Archive for the ‘Figther’ Category

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s. The A-10 was designed for a United States Air Force requirement to provide close air support (CAS) for ground forces by attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets with a limited air interdiction capability. It is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed solely for close air support.

The A-10 was designed around the GAU-8 Avenger, a heavy rotary cannon which forms the aircraft’s primary armament (and is, to date, the heaviest rotary cannon ever mounted on an aircraft). The aircraft’s hull incorporates over 1,200 pounds (540 kg) of armor and was designed with survivability as a priority, with protective measures in place which enable the aircraft to continue flying even after taking significant damage.

The A-10’s official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. The A-10 is more commonly known by its nickname “Warthog” or simply “Hog”. As a secondary mission, it provides airborne forward air control, guiding other aircraft against ground targets. A-10s used primarily in this role are designated OA-10. The A-10 is expected to be replaced in 2028 or later.

Criticism that the U.S. Air Force did not take close air support seriously prompted a few service members to seek a specialized attack aircraft.[3] In the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground-attack aircraft were shot down by small arms, surface-to-air missiles, and low-level anti-aircraft gunfire, prompting the development of an aircraft better able to survive such weapons. In addition, the UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters of the day, which USAF commanders had said should handle close air support, were ill-suited for use against armor, carrying only anti-personnel machine guns and unguided rockets meant for soft targets. Fast jets such as the F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II proved for the most part to be ineffective for close air support. The effective but aging A-1 Skyraider was the USAF’s primary close air support aircraft.

In 1966 the U.S. Air Force formed the Attack Experimental (A-X) program office. On 6 March 1967, the Air Force released a request for information to 21 defense contractors for the A-X. The objective was to create a design study for a low-cost attack aircraft. The officer in charge of the project was Colonel Avery Kay. In 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force asked Pierre Sprey to write the detailed specifications for the proposed A-X project. However, his initial involvement was kept secret because of Sprey’s earlier controversial involvement in the F-X project.

Sprey’s discussions with A-1 Skyraider pilots operating in Vietnam and analysis of the effectiveness of current aircraft used in the role indicated the ideal aircraft should have long loiter time, low-speed maneuverability, massive cannon firepower, and extreme survivability; an aircraft that had the best elements of the Ilyushin Il-2, Henschel Hs 129 and Skyraider. The specifications also demanded that each aircraft cost less than $3 million. Sprey required that the biography of World War II attack pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel be read by people on A-X program.

In May 1970, the USAF issued a modified and much more detailed request for proposals (RFP) for the aircraft. The threat of Soviet armored forces and all-weather attack operations had became more serious. Now included in the requirements was that the aircraft would be designed specifically for the 30 mm cannon. The RFP also specified an aircraft with a maximum speed of 460 mph (400 kn; 740 km/h), takeoff distance of 4,000 feet (1,200 m), external load of 16,000 pounds (7,300 kg), 285-mile (460 km) mission radius, and a unit cost of US$1.4 million. The A-X would be the first Air Force aircraft designed exclusively for close air support.

During this time, a separate RFP was released for A-X’s 30 mm cannon with requirements for a high rate of fire (4,000 round/minute) and a high muzzle velocity. Six companies submitted aircraft proposals to the USAF, with Northrop and Fairchild Republic selected to build prototypes: the YA-9A and YA-10A, respectively. General Electric and Philco-Ford were selected to build and test GAU-8 cannon prototypes.

The YA-10A was built in Hagerstown, Maryland and first flew on 10 May 1972. After trials and a fly-off against the YA-9A, the Air Force announced its selection of Fairchild-Republic’s YA-10A on 18 January 1973 for production. General Electric was selected to build the GAU-8 cannon in June 1973.[12] The YA-10 had an additional fly-off in 1974 against the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D Corsair II, the principal Air Force attack aircraft at the time, in order to prove the need to purchase a new attack aircraft. The first production A-10 flew in October 1975, and deliveries to the Air Force commenced in March 1976. In total, 715 airplanes were produced, the last delivered in 1984.

One experimental two-seat A-10 Night Adverse Weather (N/AW) version was built by converting an A-10A. The N/AW was developed by Fairchild from the first Demonstration Testing and Evaluation (DT&E) A-10 for consideration by the USAF. It included a second seat for a weapons system officer responsible for electronic countermeasures (ECM), navigation and target acquisition. The variant was canceled, and the only two-seat A-10 built now resides at Edwards Air Force Base’s Flight Test Center Museum.[15] The N/AW version did not interest the USAF or export customers. The two-seat trainer version was ordered by the Air Force in 1981, but funding was canceled by U.S. Congress and the jet was not produced.

