Project Terminated



Project Terminated
Project Terminated:
Famous Military Aircraft Cancellations
of the Cold War
Burt Dicht
[email protected]
[email protected]
The material represented in this presentation is
derived the book Project Terminated by Erik
Simonsen and from the experiences and
knowledge of Burt Dicht.
This presentation is not be used for any
commercial purposes. This presentation is
intended for educational and entertainment
purposes only
Aircraft Legacies
aircraft did
you work on
Only A Few Make It
• Since the inception of flight
aircraft designers have proposed
thousands of aircraft concepts
• Only a small percentage make it
off the drawing board (computer
screen) and are actually
developed into prototypes
• And an even smaller number
make it to production
Project Terminated
• Aviation historians like to ask questions about the aircraft
that never made it all the way
What were the issues surrounding their cancellations?
Were they technically sound designs?
What role did politics play?
Were there other external forces involved that were beyond the
control of the designers and the company?
• This presentation will attempt to answer those questions
by highlighting several famous aircraft that were
cancelled and featured in a recent book, Project
Terminated by Erik Simonsen
Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing
Jack Northrop
• Self-taught aerodynamicist
• In 1923 draftsman for Douglas
– Designed fuel tanks for “Round
the World Cruisers”
• In 1927 joined Lockheed
– Helped design the Vega
• In 1929 created Northrop Aircraft first in association with Boeing,
than Douglas
• In 1940 formed an independent Northrop Aircraft in Hawthorne, CA
Experimenting With Flying Wings
N-1M Flying Jeep Wing (1939)
N-9M Flying
Wing (1942)
1/3 scale
proposed flying
Northrop experimented with
improving aerodynamic
performance . . . By creating a
clean all wing airplane
X-4 Bantam
(Tailless Experimental -1946)
Benefits of a Flying Wing
• Low-Drag and High-Lift – transport a payload 25%
faster and further than conventional design
• Simplicity of fabrication – lower costs
• More uniform distribution of weight – simple
structural design
• Ease of loading and unloading – payload placed in
span-wise compartments
• Smaller profile target
The XB-35
• Origins in 1941 – what if England fell . . .
Loss of operating bases
• Needed a bomber that could carry a
payload of 10,000 lbs. for 10,000 miles
• Won a contract to develop 2 aircraft
powered by 4 pusher counter-rotating
• Work started in 1943 and first flight 25 June 1946
• With jet age advancing, Northrop recommended a switch to 8 Allison
J35 turbo-jet engines
• Three XB-35s flew before the conversion was made
• Aircraft plagued by engine problems during the test phase
• Had some stability and flight control issues
The YB-49 – Technology
• YB-49 made it’s first flight out of Hawthorne
Air Field on 21 October 1947
• YB-49 converted from a structure designed
for piston engines
– Coupled with stability problems and
increased speed made for a difficult
flight test program
• Honeywell developed a yaw stabilization system that improved the stability
– Still impacted its effectiveness as a bomber
• Testing proved out the YB-49’s speed, range and that it was hard to pick-up on
• 5 June 1948 a YB-49 crashes killing a crew of 5 (Glenn Edwards)
• Air Force decides to purchase 30 RB-49As as flying wing
reconnaissance aircraft
• On 9 Feb 1949 a YB-49A flew 2,258 miles
non-stop from Muroc AFB (now EAFB) to
Andrews AFB, Maryland in 4 hours and 20
minutes (511 MPH average speed)
• President Truman toured the aircraft and
suggested it be flown down Pennsylvania
Ave. for all to see
• On 28 October 1949 the USAF cancels the
program and ordered all of the XB-35s and
YB-49s scrapped
• How did the flying wing go from presidential
praise to cancellation in just 8 months?
Cancellation Theory
• Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington pushing for aircraft
company consolidation
• Wanted Northrop to merge with Convair
• Northrop refused the merger because the conditions were
• Was that enough to spur the cancellation?
• Why were all of the existing flying wings scrapped?
• Jack Northrop remained silent at the time because he
didn’t want to jeopardize future contracts
• In 1979, Northrop said in an interview that he had been in
meetings with Symington and the CEO of Convair and he
was under enormous pressure to merge . . . He refused
and several days later the flying wing was cancelled
• The Flying Wings were ahead of their time, before the advent of digital flight
control systems
• But it is possible had they be allowed to continue, great advances might have
been made in aerodynamics
• And technology did catch up and in an unexpected technical advance, the flying
wing paved the way for stealth technology
• Its legacy lived on with the B-2 stealth bomber, a true flying wing
• And today, Boeing and other aircraft companies are exploring the use of flying
wings in commercial aircraft
YB-49 – B-2 Comparison
Northrop Grumman
Service Year
52.49 ft.
