade kit for P-408 engines, but was never ordered in significant quantities.
An afterburning derivative of the J52-P409 engine proposed for the Grumman Sabre II concept (the project later evolved into the JF-17 Thunder). The afterburner, designed in China, would have increased thrust to 16,000 lbf (71 kN).
Company designation for initial versions of the J52