The A-10 has received many upgrades over the years. Aircraft added the Pave Penny laser receiver pod beginning in 1978. It senses reflected laser radiation from a laser designator on a target for faster and more accurate target identification. The A-10 began receiving an inertial navigation system in 1980.[20] Later, the Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement (LASTE) upgrade provided computerized weapon-aiming equipment, an autopilot, and a ground-collision warning system. The A-10 is now compatible with night vision goggles for low-light operation. In 1999, aircraft began to receive Global Positioning System navigation systems and a new multi-function display. Its LASTE system is being upgraded with the Integrated Flight & Fire Control Computers (IFFCC).

In 2005, the entire A-10 fleet also began receiving the Precision Engagement upgrades that include an improved fire control system (FCS), electronic countermeasures (ECM), and the ability to aim smart bombs. The aircraft that receive this upgrade are redesignated A-10C. The A-10 will receive a service life extension program (SLEP) upgrade with many receiving new wings. A contract to build 242 new A-10 wing sets was awarded to Boeing in June 2007. In July 2010, the USAF issued Raytheon a contract to integrate a Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT) system into A-10Cs.

The Government Accounting Office in 2007 estimated the cost of upgrading, refurbishing, and service life extension plans for the A-10 force to total $2.25 billion through 2013.[8] Modifications to provide precision weapons capability are well underway. The Air Force Material Command’s Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah completed work on its 100th A-10 precision engagement upgrade in January 2008. The C model upgrades are to be completed in 2011.

The A-10 has superior maneuverability at low speeds and altitude because of its large wing area, high wing aspect ratio, and large ailerons. The high aspect ratio wing also allows for short takeoffs and landings, permitting operations from primitive forward airfields near front lines. The aircraft can loiter for extended periods and operate under 1,000 ft (300 m) ceilings with 1.5 mi (2.4 km) visibility. It typically flies at a relatively slow speed of 300 knots (350 mph; 560 km/h), which makes it a much better platform for the ground-attack role than fast fighter-bombers, which often have difficulty targeting small and slow-moving targets.

Engine exhaust passes over the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer and between the twin tails, decreasing the A-10’s infrared signature and lowering the likelihood that the aircraft can be targeted by heat-seeking missiles fired from the ground. The placement of the engines behind the wings partially shields them from anti-aircraft fire. The leading edge of the wing is honeycomb panel construction to provide strength with minimal weight compromise. Honeycomb panels of this type on the A-10 include the flap shrouds, elevators, rudders and other sections of the fins.

The A-10 has integrally machined skin panels. Because the stringers are integral with the skin there are no joint or seal problems. These panels, fabricated using computer controlled machining, reduce the time and hence the cost of production. Combat experience has shown that this type of panel is more resistant to damage. The skin is not load-bearing, so damaged skin sections can be easily replaced in the field, with makeshift materials if necessary.

The ailerons are at the far ends of the wings to gain greater rolling moment, as with many aircraft, but there are two distinguishing features. The ailerons are larger than is typical, almost 50% of the chord, providing improved control even at slow speeds. The aileron is also split, making it a deceleron.

The A-10 is designed to be refueled, rearmed, and serviced with minimal equipment. Also, most repairs can be done in the field. An unusual feature is that many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable between the left and right sides, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers. The sturdy landing gear, low-pressure tires and large, straight wings allow operation from short rough strips even with a heavy ordnance load, allowing the aircraft to operate from damaged airbases. If runways are damaged in an attack, the A-10 can operate from taxiways or straight roadway sections.

The front landing gear is offset to the aircraft’s right to allow placement of the 30 mm cannon with its firing barrel along the centerline of the aircraft.[36] During ground taxi, the offset front landing gear causes the A-10 to have dissimilar turning radii. Turning to the right on the ground takes less distance than turning left.

The A-10 is exceptionally tough. Its strong airframe can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems, with mechanical systems to back up double-redundant hydraulic systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power or part of a wing is lost. Flight without hydraulic power uses the manual reversion flight control system; this engages automatically for pitch and yaw control, and under pilot control (manual reversion switch) for roll control. In manual reversion mode, the A-10 is sufficiently controllable under favorable conditions to return to base and land, though control forces are much higher than normal. The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator and half a wing torn off.

