Samstag, 4. Februar 2012

Concept Aircrafts...

Dies sind zwar bloss Modellflugzeuge, aber historisch belegt, und es betrifft grösstenteils unseren ach so wichtigen Art-Déco-Zeitraum, und wir beginnen natürlich wieder einmal mehr mit Norman Bel Geddes...  ausserdem sind die Vögel teilweise echt hammermässig (weiter auf Englisch):

aber zuerst: hola a todos los modelistas en México

1900-30s

Although the first three decades of the 20th Century were the proverbial "Golden Age of Flight," virtually all of the aircraft designs kitted from this period were of actual planes and prototypes, not concepts. In fact, it's only been in the last few years that a handful of garage kit companies -- mostly from Eastern Europe -- have even dared to produce models of first generation "project" aircraft.. Those Fantastic Modelers who are clever and determined enough to search out these rare and unusual kits will find an experience unique in model-building.

Bel Geddes Airliner No. 4 (1929)





und meine Lieblingsphotographie.... over Lower Manhattan... (Fly Baby Fly!)



Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958) was one of the most influential designers of the early 20th Century. Trained as a theatrical designer, he was the first to apply the principals of aerodynamics to industrial design, creating the style we now know was "Streamline Moderne."

Having designed everything from household appliances to transcontinental trains, Bel Geddes turned his sights to the skies, creating in 1929 one of the most ambitious commercial airliner concepts ever put to paper: A nine-story flying amphibious behemoth dubbed simply "Airliner #4." Inspired by the Dornier DO-X flying boat, the aircraft -- designed in partnership with Dr. Otto Koller -- would sleep 606 passengers in cruise liner-like comfort. With a wingspan of 525 feet, the plane would have been twice the size of a modern-day Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet.

Bel Geddes' plans were the fly his plane between Chicago and London via the St. Lawrence Seaway with refueling done in flight over Canada. Although he was purportedly in negotiations in a syndicate of Chicago businessmen to fund the project, it never materialized.

Although he never saw this dream take flight, Bel Geddes went on to gain fame of the designer of General Motors' celebrated "Highways & Horizons" exhibit -- better known as "Futurama" -- at the 1939 New York World's Fair.


Ushakov LPL Flying Submarine (1934)







During the 1930s, the Soviet Union was making a concerted effort to accelerate the development of both its navy and air force. In 1934, a military cadet named Dzerzhinskiy Ushakov responded to calls for creative solutions to the challenges of modern naval combat by presenting his superiors with plans for a "flying submarine" (LPL), a craft that could flying into enemy territory, submerge and then conduct surveillance and even torpedo attacks on enemy ships before flying to safety.

Although a radical concept, the Ushakov LPL underwent serious development for several years by the Soviet military until the project was abandoned later in the decade.



Airspeed AS.31 (1935)











The Germans weren't the only ones experimenting with radical aircraft designs in the years prior to WWII. In England, the Airspeed company came up with this unique single-engine fighter; its pilot was to be housed in an egg-shaped cockpit situated far behind the wing to enhance visibility during take-offs and landings. However, wind tunnel tests revealed that this odd arrangement would produce intolerable G-forces during high-speed turns, and the project was abandoned.





Hutter Hu-136 "Stubo II" Ground Attack Fighter (1938)












As the storm clouds of WWII gathered on the horizon, Nazi Germany's Reich Air Ministry let it be known they were in the market for a high-performance heavy-duty dive bomber/ground attack fighter. Two German glider designers, Wolfgang and Ulrich Hütter, responded with two designs for a radical single-seat aircraft. The first, the Stubo 1, would be capable of carrying two 250 kg bombs beneath its elongated fuselage. The larger Stubo 2 was even longer and was equipped with an internal bomb bay capable of carrying a 1,000 kg ordinance load.

Both planes were designed to be launched by a detachable trolley to keep their overall weight down, landing to be accomplished via a retractable skid. The pilot would sit at the rear of the aircraft, the cockpit canopy also serving as the plane's rudder.

Ultimately, the Air Ministry passed on the unusual proposal, choosing instead to manufacturer the far more conventional Henschel HS 129.



1940s

Fantastic Plastic model builders inevitably approach the 1940s era with a high degree of ambivalence. On one hand, Nazi Germany was inarguably one of the most evil, despicable and horrific empires ever to befoul this planet. On the other hand, German's "project" aircraft -- planes that only got as far as the drawing board -- were some of the coolest designs to come out of any decade...ever.

Interest in WWII-era "project" planes really took off in the 1990s, developing into a sub-culture known as "Luft '46." (e.g. What might the Luftwaffe been flying if the War had continued until 1946 -- or beyond?) Numerous model companies -- primarily those from Eastern Europe -- jumped on the Luft '46 bandwagon and began pumping out an ever-expanding catalog of these kits, a trend which continues to this day. This section features just a few of these aggressively radical German and, in a few cases, American and Japanese aircraft designs.


Henschel HS-P75 (1941/42)




This conceptual high-speed fighter featured a canard/rear-wing configuration designed to accommodate an exceptionally large Daimler Benz 610 power plant. Incorporating counter-rotating rear-mounted propellers and a tail on its underside, the HS-P75 would have presented a unique profile had it been chosen for production.


