Photo: wikipedia commons
World War II really kick-started the military buildup we live with today.Those early days of advanced flight were a heady time for U.S. military planners who enjoyed robust economic growth and big government spending.
Many of the aircraft here seem bound only by physics and imagination.
Not knowing what the new technologies were capable of, and lacking computers on which to test the models, prototypes of all kinds were developed.
From one-man helicopters for patrolling the nuclear battlefield, to jets launched from submarines and ships — the only thing the aircraft have in common here — is that none of them made it into production.
Built by Reimar and Walter Jorten for the Nazi's during World War II, the Ho 229 was the only aircraft to come close to meeting Hermann Goering's '3 X 1000' performance demands: 1,000 kilograms of bombs, a distance of 1,000 kilometers, with a speed of 1,000 km/h.
The plane made three test flights, the third ending in a disaster that destroyed the prototype. While the Jorten's were busy constructing a new model, the U.S. swept through Germany picking up advanced German weapons. The Jorten's facility was raided and the plane taken to Britain.
There is a Ho 229 airframe at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
With the Germans sending American troops and supplies to the bottom of the Atlantic in the early years of World War II, the U.S. government put out a call for a large cargo plane that could avoid the nefarious wolf-packs of Hitler's navy.
Because it was more vital in other areas of production, aluminium couldn't be used at all in the construction which left wood as the only available option. The Spruce Goose flew only once and despite its nickname was not made of spruce at all, but birch.
With a wingspan longer than a football field feet and a length of 218 feet, the wooden plane would have weighed 400,000 pounds loaded with up to 750 troops or one 67,000 pound M4 Sherman tank.
Called a 'parasite fighter' because it would have been carried in the belly of a B-36 and launched from the bomb bay, the Goblin was to be the guardian of America's bomber fleet.
Because of design limitations the fighter never proved up to the task of facing off against enemy fighters and the project was swiftly cancelled in 1948.
Efforts with parasite fighters continued, however, and the FICON project did end up seeing limited service in the 1950s.
The Army and the Air Force put out a call for a single-seat lightweight helicopter in 1950 that could be delivered by air to troops in rugged terrain and assembled with simple tools.
Intended for observation, the XH-26 was unarmed, had a top speed of 80 mph, and was called the Jet Jeep, even taking the same fuel as its four-wheeled namesake.
The five prototypes were a functional success, they weighed less than 300 pounds, could be assembled by two men in less than 20 minutes and could take off in less than 30 seconds with no warm-up.
Unfortunately it was loud and the military backed out of the project.
Begun in 1950, the Packplane project was unique because it used removable cargo pods, attached below the fuselage, instead of using an internal cargo bay.
The idea was to pre-load cargo in the containers and roll them into the airframe for aerial transport.
Despite making numerous airshow appearances and being tested extensively, the project never made it into production and the only prototype was eventually scrapped.
If at all interested, this video of the XC-120 in action is pretty cool.
Vertical Takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft were the result of a 1948 proposal by the military to put planes on conventional ships as a first responder into action while traditional jets lined up to scramble.
Lockheed and Convair both competed for the contract in 1950 with Lockheed's ungainly entrant earning the nickname 'pogo stick.'
The aircraft made 32 flights, though none of the takeoffs or landings were vertical aside from a brief 'hop' at the start of the trials.
The project was cancelled in 1955 when it was understood the planes would require highly specialised pilots and could easily be outpaced by conventional jets.
Carrying a full array of air-to-air missiles and made entirely of titanium, the XF-103 was going to be a supersonic interceptor if Soviet bombers ever attacked the U.S.
The all weather capable shell and intercept radar proved no problem for engineers, it was the engines that were the undoing of the Republic.
The jets required speed of Mach 3 was difficult to achieve in the 1950s and despite engineers best efforts the Wright J67 engine intended to power the jet never made it into production.
As a result the Republic XF-103 never took to the air and the military was forced to accept the slower XF-108 Rapier.
The Sea Dart only American seaplane fighter that took off from the water on two skis and broke the speed of sound.
The result of doubts over the capability of traditional Mach speed fighters to takeoff and land on aircraft carriers, the Sea Dart was developed as a supersonic interceptor in 1951.
The jet was to be housed in pressurised cabins within submarines, able to takeoff on their own in calm seas, or catapulted to flight in rougher waters.
A prototype crash and technological achievements in supersonic landings on carriers caused the Navy to lose interest in 1957.
The HZ-1 was dangerous. An inexperienced pilot was expected to stand and manoeuvre the craft in winds possibly exposed to enemy fire, while inches away from the unguarded set of 'chopper blades beneath him.
Maneuvered by kinesthetic control, operation was supposed to be similar to riding a bike or surfboard and pilots were expected to climb aboard after only 20 minutes of training.
The craft could carry 120 pounds of cargo, or an extra fuel tank that extended flying distance to 50 miles at 70 mph.
Two successive crashes shelved the project in 1956, leaving a single model on display at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum.
The 'Dynamic Soarer' was intended to do it all: reconnaissance, bombing, space rescue, satellite maintenance, and sabotage Russian satellites.
From 1957 to 1963 the project cost $660 million or $4.73 billion in 2010 dollars. The money was put toward technology far ahead of its time that wasn't utilized until the Space Shuttle's first flight in 1981.
America's expanding commitments in Vietnam and Secretary of defence McNamara's decision that the Air Force was focusing too much on controlled orbit re-entry without any specific purpose spelled the end of the program.
The X-13 was part of an attempt to adapt the new technologies toward slipping jet aeroplanes on stealthy submarines in the 1950s.
With a wingspan of 21-feet and a single-person cockpit, the jet performed a successful vertical liftoff, horizontal flight across the Potomac, and vertical landing at the Pentagon in July 1957.
The Air Force chose to cancel the project later that year, however, because it said there was no longer a use for it.
A joint proposal by McDonnell Douglas and General Electric, the A-12 was intended to be a all weather attack plane whose design was chosen by the military in 1988.
Cost overruns and delays beset the program from the start and it was cancelled three years after it began in 1991.
Litigation began immediately with the federal court finally ruling in 2009 that the Navy was justified in cancelling and ordered contractors to pay the government $1.35 billion.
That ruling was set aside on appeal and the case returned to the federal circuit court in May 2011.
Built to 28% scale and remotely controlled by a ground based pilot in a virtual cockpit, the X-36 had initial problems with control until traditional systems were replaced with an electronic interface.
With 31 perfect flights, the project was a complete success, but no reports of its development have been announced following the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing merger in August 1997.
There are two X-36's on display at Wright Patterson and Edwards Air Force Base.
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