Its self-sealing fuel tanks are protected by fire-retardant foam. The A-10’s main landing gear is designed so that the wheels semi-protrude from their nacelles when the gear is retracted so as to make gear-up landings (belly landing) easier to control and less damaging to the aircraft’s underside. Additionally, the landing gear are all hinged toward the rear of the aircraft, so if hydraulic power is lost the pilot can drop the gear and a combination of gravity and wind resistance will open and lock the gear in place.

The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 1,200 lb (540 kg) of titanium armor, referred to as a “bathtub”. The armor has been tested to withstand strikes from 23 mm cannon fire and some strikes from 57 mm rounds. It is made up of titanium plates with thicknesses from 0.5 to 1.5 inches (13 to 38 mm) determined by a study of likely trajectories and deflection angles. This protection comes at a cost, with the armor making up almost 6% of the aircraft’s empty weight. To protect the pilot from the fragmentation likely to be created from impact of a shell, any interior surface of the tub that is directly exposed to the pilot is covered by a multi-layer nylon spall shield. In addition, the front windscreen and canopy are resistant to small arms fire.

Proof of the durability of the A-10 was shown when Captain Kim Campbell, flying a ground support mission over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq on 7 April, suffered extensive flak damage to her A-10. Enemy fire damaged one of the A-10’s engines and crippled its hydraulic system, which required the aircraft’s stabilizer and flight controls to be operated via the back-up mechanical system, this being known as ‘manual reversion mode’. Despite this damage, Campbell managed to fly the aircraft for nearly one hour and landed safely at her air base.

There are several reasons for the unusual location of the A-10’s General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines. First, the A-10 was envisioned to fly from forward air bases, often with substandard, semi-prepared runways that present a high risk of foreign object damage to the engines. The height of the engines decreases the chance that sand or stones will be ingested. This also allows engines to keep running while the aircraft is serviced and rearmed by ground crews, reducing turn-around time. Without the limitations imposed by engines, the wings could be mounted closer to the ground, to simplify servicing and rearming.

The engines’ high 6:1 bypass ratio provides the A-10 with a relatively small infrared signature, and their position directs exhaust over the tailplanes further shielding it from detection by heat-seeking surface to air missiles. The engines are angled upward by nine degrees to cancel out the nose-down pitching moment they would otherwise generate due to being mounted above the aerodynamic center of the aircraft. This avoids the necessity to trim the control surfaces against the force. The heavy engines require strong supports, so their pylons are connected to the airframe by four bolts.

The A-10’s fuel system components are protected in multiple ways. All four fuel tanks are located near the center of the aircraft, reducing the likelihood that they will be hit or have their fuel lines severed. The tanks are separate from the fuselage; thus, projectiles would need to penetrate the aircraft’s skin before reaching the outer skin of the tank. The refueling system is purged after use so that all fuel in the aircraft is protected from fire.

All fuel transfer lines self-seal if they are compromised. Most of the fuel system components are inside the tanks so that fuel will not be lost in case a component were to leak. If a tank is damaged beyond its ability to self-seal, check valves ensure that fuel does not flow into the compromised tank. Most importantly, reticulated polyurethane foam lines both the inner and outer sides of the fuel tanks, retaining debris and restricting fuel spillage in the event of damage. The other source of possible combustion, the engines, are shielded from the fuel system and the rest of the airframe by firewalls and fire extinguishing equipment. Even in the event of all four main tanks being penetrated and all contents lost, sufficient fuel is carried in two self-sealing sump tanks to allow flight for 230 miles (370 km).

Weapon systems
Although the A-10 can carry considerable disposable stores, its primary built-in weapon is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-type cannon. One of the most powerful aircraft cannons ever flown, it fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. In the original design, the pilot could switch between two rates of fire: 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute;this was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute. The cannon takes about half a second to come up to speed, so 50 rounds are fired during the first second, 65 or 70 rounds per second thereafter. The gun is accurate enough to place 80% of its shots within a 40-foot (12.4 m) diameter circle from 4,000 feet (1,220 m) while in flight. The GAU-8 is optimized for a slant range of 4,000 feet (1,220 m) with the A-10 in a 30 degree dive.