Lockheed L-133 (1942)




As early at the late 1930s, engineers at Lockheed Aircraft saw the potential of jet propulsion and began preliminary work on designs for a jet-powered combat aircraft. By 1942, they had laid the groundwork for the L-133, a single-seat canard-style fighter to be powered by two L-1000 axial-flow jet engines -- also of Lockheed design. However, the Army Air Corps saw little potential for jet propulsion and, without U.S. Government funding, the project collapsed. It wasn't until several years later, when word of Germany's success on jet propulsion began to make its way to the Allies, that Lockheed had enough funding to get back into the jet-fighter business.


BMW "Flugelrad" V.2 (1944)









In the years following the Allies' victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, reports began to surface of numerous top-secret aircraft experiments having been conducted by the Germans in the closing years of the conflict. Some of these reports focused on the development of disc-shaped fighters, in effect compact autogyros with flat, fan-like blades spun by the exhaust of jet engines. Purportedly three flying disc prototypes were developed and tested by BMW at the Prag-Kbley aerodrome in occupied Czechoslovakia in experiments conducted between 1943 and 1945..


The second of these so-called "Flugelrads," the V-2, improved upon the crude, one-man V-1 by increasing its size to accommodate a second pilot, adding semi-retractable landing gear (The first version had fixed gear), and adding a tail rudder for stability. Reportedly flown briefly in the early autumn of 1944, the craft could only "hop" for a few yards at a time, and the tail proved functionally useless.


Development of the Flugelrads halted in 1945 as the Russian Army advanced on Czechoslovakia, and most of the documents pertaining to the project were destroyed. Whether those records that have surfaced since are authentic remains the subject of considerable controversy.






Focke-Wulf Triebflugel (1944)



The Triebflugel was Focke-Wulf's entry in Germany's race to build a viable Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) fighter, a plane not dependent on conventional -- and vulnerable -- airfields. Designed in 1944, the plane sported three rotating wings intended to function like helicopter blades. Once in motion, the blades would provide enough thrust to operate the Pabst ramjets located on the wingtips. Unique among all 20th Century VTOL concepts, the Triebflugel only got as far as wind-tunnel models.


Lippisch Li.P.13A (1944)



Designed in 1944 by delta-wing maven Dr. Alexander Lippisch, the P-13A was intended to be a high-performance ramjet-powered interceptor. The craft would have been launched with the help of a liquid fuel rocket motor, then once sufficient speed was achieved, switch to its coal- ...yes, coal... powered ramjet. Early wind-tunnel tests indicated that, should the craft ever be built, it could comfortably handle at speeds upwards of Mach 2.5!


Lippisch Li.P-13B (1944)



The follow-up to the Li.P-13A fighter, the Li.P-15B was Alexander Lippisch's twin-intake version of a coal-powered ramjet interceptor. Designed in December 1944, the plane featured a retractable skid in place of conventional landing gear. When parked, the plane was to sit on the edges of its down-turned wingtips.


Daimler-Benz Project "B" (1944/45)











Nazi Germany's early focus on short-range tactical bombers left the country with a dearth of strategic aircraft capable of hitting distant targets. To fill this void, numerous projects were proposed -- including a few that were, well, exotic. The German automaker Daimler Benz's proposal was to build a giant prop-powered "bomber carrier" that could carry a "parasite" bomber halfway or more to its target, then release the jet-powered aircraft to complete the remainder of its mission.


The Project "B" design was the second of what would be three "carrier" proposals Daimler Benz developed. The design, while decidedly exotic, never got off the drawing board.


Note: This design isn't quite as "whacked" as one might think. The cracked-wing "carrier" and underbelly "parasite" layout is near identical that found on Burt Rutan's White Knight/Space Ship One private spacecraft now in competition for the $10 million X-Prize!


Blohm & Voss BPV.192.01 (1944)



In the midst of WWII, the innovative engineers at Germany's Blohm & Voss company responded to Berlin's request for a single-engine ground-attack bomber with this bizarre mid-engine design. To improve visibility, the cockpit was situated in front of the propeller and held in place by two side-mounted canard-like supports. Armaments were to consist of four fixed-forward machine guns and a single 500-pound bomb. The design never made it past the design stage.


Heinkel He-P.1078B (1944)






One of many late-War "paper projects," Heinkel's He-P.1078B was a single-seat, tailless fighter with 40-degree swept-back wings and a single HeS 011 turbojet engine. The plane's most distinguishing feature was its duo-gondola design. The pilot sat in the port-side pod; in the other was a radar system and two MK 108 30mm cannon.

No P.1078B's were ever actually produced.


Heinkel He-P.1079A (1944)






During WWII, Germany's Heinkel aircraft company developed five fighter planes under the P.1079 designation. The only thing these designs had in common was that they incorporated twin jet engines. The first in the 1079 series was this design, the P.1079A, which featured its power plants on either side of the fuselage, plus a V-shaped tail.


No He-P.1079As were ever produced.


Messerschmitt Me-262 HG III (1944)



With its Me-262 jet fighter being a proven success, Messerschmitt subsequently proposed numerous variations on its battle-tested airframe. One of these was a three-man high-speed interceptor with in-wing engines: the HG III. Ultimately, this was little more than a "paper project," as no HG IIIs were ever produced.


