USAF diagrams that look like shitposts
April 18, 2020 11:34 PM   Subscribe

The Parasite Fighters "The idea of using an aircraft to launch another aircraft has been around since at least the First World War. Such "composite" aircraft became nothing particularly unusual, with experimental aircraft like the Bell X-1 and drones being launched off carrier aircraft platforms on a routine basis. However, the notion of actually launching and then recovering an aircraft in mid-air -- for example, a heavy bomber carrying its own "parasite" fighters for escort -- was more ambitious, and in fact nobody's ever really made a go of it, if not for lack of effort." Including a mid-70's idea of using a heavily modified 747 for midflight launch and recovery of 17.5 foot wide and 10000 lb "micro-fighters." posted by the man of twists and turns (25 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you can bet the Pentagon is looking into something like it again, only with drones. And that actually might be both feasible and economical compared to pilot-centric craft. Certainly much safer—at least for the people delivering the explosives anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:39 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]

Also the fighters should be amphibious and able to deploy boats with marines in them.

The marines will carry paddleboards.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:47 PM on April 18 [18 favorites]

I love this stuff. Old design concepts are like getting a glimpse of an alternative reality or something.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:56 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Well, you can bet the Pentagon is looking into something like it again, only with drones.

This is somewhat reminiscent of Combat Wasps from Peter F Hamilton's Confederation series. The notion being that spacecraft full of humans can't do the kind of high G combat maneuvers that an uncrewed drone can. So battles end up being mostly high acceleration drones trying out maneuver each other.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:12 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]

Ideas never really die. Now there's a whole bunch of proto-engineers growing up with the MCU hoverfortress for pop culture inspiration.
posted by Query at 4:12 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]

The concept has been proven to work in principle almost forty years before and the Soviets even used it in combat during World War II.

Edit: hopefully this will teach me to read the article before sounding off. Ah, who am I trying to fool...
posted by hat_eater at 4:21 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]

I think it’s the recovery part that is different. Still, not as cool because no zeppelins.
posted by pompomtom at 5:46 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

The shitpostiest of them all: XF-85 Goblin.
posted by scruss at 6:31 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]

Well, you can bet the Pentagon is looking into something like it again, only with drones

Why? You either have air superiority and don’t need fighters, or you don’t and you’re just sending in cruise missiles. In any sort of middle scenario they could just use any fighter as as fighter-bomber with mid-air refueling for range. The need for parasitic fighter was only very small window that now closed, it’s a waste of payload when there are other, better options available.
posted by jmauro at 6:52 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]

well-known Air Force test pilot Clarence "Bud" Anderson flew in the FICON, Tip-Tow, and Tom-Tom trials, discussing them later in his memoirs

I can imagine a dark comedy show about test pilots where they get asked to progressively fly weirder and weirder planes. “Yes I know last week we asked you to fly the one where the wings fell off, but we’ve totally got it sorted this time, we promise! We learnt our lesson - no cardboard and sellotape this time.” The finale would be the pilots being “birthed“ directly into the jet stream by a 747 at 35,000 feet, with a little plane kit they need to assemble mid-air.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:54 AM on April 19 [9 favorites]

I can imagine a dark comedy show about test pilots where they get asked to progressively fly weirder and weirder planes.

Mythbusters Air
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:21 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]

I've seen the Goblin (in the USAF museum at Wright-Patterson) Looking at it, you can't help but wonder who the stupid $%#& was that even thought it might be a viable idea. It's just one of those things that simply screams "Nope!"
posted by Thorzdad at 7:54 AM on April 19

Was the Goblin the one with the prototype engine that produced such a deep thrumming buzz that it made the ground crew soil themselves?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:10 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

I have no idea, but by the sound of it it might have been the Loon - essentially an American version of Hitler's V-1 missile.

And, at least according to the test pilots, Goblin was "stable, easy to fly, and recoverable from spins". The multitude of fins, usually an indication of an attempt to salvage a botched design, were added to aid stability in the turbulent air encountered during recovery.
posted by hat_eater at 8:30 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]

Was the Goblin the one with the prototype engine that produced such a deep thrumming buzz that it made the ground crew soil themselves?

XF-84H Thunderscreech
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:43 AM on April 19 [5 favorites]

The Pluto Gangster: I think you're thinking of the Republic XF-84H Thunderscreech, a turboprop fighter where the 12 foot propeller blades were supersonic. Took 30 minutes to warm up on the ground before flight and the shockwaves could cause deafness/concussion: the airfield tower where they tested it hated it because it deafened the air traffic controllers—it was apparently audible 25 miles away. One test pilot flew it once, then noped out for good: the other ... "Test pilot Hank Beaird took the XF-84H up 11 times, with 10 of these flights ending in forced landings."

It was not a resounding success.
posted by cstross at 8:57 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]

The Japanese once tried this micro-fighter concept with submarines. The US confiscated the few of them and sank them all to hide them from the USSR, because the US borrowed the concept to make nuclear missile subs, inspired by the horizontal hanger space designed into it to hide aircraft.
posted by Brian B. at 10:40 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]

Questionable assertion.
posted by mwhybark at 2:00 PM on April 19

By the way it is described in this thread, and some of the links, that XF-84H Thunderscreech is the absolutely perfect Air Force plane to be included as part of the ground display if Trump ever gets his big military parade. With its engine running at full throttle for the entire duration.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 2:02 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]

I put it to you that an even more perfect plane would be another with supersonic prop tips and AFAI(inexpertly)K the loudest plane ever put into real service: the Tu-95. Still in service with the Russian Air Force.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:49 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]

The Russians are testing a nuclear powered cruise missile. So maybe nuclear powered aircraft will make a comeback.
posted by interogative mood at 5:52 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]

As a kid one of my favorite books to check out at the library was a book they had on the Akron and Macon. Being a kid, I mostly just looked at all the cool pictures and never really read about how it was all a dead-end failure.

And I'll just slide in a mention of the Short Mayo, which is like if you made a multistage rocket out of seaplanes.
posted by ckape at 8:04 PM on April 19

The Tu-95 isn't just loud: it's allegedly so noisy that as they fly over the Baltic, NATO sonobuoy arrays (underwater sensors listening for submarines) can hear them passing.

The four turboprop engines drive contra-rotating propellers, so in addition to the supersonic shock waves coming off each blade you've got beat effects from blades passing in opposite directions.

Anecdotally (source: ex-RAF officer), the NATO fighter pilots that used to intercept Bears over the North Sea had difficulty hearing each other over their headsets while they were flying parallel to the Tu-95—it was deafeningly loud in the cockpit of another aircraft.
posted by cstross at 5:47 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


Carrier has arrived?
posted by what does it eat, light? at 7:17 AM on April 20

"The marines will carry paddleboards."

Yeah, you joke. However: Paratroopers; glider troops.
posted by mule98J at 8:20 AM on April 20

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