The fuselage of the aircraft is built around the gun.[51] The gun’s firing barrel is placed at the 9 o’clock position so it is aligned on the aircraft’s centerline. The gun’s ammunition drum can hold up to 1,350 rounds of 30 mm ammunition,[36] but generally holds 1,174 rounds. The damage caused by rounds firing prematurely from impact of an explosive shell would be catastrophic, so a great deal of effort has been taken to protect the 5 feet 11.5 inch (1.816 m) long drum. There are many armor plates of differing thicknesses between the aircraft skin and the drum, to detonate an incoming shell before it reaches the drum.[41] A final layer of armor around the drum protects it from fragmentation damage. The gun is loaded by Syn-Tech’s linked tube carrier GFU-7/E 30 mm ammunition loading assembly cart.

Another commonly used weapon is the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, with different variations for either electro-optical (TV-guided) or infrared targeting. The Maverick allows targets to be engaged at much greater ranges than the cannon, a safer proposition in the face of modern anti-aircraft systems. During Desert Storm, in the absence of dedicated forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras for night vision, the Maverick’s infrared camera was used for night missions as a “poor man’s FLIR”. Other weapons include cluster bombs and Hydra rocket pods.[53] Although the A-10 is equipped to carry laser-guided bombs, their use is relatively uncommon. The A-10 has not been equipped with weapon control systems for accurate bombing as of 2000.[17] A-10s usually fly with an ALQ-131 ECM pod under one wing and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the other wing for self-defense.

The A-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program will update 356 A-10/OA-10s to the A-10C variant with a new flight computer, new glass cockpit displays and controls, two new 5.5-inch (140 mm) color displays with moving map function and an integrated digital stores management system.

Other funded improvements to the A-10 fleet include a new data link, the ability to employ smart weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (“JDAM”) and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensor, and the ability to carry an integrated targeting pod such as the Northrop Grumman LITENING targeting pod or the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP). Also included is the ROVER or remotely operated video enhanced receiver to provide sensor data to personnel on the ground.

Colors and markings
Since the A-10 flies low to the ground and at subsonic speed, aircraft camouflage is important to make the aircraft more difficult to see. Many different types of paint schemes have been tried. These have included a “peanut scheme” of sand, yellow and field drab; black and white colors for winter operations and a tan, green and brown mixed pattern.

The two most common markings applied to the A-10 have been the European I woodland camouflage scheme and a two-tone gray scheme. The European woodland scheme was designed to minimize visibility from above, as the threat from hostile fighter aircraft was felt to outweigh that from ground-fire. It uses dark green, medium green and dark gray in order to blend in with the typical European forest terrain and was used from the 1980s to the early 1990s. Following the end of the Cold War, and based on experience during the 1991 Gulf War, the air-to-air threat was no longer seen to be as important as that from ground fire, and a new color scheme known as “Compass Ghost” was chosen to minimize visibility from below. This two-tone gray scheme has darker gray color on top, with the lighter gray on the underside of the aircraft, and started to be applied from the early 1990s.

Many A-10s also featured a false canopy painted in dark gray on the underside of the aircraft, just behind the gun. This form of automimicry is an attempt to confuse the enemy as to aircraft attitude and maneuver direction.

The General Dynamics F-111C (nicknamed “Pig”) is a variant of the F-111 Aardvark medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft, developed by General Dynamics to meet Australian requirements. The design was based on the F-111A model but included longer wings and strengthened undercarriage. The Australian Government ordered 24 F-111Cs to equip the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1963, but the aircraft were not delivered until 1973 because of long-running technical problems. During 1979 and 1980 four of these aircraft were converted to the RF-111C reconnaissance variant. Four ex-United States Air Force (USAF) F-111As were purchased by Australia and converted to F-111C standard in 1982 to replace F-111Cs destroyed during accidents. Australia also operated 15 F-111Gs between 1993 and 2007, mainly for conversion training. The RAAF retired its remaining F-111Cs in December 2010.

Although they were never used in combat, the F-111Cs gave the RAAF a powerful strike capability. The aircraft went through modernisation programs in the 1980s and 1990s and the RAAF acquired improved weapons to maintain their ability to penetrate hostile airspace. Despite this, by the 2000s the F-111Cs were becoming outdated and expensive to maintain, leading to a decision to retire them in 2010 rather than 2020 as originally planned. The F-111s were replaced by 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets on an interim basis, pending the delivery of F-35 Lightning IIs currently in development.

The Sukhoi Su-34 (export designation: Su-32, NATO reporting name: Fullback) is a Russian twin-seat fighter-bomber. It is intended to replace the Sukhoi Su-24.