Heinkel P.1080 (1944)



One of many point-defense fighter concepts developed by Germany to protect the Fatherland during the waning months of WWII, the Heinkel P.1080 was to be powered by two 900mm-diameter Lorin-Rohr ramjets, which were mounted on either side of its fuselage. The plane would be launched via four solid-fuel rockets that would be jettisoned shortly after take-off, and the plane would land via a single extendable skid.

Armament was to consist of two KH 108 30mm cannon.

Like many "Luft '46" designs, the P.1080 never went further than the design stage.


Horten Ho-229 V.7 (1945)










Even as the Horten Brothers were starting construction on their Ho-229A-1 flying wing, plans were underway for more advanced -- and lethal -- variations on their tailless aircraft. One of these was the V-7, which incorporated the advanced radar systems that were only then being installed on Luftwaffe fighters. No V-7's ever made it to the production line.


Blohm & Voss P.212.03 (1945)










This unusual tailless jet fighter was designed to operate at high altitudes using Germany's new He S 001 jet engine. The last of three similar designs submitted to the Luftwaffe's Emergency Fighter Competition by B&V, the plane began wind tunnel tests in May 1945 -- just days before Germany's surrender.



He-162A Mistel 5 w/Arado E77A Flying Bomb (1945)









During the closing months of WWII, numerous "Mistels" -- tandem-aircraft designs -- were proposed by German aircraft manufacturers. Among these designs was this dual-aircraft system consisting of a jet-powered Heinkel He162-A "Salamander" and an E337 gliding bomb. Because the He162's powerplant could never lift both craft on its own, the winged bomb was to to be given its own set of jet engines. Upon separation, the Salamander pilot was to guide the bomb toward its target -- either a large ship or building -- via wire. Or the bomb could simply be allowed to glide freely.

Conceived late in the War, this weapons system was never actually built.




Messerschmitt ME-262 Lorin (1945)






The ME-262 was the world's firstoperational jet fighter. Because of its success, it was also the subject of numerous variations, some practical, others merely speculative. One of the most unusual "upgrades" proposed for the ME-262 was to equip it with two huge Lorin ramjets designed by Dr. Eugene Sänger.. These engines would have been gigantic -- around 1.13 m in diameter and 5.9 meters long. It was estimated that these "boosters" would allow the jet to reach a maximum of speed of 1,000 km/hr at sea level and reach an altitude of 10,000m in just six minutes. No prototype of this variation was ever actually built.


Kyushu J7W2 Shindenkai (1945)











Imperial Japan's Kyushu J7W1 Shinden, already on exhibit in our X-Plane & Prototypes/1940s section, was one of the few propeller-driven "pusher" fighter ever slated for mass production. But even as the Japanese were tooling up to get the Shinden into the skies, plans were underway to upgrade the aircraft with the new jet engines that were coming on line.




Kyushu J7W1 "Shinden" (1945)





The only "tail-first" piston-driven aircraft ever slated for mass-production, the radical canard-style Shinden J7W1 "Magnificent Lightning" was conceived in 1943 and first test-flown in August 1945. The plane had the potential to be a formidable interceptor, but only three prototypes were built before the war came to its abrupt conclusion. Curiously, although the Allies "borrowed" numerous aeronautical concepts from the defeated Germans, they let this potentially lethal Japanese design remain unexploited.


Rheinmetal-Borsig VTOL (1945)






During World War II, German aircraft designers developed numerous plans for vertically launched point-defense fighters that would not be encumbered by the need for large (and vulnerable) runways. However, while launching a fighter vertically seemed simple enough, landing one the same way posed a host of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The Rheinmetal-Borsig jet-powered VTOL represented a creative solution to this dilemma. While launched vertically, the plane was designed to land like a conventional aircraft on bicycle landing gears.

The plane never developed beyond the "paper project" stage.


Horten Rocket Wing (1945)











Germany's Horten Brothers are credited with being some of aviation's earliest champions of the "flying wing" concept. In addition to designing both propeller- and jet-powered flying wings, the Brothers Horten developed plans for an advanced fighter powered by twin rocket motors. Discovered by the Allies in the waning days of WWII, these plans never got beyond the initial design stages, yet even in their crude, undeveloped state suggested a plane that -- if built -- would have been one of the most elegant and beautiful ever to take to the skies.


Heinkel 60-Tonne Long-Range Bomber Project (1944)







Even as the Allies were advancing on Nazi Germany, German aircraft companies were scrambling to create new "wonder weapons" for the Luftwaffe. Heinkel was one of these military aircraft manufacturers.


One of Heinkel's projects, a jet-powered 60-ton long-range bomber, only got to the design stage, although many of its then-radical component, including its 45- to 35-degree swept-back wings, would be adopted by American and British aircraft designers in the following decades. (Its influence on the British V-bombers of the 1950s and 1960s is unmistatkable.)


The plane's powerplants would have been either four Heinkel Hirth 109-11s or six Junkers jumo 004 jets. The performance stats, dated February 1945, called for a combined 3000 Kg bomb-load with a range of 28,000 kilometers.