69 ft.
171.92 ft.
172.01 ft.
20.34 ft.
16.99 ft.
Takeoff Weight
194,007 lbs.
336,503 lbs.
9,992 miles
7,248 miles
Max Speed
493 mph
569 mph
8 x Allison / General Electric J35A-5 turbojets, 4,000 lbs. each.
4 x General Electric F118-GE-110
turbofans, 17,300 lbs. each
Flying Wing Drops A-Bomb
on Martians
The bomb was dropped from a flying
wing aircraft
From the film “War of the Worlds”
(Paramount Pictures – 1953)
North American Aviation
XB-70 Valkyrie
North America Aviation – Advances in
High Speed Flight
• On 1 June 1957, NAA awarded a contract
to develop Weapon System 202A, which
would later be called the F-108
• The F-108 was to be a sleek interceptor,
designed to cruise at Mach 3 at altitudes
above 75,000 feet and reach up to 100,000
• At the time NAA was also working on the X-15 Rocket Plane, designed
to fly at Mach 6 up to 300,000 feet
• NAA was at the pinnacle of aerospace technology development at the
The Mach 3 Bomber
• General Curtis LeMay, the SAC Commander wanted a nuclear
powered bomber - 1955
• That proved to be impractical from a technology standpoint, but
paved the way for a high-speed, high altitude bomber
• NAA was awarded the contract to develop Weapon System 110A,
later called the XB-70 Valkyrie on 23 December 1957
• Conceived as a nuclear-armed deeppenetration strategic bomber, the Valkyrie
was a large six-engine aircraft able to
fly Mach 3+ at an altitude of 70,000+ feet
• It was designed to avoid interceptors, the
only effective anti-bomber weapon at the
XB-70 Compression Lift
Compression Lift used the shockwave generated off the nose or other sharp points
on the aircraft as a source of high-pressure air
By carefully positioning the wing in relation to the shock, the shock's high pressure
could be captured on the bottom of the wing and generate additional lift
• To take maximum advantage of this
effect, they redesigned the underside of
the aircraft to feature a large triangular
intake area far forward of the engines,
better positioning the shock in relation to
the wing
• Folding wing-tips were added to trap the
shock wave under the wing
• Compression Lift improved the lift to drag
ratio by 30%
• Cruising at Mach 3+ required great advances in technology
• The aircraft was designed out of a new stainless steel honeycomb and
titanium structure to withstand the 650 degree temperatures produced
from the aerodynamic friction
• Specially developed ejection capsules to ensure the crew would survive
(zero to 90,000 feet and 100 to 2100 mph)
• Variable geometry inlets to manage the shock waves in the ducts and to
position the shock waves created at supersonic speed to enter the engines
at subsonic speeds
• Fuel capacity was 47,000 gallons and used a special JP-6 Kerosene blend
• Six Pack – used 6 General Electric YJ93-GE-3 Turbo-jet afterburning engines
– Designed for maximum performance at Mach 3 at 65,000 feet
– 30,000 lbs of thrust – but true number was classified
Politics versus Technology
• B-70 program under development as change from Eisenhower to
Kennedy Administration
• Robert McNamara becomes Secretary of Defense (Ran Ford Motor
Company, but had no experience with aerospace)
– Had concern over the costs and viability of long range bombers
– In a short time he was making highly technical and complex national
security decisions by himself with little input
• McNamara reduced number of prototypes to be built to 3 (Only two
were built) . . . And he downgraded program - no operational B-70s
were to be tested
– Prototypes flown with on 2 crew members, no offensive or defensive
U-2 Impact
• On 1 May 1960, a CIA U-2 Reconnaissance
aircraft piloted by Francis Gary Powers was
shot down over the Soviet Union
• The U-2 was a subsonic high altitude aircraft
operating at 70,000 feet
• The Soviets used a SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missile
• The shoot down of the U-2 would accelerate the demise of the B-70
• By some, high altitude penetration of Soviet airspace was deemed
vulnerable because of this one event
– The Soviets fired 14 missiles, plus they knew the basic flight plan
• The SR-71 (Mach 3+, 80,000 feet+) had more than 800
missiles fired at it and none was ever lost to hostile fire
• The first XB-70 flew on 21 Sept 1964 and the
second on 17 July 1965
• By the end of 1965, both aircraft had flown
sustained Mach 3 speeds
• McNamara favored ICBM development, was
never a fan of strategic bombers and in may
cases misspoke about capabilities of the B-70
• The second XB-70 was lost in a tragic accident with an NF-104 in 1966
• By that point the program was cancelled
• The remaining XB-70 was turned over to NASA to conduct research on
the SST . . . It was retired in 1969 and given to the
Air Force Museum
Span: 105 ft.