The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft which was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s. It was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft, and was the only British fighter in production throughout the war.

The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works (since 1928 a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong). Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith became chief designer. The Spitfire’s elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane.[8] Speed was seen as essential to carry out the mission of home defence against enemy bombers.

During the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire was perceived by the public as the RAF fighter of the battle, whereas in fact, the more numerous Hurricane actually shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe. The Spitfire units did, however, have a lower attrition rate and a higher victory to loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes .

After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire became the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber, carrier-based fighter, and trainer. It was built in many different variants, using several wing configurations. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW), it was adaptable enough to use increasingly more powerful Merlin and the later Rolls-Royce Griffon engines; the latter was eventually able to produce 2,035 hp (1,520 kW).

McDonnell XF-85 Goblin

Posted: July 27, 2011 in Aircraft, AVIATION, Figther, Weapon

The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was an American prototype fighter aircraft conceived during World War II by McDonnell Aircraft. It was intended to be carried in the bomb bay of the giant Convair B-36 bomber as a defensive parasite fighter. During World War II, Luftwaffe fighters provided stiff opposition for Allied bombers. The XF-85 was a response to a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) requirement for a parasite fighter capable of being carried within the Northrop XB-35 and B-36, then under development. Two prototypes were built and underwent testing and evaluation in 1948. Flight tests showed promise in the design, although inherent design flaws associated with parasite fighters were never resolved. The XF-85 was swiftly canceled due to a number of factors, and the prototypes are now museum exhibits.

The U.S. Navy had been testing the viability of such aircraft in the 1930s, constructing the USS Akron and Mason for scouting, as well as launching the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk. At the end of World War II, Luftwaffe fighter jets posed a danger to Allied bombers. This emphasized the importance of long-range escort fighters such as the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang. However, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) was developing bombers, namely the Northrop B-35 flying wing and Convair B-36, which had a much longer endurance than the B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s the fighter escorts were protecting at the time.

There were a number of options to protect the bombers. The first, developing longer-ranged fighters, was very expensive. A second option was the technically-risky aerial refueling. The last option was to develop a parasite or “internally stowed fighter”.[4] In late 1942, the USAAF sent out a Request for Proposals (RfP) based on a parasite concept, originally conceived as a diminutive piston-engined fighter. By January 1944, the Air Technical Service Command (ATSC) refined the RfP and in January 1945, the specifications were further revised to specify a jet-powered aircraft. Although a number of aerospace companies studied the feasibility of such aircraft; McDonnell was the only company to submit a proposal to the original 1942 request and later revised requirements. The company Model 27 proposal was completely reworked to meet the new specifications

The initial concept for the Model 27 was for the fighter to be carried half-exposed under the B-29, B-35, or B-36. The USAAF rejected this proposal, citing increased drag, and hence reduced range for the composite bomber-fighter configuration. On 19 March 1945, a revised proposal was submitted. The smaller aircraft had an egg-shaped fuselage, three fork-shaped vertical stabilizers, horizontal stabilizers with significant dihedral, and 37° swept-back wings. The miniature aircraft measured 14 ft 10 in (4.55 m) long; the folding wings spanned 21 ft (6.4 m). The aircraft had an empty weight just short of 4,000 pounds (1.8 t). To save weight, the parasite fighter had no landing gear. During the testing program, steel skids were installed under the fuselage in case of an emergency. Four .50-caliber machine guns made up the aircraft’s armament.

In service, the parasite fighter would be launched and retrieved by a trapeze system. The aircraft would approach the mother ship from underneath and link up with the trapeze using a retractable hook on top of the cockpit. There were plans that, from the 24th B-36 onward, provisions would be made to accommodate one XF-85, with a maximum of three per bomber envisioned.

On 9 October 1945, the USAAF signed a letter of intent covering the engineering development for two prototypes (US serial numbers 46-523/4), although the contract was not finalized until February 1947. The Model 27 was re-designated XP-85, but by June 1948, it was changed to XF-85 and given the name “Goblin”. There were plans to acquire 30 production P-85s, but the USAAF took the cautious approach – if test results from the two prototypes were positive, production orders for the Goblins would be finalized later. During wind tunnel testing at Moffett Field, California, the first prototype XF-85 was damaged when dropped from a height of 40 ft (12.19 m) and receiving substantial damage to the forward fuselage, air intake and undersurface. Consequently, the second prototype was substituted for not only the remainder of the wind tunnel tests but also for the initial flight tests.