Kugisho Ohka 43 "Otsu" (1945)






During the waning months of WWII, Japanese designers contemplated producing a light interceptor version of their new jet-powered Ohka 33 kamikazeaircraft. Much like Nazi Germany's "Volksjagers," these cheap, expendable fighters could be launched en masse to battle American bombers -- in this case the launches being facilitated by rocket boosters and 97-meter-long catapults.

The Ohka 43 project only got as far as the mockup stage before the project was abandoned due to Japan's surrender in August 1945.



Yurjev KIT-1 (1946)









Like the Germans before them (and the Americans soon thereafter), the post-War Soviets saw a need for a point-defense fighter that could operate without vulnerable airstrips. In 1946, leading Russian helicopter theoretician Professor B.N. Yurjev developed this design for a small delta-winged tail-sitter. Its single Kilmov VK-108 motor, situated aft of the cockpit, was to power both a small forward propeller (used for horizontal flight) and a larger aft propeller that would function during take-offs and landings, and then serve as a canard-like surface during in-flight operations.

The so-called "KIT-1" never got passed the design stage. However, Yurjev was obviously on the right track as his design bears numerous similarities to the U.S.'s XFY-1 "Pogo" and XFV-1 "Salmon" developed a decade later.


Convair XB-53 Medium Bomber (1949)







Originally designated the Convair XA-44("A" for "Attack), this craft was intended to be a medium bomber capable of carrying 12,000 pounds of bombs as well as 40 high-velocity aerial rockets (HVARs). The plane's most unusual features were its 30-degree forward-swept wings, a concept based on recently captured German WWII-era research. It was believed this configuration would give the plane a greater climb-rate and maneuverability.

To be powered by three G.E. J35 turbojets, the XA-44 found itself in competition with Convair's own XB-46, and while the company would have preferred to manufacture both planes, it ultimately chose to divert funds from the XA-44 to the more conventional XB-46 project. Under-funded and all but ignored, the XA-44 was redubbed the XB-53 in 1948, only to have the project cancelled altogether in 1949. Although two prototypes had been ordered, none were ever built.



1950s

The escalating Cold War, coupled with breakthroughs in rocket, jet and nuclear technologies, lead to some wild and highly imaginative speculative aircraft designs during the 1950s. This was also the decade in which the plastic model industry was born, and first-generation companies like Monogram, Revell, Lindberg and Aurora were more than eager to please their demanding customers -- principally young boys -- with dramatic visions of "things to come."



Sikorsky XV-2 (XN-36) (1951)





WWII helped bring to fruition numerous aircraft technologies that had been nascent during the 1930s, including jet engines and helicopters. By 1951, Sikorsky, the world's leading helicopter manufacturer, had fashioned a creative way to fuse the two concepts, the result being jet-powered aircraft with a single-bladed helicopter rotor that could be used for VTOL-style take-offs and landings, then collapsed stowed when the aircraft commenced horizontal flight.

Dubbed the XH-36, the plan was given the green light by a joint U.S. Army/Air Force development team charged with building a VTOL aircraft that could be used for difficult rescue operations. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the Korean War turned Sikorsky's attention and resources to more practical matters, and the XH-36 -- now known as the XV-2 -- remained a study project only until the entire project was cancelled in 1960.




Supermarine Type 553 (1953)



In the mid-20th Century, Britain's Supermarine Aviation Works was one of the U.K.'s most successful aircraft manufacturers, having been the company behind one of WWII's most successful fighters, the legendary Supermarine Spitfire.. In the post-War years, Supermarine struggled to maintain its supremacy, with little success. Among its "paper" projects was a Mach 2 research jet, the Supermarine Type 553. The plane, with a cylindrical body and extended nose that called to mind the Douglas D-558-1 "Skystreak," never got beyond the proposal stage.



NORD 500 "Harpon" (1953)



The Nord 500 Harpon was the first in a series of lightweight interceptor concepts developed by France's Nord Aviation beginning in 1953 and culminating with the Dassault Mirage III later in that decade. Although they first conceived the Harpon as a rocket-powered interceptor, Nord engineers ultimately settled on more conventional jet propulsion for the aircraft. The Harpon was distinguished by its double-delta wings and sharp swept-back canards.

The Harpon made it as far as a full-sized flying wooden model before the project was cancelled.



MIG-19 (1955)






In the early 1950s, details of Soviet aircraft were hard to come by. But that didn't stop the then-nascent Aurora Models company from kitting a so-called Russian fighter "inspired" by Nazi Germany's experimental TA-183. First released as the YAK-25 in 1953, the simple model was retooled with missiles, landing gear and surface detail and re-released in metallic green plastic as the MIG-19 a year later. Although the TA-183 did lead to the development of an actual Soviet Fighter -- the MIG 15 -- this particular design was purely fanciful



Lippisch Aerodyne (1955)













During the mid-1950s, German aeronautics genius Dr. Alexander Lippisch -- now working for the victorious Americans -- developed plans for a revolutionary propeller-powered VTOL aircraft. His "aerodyne" used two piston-mounted propellers to draw air into the massive cylindrical fuselage; vents on the rear ventral surface deflected the accelerated airflow downward to create vertical lift while smaller portions of compressed air were used to drive the vehicle horizontally.

Although the Aerodyne was never built, a pilotless jet-powered model was successfully flown by Germany's Dornier company in 1974, proving Lippisch's theories. Many of Lippisch's concepts were also integrated into the highly successful Hawker Harrier VTOL jet fighter.