Length: 185 ft. 10 in. without boom; 192 ft. 2 in. with
Height: 30 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 534,700 lbs. loaded
Armament: None
Engines: Six General Electric YJ-93s of 30,000 lbs.
thrust each (with afterburner)
Maximum speed: 2,056 mph (Mach 3.1) at 73,000 ft.
Cruising speed: 2,000 mph (Mach 3.0) at 72,000 ft.
Range: 4,288 miles
Service ceiling: 77,350 ft.
Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar
The Concept
• December 1957 – Air Force invited proposals to create a
military spaceplane . . . This was not publicized
• Dyna-Soar = Dynamic and Soaring
– Utilize centrifugal force for orbital speed and soaring and
aerodynamic lift generated by its delta wing form
– Followed a skip-gliding concept first theorized by Eugen Sanger
in 1933
• Boeing selected prime contractor on the Spaceplane and
Martin prime contractor on the Titan Launch Vehicle
– November 1959
The Mission
• The X-20’s high speed
and extreme altitude
gave it enormous
flexibility for missions
anywhere in the
• Launched on a
conventional Titan III
rocket, it would skim
the atmosphere and
land on a runway as a
The Vehicle
• The vehicle concept represented a
significant variation from the capsule
designs under development by NASA
• Constructed of a high nickel alloy
type steel (Rene 41), its heat shield
was made of Molybdenum
• It had a 72.5 degree wing sweep, was
35 feet long with a wing span of 20.8
• In 1962, 6 test pilots assigned, 2 from
NASA and 4 from USAF
• Crew of one
The Vehicle (2)
A single pilot sat at the front, with an equipment bay
situated behind
The equipment bay contained data-collection
equipment, weapons, reconnaissance equipment, or
(in the X-20X "shuttle space vehicle") a four-person
A transition-stage rocket engine, located behind the
equipment bay, would maneuver the craft in orbit or
fire during launch as part of an abort sequence
This trans-stage would be jettisoned before descent
into the atmosphere
While falling through the atmosphere an opaque heat
shield would protect the window at the front of the
This heat shield would then be jettisoned after aero
braking so the pilot could see, and safely land
• Retractable skids instead of landing gear
• Fly-by wire control systems and a sidestick controller
• Heat-sink reusable structure for thermal
• Reaction control system for the vacuum
of space
• Martin Trans-Stage Rocket (upper stage
of Titan III) with 72,000 lbs. of thrust
From Mock-up to Launch
• Full scale engineering mockup completed
22 Sept. 1961
• Program received an excellent
government review
• Operational capability was far in advance
of NASA’s Mercury program
• First piloted flight planned for 1966
• Prototype was 50% completed when Def.
Sec. McNamara cancelled the program in
Dec. 1963 . . . No viable military mission
• About $400 Million (1960 dollars) invested
Artist's impression of the X-20
on landing approach at EAFB
• Had the X-20 gone into
operation in the 1960s, it
would have advanced the US
presence in space and
provided an enormous
capability with great advances
in space technology
• While it never flew, the
technologies explored and
developed contributed to the
space shuttle program
Northrop F-20A Tigershark
The Concept
• Develop an advanced lightweight fighter that
could be exported to friendly nations
• Under the Military Assistance Program (MAP)
Northrop had produced more than 2300 F-5s
(F-5A Freedom Fighter and F-5E Tiger II) and
sold them to more than 30 countries
• The F-5 was a lightweight, highly capable and
easy to maintain twin-engine fighter
US Export Policy:
A Change In Direction
• Carter Administration in 1977 alters
foreign military sales – placing rigid
checks on high tech military exports
– F-14s sold to Shah of Iran fall into enemy
F-5E Tiger IIs from
USAF Aggressor Squadron
• Only sell our most advanced
technology to our “best friends”
• Carter FX Policy . . . Develop and sell less sophisticated aircraft to
our allies
– Less expensive and simpler than US first-line fighters
– Intermediate class between an F-5E and an F-16
– Developed by defense contractors with no government funds
Industry Response and Interest
• Northrop
Extensively modify the F-5E Tiger II Fighter
Advanced avionics and a new engine
Lightweight, Maneuverable and Reliable
First called the F-5X but became the F-5G
• General Dynamics
– In the F-16, replace the P&W F100 engine with the GE-J79 engine
• In 1978, Taiwan (Republic of China) interested in purchasing 160 F-5Gs
– Carter Administration vetoes sale
• Allies question performance of downgraded F-16 and recognized F-5G
as a capable fighter . . . But will USAF by the F-5G?