As the B-36 was unavailable, all XF-85 flight tests were carried out using a converted EB-29 Superfortress parent ship. Since the B-29, named Monstro, was smaller than the B-36, the XF-85 would be flight-tested half-exposed. On 23 July 1948, the XF-85 flew the first of five captive flights, designed to test whether the EB-29 and its parasite fighter could fly “mated”.The XF-85 was variously carried in a stowed position, but was also extended into the airstream for the pilot to gain some feel for the aircraft in flight, although it still remained tethered.

McDonnell test pilot Edwin Schoch, who flew the only proving flights on the type, completed a series of dummy dockings with a Lockheed F-80 without problems, before attempting a “free” flight with the XF-85. On 23 August 1948, Schoch was released and after a 10-minute proving flight, testing controls and maneuverability, attempted a hook-up, but it became obvious that turbulence around the bomber created difficult control problems as the lighter Goblin proved to be more sensitive to turbulence than the F-80. In an aborted effort, Schoch struck the trapeze so violently that the canopy was smashed and ripped free and his helmet and mask were torn off. He saved the prototype by making a belly landing, landing on the reinforced skids.

After a series of modifications to improve handling and two further mated test flights, Schoch was able to make a successful release and hookup on 14 October 1948. During the fifth free flight on 22 October 1948, Schoch again found it difficult to hook the Goblin to the bomber’s trapeze, aborting four attempts before hitting the trapeze bar, breaking the hook on the XF-85’s nose. Again, a forced landing in the desert was successfully carried out.

With the first prototype’s repairs completed, it also joined the flight test program, completing captive flights. Schoch continued to have difficulty in hooking up, again damaging the trapeze on the 19 March 1948 test flight, that resulted in a further emergency belly landing. While in flight, the Goblin was stable, easy to fly, and recovered well from spins, although initial estimates of a 648 mph (1,043 km/h) top speed proved optimistic.

With repairs made to the mothership’s trapeze, Schoch flew the first prototype on 8 April 1949, but after three attempts, abandoned his efforts and resorted to another belly landing. To address some of the problems in connecting to the trapeze, although slight changes were made to aircraft’s hook apparatus, McDonnell considered adding a telescoping extension to the docking trapeze. Before further modifications could be carried out, the USAF canceled the XF-85 program on 24 October 1949.

The program was canceled not only because the XF-85’s performance proved inferior to contemporary foreign jet fighters, but, also as evidenced by the test program flights, the high pilot demands involved in the docking to a mothership and should the XF-85 fail to dock, the necessity to carry out a forced landing. The development of practical aerial refueling was also a factor. The two Goblins flew six times, with a total flight time of 2 hours and 19 minutes; Schoch was the only person who ever flew the aircraft.

Two XF-85 prototypes were built.

The first example, serial number 46-523, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The aircraft was transferred to the museum on 23 August 1950 following the cancellation of the program, and was one of the first experimental aircraft to be displayed at the new Air Force Museum. For several decades, the aircraft was displayed alongside the museum’s Convair B-36. In 2000 the aircraft was moved to the museum’s Experimental Aircraft Hangar. Museum staff and visitors objected to this, believing the aircraft should be displayed alongside the B-36 to properly represent its original design intentions.

The other example, serial number 46-524, is on display at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska.

The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation supermaneuverable fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is the prime contractor and is responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems and final assembly of the F-22. Program partner Boeing Defense, Space & Security provides the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and all of the pilot and maintenance training systems.

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 during the years prior to formally entering USAF service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite a protracted and costly development period, the United States Air Force considers the F-22 a critical component of US tactical air power, and claims that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter, while Lockheed Martin claims that the Raptor’s combination of stealth, speed, agility, precision and situational awareness, combined with air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, makes it the best overall fighter in the world today. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Chief of the Australian Defence Force, said in 2004 that the “F-22 will be the most outstanding fighter plane ever built.”

The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air combat missions because of delays in the Russian and Chinese fifth generation fighter programs, a US ban on Raptor exports, and the ongoing development of the supposedly cheaper and more versatile F-35 resulted in calls to end F-22 production. In April 2009 the US Department of Defense proposed to cease placing new orders, subject to Congressional approval, for a final procurement tally of 187 Raptors. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 lacked funding for further F-22 production.