The Convair B-36
(nicknamed Peacemaker) was the largest mass-produced piston engined
aircraft ever made and the largest combat aircraft ever built. With a
range of over 6,000 miles, some of these aircrafts needed special
protection, so they were employed in "parasite" programs in which the
B-36 carried smaller interceptors or reconnaissance aircraft.
(Fighter Conveyor) program was conducted by the United States Air Force
in the 1950s to test the feasibility of a B-36 Peacemaker bomber
carrying an F-84 parasite fighter in its bomb bay.
production B-36 Peacemaker was modified with a special trapeze
mechanism in its bomb bay, and a production F-84E Thunderjet was fitted
with a retractable hook in the nose in front of the cockpit. The hook
would link the fighter to the trapeze which would hold the aircraft in
the bomb bay during flight, lower it for deployment, and raise it back
in after the mission.
tests were all soon abandoned, partly because air refueling appeared as
a much safer solution to extend the range of fighters. The first
parasite experiments with B-36 employed a XF-85 Goblin escort fighter, but (as you will see in this video) it proved to be a failure and a dangerous experience for pilots:
Airborne aircraft carriers
parasite fighters (an aircraft intended to be carried into a combat
zone by a larger aircraft) is an old idea. The first parasite fighters
were carried aboard military airships. Several plans were drawn up to
outfit Zeppelin-type dirigible airships to launch and recover fighters.
USS Akron and her sister ship USS Macon were regarded as potential
"flying aircraft carriers", carrying parasite fighters for
During the 1930s, the Soviet Union developed a parasite aircraft project called Zveno
. It consisted of a Tupolev TB-1 or a Tupolev TB-3 heavy bomber acting
as a mothership for between two and five fighters. Depending on the
Zveno variant, the fighters either launched with the mothership or
docked in flight, and they could refuel from the bomber. It is
estimated that Zveno-SPB flew at least 30 combat missions.
of the more interesting experiments undertaken to extend the range of
the early jets in order to give fighter protection to piston-engineed
bombers, was the provision for in-flight attachment/detachment of
fighter to bomber via wingtip connections.
One of the several programs during these experiments was done with a
B-29 mother ship and two F-84D "children", and was code named "Tip
TIP TOW F-84D TESTS
One of the more interesting experiments undertaken to extend the
range of the early jets in order to give fighter protection to the
piston engineed bombers, was the provision for in-flight
attachment/detachment of fighter to bomber via wingtip connections. One
of the several programs during these experiments was MX106 done with a
B-29 mother ship and two F-84D "children", and was code named "Tip Tow"
(not Tom Tom as stated above) A number of flights were undertaken, with
several successful cycles of attachment and detachment, using, first
one, and then two F-84s. The pilots of the F-84s maintained manual
control when attached, with roll axis maintained by elevator movement
rather than aileron movement. Engines on the F-84s were shut down in
order to save fuel during the "tow" by the mother ship, and in-flight
engine restarts were successfully accomplished. The experiment ended in
disaster during the first attempt to provide automatic flight control
of the F-84s, when the electronics apparently malfunctioned. The left
hand F-84-1-RE 48-641 rolled onto the wing of the B-29, and the
connected aircraft both crashed with loss of all onboard personnel.
The pilot of the right-hand F-84D-1-RE 48-661 wrote of the Tip-Tow experiments in an article entitled Aircraft Wingtip Coupling Experiments published by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
The photo above was taken during the longest "hookup" on 20 October 1950.
April 24, 1953, a F-84 flopped over onto the wing of a B-29 and both
crashed with loss of all on board personnel. The project was cancelled.