American Atomic-Powered Bomber (1955)





On Feb. 7, 1955, LIFE Magazine featured a multi-page spread about the U.S. Air Force's program to build a long-range nuclear bomber powered by atomic energy. The article featured illustrations of such an aircraft as conceived by a group of aeronautical specialists the magazine assembled just for this feature story. The designers' concept was of a large delta-winged plane with a compact, egg-shaped atomic reactor situated just forward of the tail section. To protect the two-man crew from radiation, the cockpit was located at the end of an over-long, wild goose-like fuselage, which contained extra shielding just aft of the crew compartment.

Servicing of the aircraft was to be done in a mountainside hangar, the cockpit and aft sections separated by a thick, shielded wall. All maintenance of the nuclear reactor would be done by remote-controlled robotic devices.

In the article, experts speculated that the first atomic-powered bomber would be flown by the year 1960.



Barnes Walllis Swallow SST (1955)














In the years following World War II, British aviation expert Barnes Wallis -- the brilliant aircraft engineer credited with designing the "Dam Buster" bomb that helped cripple Germany's steel industry in 1943 -- turned his attention to more advanced aircraft designs, including variable wing (swing-wing) aircraft capable of supersonic flight. One of his most famous concepts was the "Swallow," an elegant tail-less plane he hoped would become the mainstay of Britain's commercial aviation industry.

The plane had four engines mounted in pairs toward the tips of the wings, one above and one below the aerofoil. These pivoted along all three axes, serving in place of a rudder, ailerons and elevators.

Although test models of the plane actually flew, the British government pulled its funding in the late 1950s, essentially killing this promising project.



Northrop Nuclear-Powered Flying Wing (1956)







In the mid-1950s, the U.S. Air Force flirted seriously with the idea of producing long-range strategic bombers powered by atomic energy. The main advantage of such a weapon would be its ability to stay aloft for weeks at a time, thus serving as the aerial counterpart to the Navy's fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Jack Northrop, America's number-one proponent of "flying wing" aircraft, proposed several configurations for such an atomic-powered bomber. The most exotic of these was an asymmetrical design that positioned the cockpit at the end of the port wing. (German engineers had proved that asymmetrical designs were completely airworthy more than a decade before.) This configuration, while highly unconventional, had the advantage of putting the flight crew as far away from the nuclear reactor as possible while minimizing weight.

None of Northrop's concepts got farther than the concept stage.



TWA Mach 3 Jetliner (1958)



This was Paul Lindberg's speculative civilian version of the Air Force's XB-70 bomber, which was then still under development. Note that this airframe design had only one tail, whereas the actual XB-70 had two. From the instruction sheet: "By the early 1970's, supersonic jet airliners are expected to be used by nearly all of the major airline companies, and travel from New York to Paris will take approximately 3 to 4 hours." Ah, those were the days!


USAF 40-Foot Flying Disc (1958)












In 1967, former U.S. Navy aviator and aviation writer Jack D. Pickett and his business partner Harold Baker visited MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Florida to gather information for an Air Force-sponsored article on historical experimental aircraft. At the edge of the base, they were shown four decommissioned X-planes -- all of them flying discs -- measuring 20, 40, 70 and 116 feet in diameter.

Through interviews with various base personnel, Pickett and Baker concluded that, during the 1950s, the USAF had developed several models of jet-powered flying discs for reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union. The discs had supersonic capabilities and had, on occasion, reached heights that approached the edge of space (50 miles). Many disc flights -- particularly those of the highly successful 40-foot version -- were no doubt responsible for many "Flying Saucer" reports during the period. By the early 1960s, all had been retired in favor of more advanced aircraft.

The proposed article was ultimately cancelled, no doubt for reasons of national security. Years later, the amazing story was published by Michael Schratt, who provided the background material for this model kit.



Russian Nuclear-Powered Bomber (1959)






In the late 1950's, with the Soviets kicking America's proverbial ass in the Space Race, it was not hard to imagine that they'd soon achieve strategic air superiority as well. So when the aviation rumor mill began to buzz with stories about a new Russian long-range bomber powered by atomic engines, many people were inclined to believe the worst. (In fact, atomic engines were also being contemplated by American scientists at the time. )


Aviation Week published a four-page article on the "mystery" plane on December 1, 1958 -- an article that later turned out to be filled with Soviet mis- and dis-information. Yes, there was a new bomber in the works -- the "Bounder" -- and, much to everyone's disappointment -- and relief -- its engines were not only conventional, they weren't even very good. The plane never went into production.



XAB-1 Beta-1 Atomic-Powered Bomber (1959)








In the 1950s, America's defense industry explored several radical ways to gain air superiority over the rival Soviet Union. Convair's XAB-1 concept bomber employed two notions that were particularly fashionable during this Cold War period. One was the idea of atomic engines, power plants that could keep a plane airborne virtually indefinitely. (Conventional jet engines were still required for take-offs and landings.) The other idea was that of parasite fighters, high-performance jets that were carried with the bomber and then released over enemy territory to provide airborne defense.

Ultimately, the idea of atomic engines was scrapped when the notion proved too unwieldy and dangerous, while the parasite fighter notion was rendered obsolete by the perfection of mid-air refueling technology.