A New Administration
and a Change in Policy
• Reagan Administration:
– 180 degree shift from Carter
– F-16As become widely available
for foreign military sales
– The need for the FX evaporates
and General Dynamics stops
plans for F-16/79
– The F-5G is now in competition
with the F-16
– Perception that F-5G was a
simple F-5E upgrade . . . It was
– Northrop asks US government for
a designation change to F-20 and
it was approved in 1982
F-20 Technology Upgrades
9G Structure
LEX (Leading Edge Extension)
Enlarged wing with maneuvering flaps
Panoramic Canopy
Zero-Zero Ejection Seat
F-404-GE-100 Engine (18K lbs thrust)
Multi-mode Coherent Radar
Advanced Digital Avionics
Glass Cockpit – HUD (Head-up Display) with two
Multi-Function Displays
• HOSAT – Hands on Stick and Throttle
• OBOGS (On Board Oxygen Generator System)
• Multi-Role (Air-to-Air, Air-to-Ground and Air-to-Sea
F-20 Specifications
Crew: 1 pilot
Length: 47 ft 4 in
Wingspan: 27 ft 11.9 in
Height: 13 ft 10 in
Wing area: 201 ft²
Empty weight: 13,150 lb
Max. takeoff weight: 27,500 lb
Power plant: 1 × General Electric F404-GE-100 turbofan,
18,000 lb
Maximum speed: Mach 2
Combat radius: 300 nmi (345 nmi with 2 × 330 US gal drop tanks)
Ferry range: 1,490 nmi with 3 × 330 US gal drop tanks
Service ceiling: 55,000 ft
Rate of climb: 52,800 ft/min
Wing loading: 81.0 lb/ft²
Thrust/weight: 1.1
Trying to Find a Buyer
• No support from the Reagan Administration
• Not in service in US arsenal
– Foreign countries did not want to be first buyer
• Wing area (201 sq. ft.) was too small
• Final efforts to be used by USAF and USN for
dissimilar air training or by Air National Guard
• F-20s flew more than 1300 sorties and
exceeded test parameters, but with no sales
Northrop cancels program in 1986 after $1.2
Billion invested
Burt at EAFB in 1984 for an
F-20 demo flight
• Aviation author Steve Pace wrote of the F-20 as
"one of the best fighters that never went into
• The F-20 was an extremely capable, lightweight
and highly reliable fighter that would have been a
good solution for many countries
• But after the F-20 experience aerospace
companies became cautious about directly
investing in new designs without an end game
• On the plus side, Northrop’s investment created a
dynamic pool of early career engineers that went
on to design another best fighter that never went
into production . . . The YF-23A Advanced Tactical
Conceptual drawing of USAF,
Swiss Air Force and ROKAF F-20s
For More Information:
Project Terminated
By Erik Simonsen, Crecy Publishing (March 15,
• Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing
• Avro CF-105 Arrow
• NAA F-108 Rapier Mach 3 Interceptor
• Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar Spaceplane
• Lockheed F-12B Interceptor
• British Aerospace TSR 2
• North American XB-70 Valkyrie
• Rockwell International B-1A and B-1B
• Rockwell International XFV-12A
• Northrop F-20 Tigershark
Where are They Now?
• Northrop N1-M Jeep Flying Wing
– Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (NASM),
Chantilly, Virginia (Dulles Airport)
• Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar Mock-up
– Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Purdue
• Northrop F-20 Tigershark
– California Science Center, Los Angeles
• North American Aviation XB-70
– National Museum of the US Air Force,
Dayton, Ohio