XAB-1 Beta-1 Atomic-Powered Bomber (1959)









In the 1950s, America's defense industry explored several radical ways to gain air superiority over the rival Soviet Union. Convair's XAB-1 concept bomber employed two notions that were particularly fashionable during this Cold War period. One was the idea of atomic engines, power plants that could keep a plane airborne virtually indefinitely. (Conventional jet engines were still required for take-offs and landings.) The other idea was that of parasite fighters, high-performance jets that were carried with the bomber and then released over enemy territory to provide airborne defense.

Ultimately, the idea of atomic engines was scrapped when the notion proved too unwieldy and dangerous, while the parasite fighter notion was rendered obsolete by the perfection of mid-air refueling technology.




1960s

In the 1960s, the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union supplanted the race for air supremacy that had dominated the previous decade. At least in the public's imagination. As a result, few speculative aircraft were kitted during this turbulent period. Those models that did make it to hobby shop shelves tended to be either variations of proposed Super-Sonic Transports (SSTs) or variations of existing military aircraft. A few key examples of such models are featured in this section.




F-108 Rapier (1960)











The F-108 "Rapier" was an actual plane being developed by the North American Aircraft Co. during the late 1950s. Designed to be a Mach 3 interceptor/escort for the XB-70 Valkyrie, the double-delta-winged "Rapier" made it to the mockup stage before the project was abruptly cancelled in 1959.


A year later, ITC released its own version of the F-108 -- one strikingly different from the actual plane. This "Rapier" launched like a rocket -- a concept intended to overcome the vulnerability of conventional airfields -- and was designed to carry atomic-tipped missiles that could be fired from up to 1,000 miles away from its target. Although it bore a superficial resemblance to the actual F-108, this design could never be confused with its real-world counterpart.




Lockheed F-104 VTOL (1962)







Yet another in a long line of bizarre Vertical Take-Off & Landing (VTOL) concepts was this plan for turning an F-104 Starfighter into a supersonic helicopter. Proposed by Ryan Aeronautical engineer Peter Girard (who had flown the actual Ryan X-13 Vertijet), the plan called for replacing the Starfighter's stubby wings with a triangular dorsal-mounted airfoil. The airfoil was to spin like a helicopter blade, the tips of the triangle tilting to provide the necessary lift. Once the craft was airborne, the triangle would lock into a straight horizontal position and serve as a traditional "wing" for conventional flight.

Fortunately, the development of the vertical take-off Hawker Harrier later in the decade precluded this seemingly suicidal concept from actually being pursued.



X-15 "Blue Scout" (1962)








The North American X-15 remains one of the most successful -- and famous -- test plane in America's "X" series, setting scores of speed and altitude records that stand to this day. In March 1962, NASA's X-15 Committee proposed using the hypersonic rocketplane as a high-altitude platform from which to launch small satellites into orbit. The proposed scenario would have the X-15 taken airborne by a modified B-52 bomber (the usual procedure for launching the X-15). Attached to the X-15's undercarriage would be a Scout booster fitted to an extendable launching rail. Once released from its B-52 mothership, the X-15 would fly to the atmosphere's upper edge and from there launch the Scout into orbit. Once orbital velocity had been achieved, the Scout would release the satellite contained in its payload section.

The modified X-15 would, in effect, become part of a low-cost multi-stage launch system. However, the proposal was ultimately rejected due to concerns over safety, economy and overall viability.


X-15 Delta-Wing/Version 1 (1965)







By the mid-1960s, tests with the original X-15 rocket plane had "pushed the envelope" of hypersonic flight about as far as American engineering could go. Now it was time to go further. To deal with the shockwave problems created by conventional wings at speeds of Mach 5 and beyond, engineers proposed equipping the X-15 with slim delta wings in place of its normal wing-and-tail structure. However, the successes of NASA's manned spaceflight program combined with the crash of the X-15-3 in November 1967 scuttled the X-15 program, and the delta-version was never built.


Boeing 2707-200 SST (1967)




As early as 1952, engineers at Boeing Aircraft were working on designs for a Super-Sonic Transport (SST) that could ferry passengers coast-to-coast or from Europe and Asia at twice the speed of sound. However, it wasn't until 1963 that President John F. Kennedy formally committed the U.S. government to backing such a venture, this in response to the joint British and French plan to build their own SST, the Concorde. By 1966, Boeing had settled on a swing-wing design with a droop-nose, designated the 2707, a plane capable of carrying up 350 passengers at 1,800 mph. In 1967, a canard was added to the plane, now designated the 2702-200. Although a mock-up of the aircraft was built and extensive wind-tunnel tests made, noise, cost and environmental concerns ultimately scuttled this ambitious project, leaving the SST field to the British, the French and -- very briefly -- to the Russians with their ill-fated TU-144.



Convair 49 Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS)
(1967)












In 1965, the U.S. Army asked America's major aircraft companies to submit proposals for an Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) to provide cover for ground troops in hostile territories. While most companies responded with conventional -- albeit advanced -- helicopter designs, Convair's San Diego division returned with something truly unique: A closed-wing, shrouded rotor VTOL with heavy on-board weaponry and an articulated cockpit.

Essentially a "flying tank," the Model 49 would be able to launch and land vertically like a helicopter, fly horizontally like an airplane, hover, and even operate as a moveable weapons platform while on the ground.

Said by Convair engineers to be easier operate than a conventional helicopter, the Model 49 was deemed far too radical to warrant further development.



North American X-15D (1967)








The X-15 rocket-powered spaceplanewas arguably the most important -- and famous -- X-plane of the Cold War Era. Prior to the X-15 program's abrupt cancellation in 1968, the Air Force was drafting ambitious plans for the aircraft, including a "next generation" X-15-D that would test the limits of hypersonic flight (Mach 5+) using an exotic new hydrogen-fueled scramjet engine.

Unfortunately, the X-15-D never made it past the drawing board. Had the program been allowed to continue, the X-15-D would have no doubt added further luster to the X-15's sterling legacy.


1970s

The 1970s were a fallow period of speculative aircraft models. The long and brutal Vietnam War had turned the public's enthusiasm away from all things military, and a series of oil shocks combined with the growing environmental movement had combined to convince people that the future just wasn't what it used to be. What spec aircraft kits that did manage to make it to market were principally re-pops of earlier kits. And even then their packaging lacked the serious realism of earlier concept models.


Ragnarok Orbital Interceptor (1975)



The intimidating Ragnarok was created to serve as the world's first line of defense against possible alien invaders. Powered by two atomic engines, the craft had a cruising speed of 8,000 mph and was armed with nuclear-tipped air-to-air missiles. The aircraft also carried a parasite defense fighter armed with high-powered lasers. With copies costing $100,000 million each, the Ragnarok was apparently a good investment since, to date, all alien invasions have been successfully repelled.


North American "Silent Night" Stealth Fighter (1973)









The "Silent Night" stealth attack fighterwas the baseline configuration included in a feasibility study North American Aviation had with the Office of Naval Research between 1971 and 1973. This was during the later stages of the Viet Nam War, when losses over North Viet Nam to Soviet metric radars were disturbing. The Navy wanted options to defeat these radars, then destroy them. The "Silent Night" was the result of this study.

Although the "Silent Night" never became a full-fledged project, many of the concepts it utilized, including a tail-less "flying wing" configuration, an internal engine and internal weapons bays, eventually made their way into the actual Stealth aircraft and UCAVs of the the late 20th and early 21st centuries.



1980s

Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" also spelled the rebirth of interest in conceptual aircraft models. With The Gipper riding high in the political saddle, it was suddenly acceptable again to support military R&D -- and the model kits that sprung from such research. It was also during this decade that rumors of super-secret "invisible" airplanes boasting what was termed "stealth" technology began to circulate in and outside of the aerospace community, and major model manufacturers were more than happy to produce kits of what were purported to be "authentic" designs of America's ultra-classified aircraft.



BAE (Hawker) P.1214 - Harrier II (1980)






The BAE P.1214 was one of several Hawker proposals for the supersonic Harrier II. Distinguished by its forward-swept wings and double-boom "flying squirrel"-like body (to keep exhaust away from control surfaces), the design also featured afterburning PCB Pegasus engines.

The P.1214 was ultimately rejected in favor of the far more conventional GR5, which was based on the original 1950s-era design.



Lockheed F-19 Stealth Fighter (1986)




In the mid-1970s, Lockheed and the U.S. Air Force began work on a radar-evading strike aircraft under the code name HAVE BLUE. By the early 1980s, word about this Top Secret project had leaked to the aviation press. Although specifics were vague, it was known that the plane employed a shape that deflected radar waves, had recessed engines with special cooling exhausts to minimize its infrared signature, and had a skin of radar-absorbing composites.

Based on what it purported to be "inside" information, Testors released this conceptual "F-19" in 1986. Garnering massive media attention, the design became the shape of the mysterious "Stealth Fighter" in the public's mind -- until the actual Stealth -- the F-117 Nighthawk -- was unveiled in 1990. As it turned out, Testors' sleek and low-profile Stealth looked not a thing like a highly angular, faceted F-117 it was meant to portray.



Aurora Hypersonic Spy Plane (1986)












Since the mid-1980s, there has been much speculation about the development of a super-secret scramjet-powered spy plane powerful enough to reach speeds of Mach 6. Over the years, information about this project, dubbed "Aurora," continued to leak into the general press. That the SR-71 Mach 3 reconnaissance aircraft was retired in 1990 with little or no resistance from the Air Force only added further credibility to the belief that something much faster than the fabled "Blackbird" was already in operation.

Although no official pictures of the "Aurora" have yet to surface, enough bits and pieces about the technical requirements of hypersonic aircraft have made it into circulation for experts to develop a reasonable guess as to what this plane might look like. The triangular, "all fuselage" design of this concept would be perfect for high-altitude, high-speed flight, naturally compressing air into the scramjet intakes while providing excellent lift and stealth capabilities.


F-19 Stealth Fighter (1987)






Not to be outdone by its rivals at Testors, Monogram responded to the unprecedented success of that company's F-19 with its own version of the elusive Stealth fighter. (In fact, Monogram bought the rights to the use the name "F-19 Stealth" from Testors!)

Monogram's version was even more low-profile and bat-like than Testors' model -- yet turned out to be just as inaccurate once the real Stealth was revealed to the public. (It turned out to be based on an earlier "artist's conception" done years earlier by a major aircraft manufacturer.)


B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber



Like Monogram, Revell responded to the breakthrough success of Testors' F-19 Stealth Fighter with a "Could Be..." Stealth model of its own. Only in this case, the plane was the long-rumored B-2 Stealth Bomber.


Working from known flying wing technology and the accepted requirements of Stealth designs, the engineers at Revell concocted this smooth, low-profile, tailless bat-wing design and released it under the "Birds of Prey" moniker. Their predictions were fairly on the mark; the actual B-2 turned out to be roughly the same shape and scale as Revell's kit -- but far more angular, especially at the wings' trailing ends.


MiG 37-B Ferret Stealth Fighter (1989)








The Soviet counterpart of the American F-19 Stealth, the MiG 37B "Ferret" combined a faceted airframe design with cooled exhausts, a radar-absorbing skin and sophisticated electronic countermeasures to remain virtually invisible to Allied radar. Purely conjectural, the design nonetheless turned out to be closer in shape to the actual F-117 Nighthawk than was Testors' own hypothetical F-19.



X-30 Hypersonic Bomber (1988)










This is not the actual X-30 National Aerospace Plane (NASP- below) once under development by NASA, but a purely conjectural design developed by Monogram models. Featuring a legitimate "lifting body" shape, the Monogram X-30 was to employ hydrogen-burning engines to boost itself to the edge of space, then re-enter the atmosphere at five times the speed of sound to deliver nuclear weapons to enemy targets




Stingbat LHX Stealth Helicopter (1989)







In the 1980s, Hughes and other American aircraft manufacturers investigated concepts for the construction of radar-evading "Stealth" helicopters. Testors combined many of the ideas then under development -- including a faceted composite exterior, scimitar-shaped blades and a propeller-less tail -- to create this conjectural design.



1990s


In this last decade of the 20th Century, the thinking of military experts turned toward increasingly exotic weapons systems. Stealth technology, composite construction materials and remote-controlled weapons platforms all played key roles in the futuristic aircraft then being imagined.

Unfortunately, no mainstream model kit manufacturer kitted any of the conceptual aircraft designs being proposed during this period. Instead, it was up to the limited-run "garage kit" companies to fill the void.



TR-3B (1994)










The triangular TR-3B was purportedly developed under the auspices of the top-secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under the Air Force's super-duper Top Secret Aurora Program. Code named "Astra," the TR-3B -- incorporating captured "alien" technology -- is said to use highly pressured mercury accelerated by nuclear energy to produce a plasma that creates a field of "anti-gravity" around the ship. Conventional thrusters located at the tips of the craft allow it to perform all manner of rapid high speed maneuvers along all three axes.

Reports are that at least three TR-3Bs began operating out of Groom Lake (Area 51) in 1994 and have since been spotted all over the world. A centerpiece of modern UFO lore, the TR-3B was frequently seen (albeit it briefly and obscurely) in several episodes of Fox-TV's "The X-Files" TV series of the 1990s.


Strikestar UCAV (1996)







In April 1996, the U.S. Air Force commissioned a study titled "Air Force 2025" that examined the strategies, tactics and technologies the service would need to operate effectively in the first quarter of the 21st century. One of its recommendations was the development of an unmanned, long-range, long-endurance Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), dubbed the "Strikestar," for long-range bombing missions. A larger version of the Darkstar UCAV already in development (see photo below), the Strikestar would be powered by two jet engines instead of its predecessor's single powerplant, have a wingspan of of 105 feet and could carry a variety of ordinance or surveillance equipment.

The Strikestar platform offered numerous advantages. It could cruise at altitudes up to 80,000 feet, making it virtually invulnerable to current SAM technology. Its 70-hour operating time meant it could hit targets virtually anywhere in the world. And because the craft would be operated by remote control, no lives would be risked in combat, and pilot fatigue would never be a problem.


Lockheed X-44A MANTA (1999)








In an attempt to improve "stealth" technology, many aircraft designers and engineers have tinkered with the idea of eliminating tail and rudder surfaces altogether and instead using "thrust vectors" -- tiny onboard jets -- to provide yaw, pitch and roll control. In 1999, the U.S. Air Force began development of the X-44 MANTA (Multi-Axis, No-Tail Aircraft) based on the YF-22 Raptor as an experimental test bed for this research. Although initially scheduled to fly in 2007, the MANTA project has allegedly been scrubbed due to lack of funding.


2000s


The 21st Century saw the introduction of a wholly new concept in combat aircraft, the UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle.) First used with great success in the U.S.'s 2002 invasion of Afghanistan, these remote-controlled aircraft could perform a wide variety of military missions -- and cause extensive damage -- without endangering the lives of human pilots.

Unfortunately, the plastic model industry was slow on kitting the experimental and operational UCAVs, leaving a vacuum that a handful of enterprising "garage kit" companies were more than eager to fill.



Boeing Blended-Wing Bomber (2000)









In the early 21st Century, several major American defense contractors began investigating the practicality of "Blended-Wing" aircraft designs. Combing the best features of traditional and "flying-wing" style aircraft, "Blended-Wing" planes had the potential to be far more fuel efficient -- as well as have significantly more cargo capacity -- than current configurations.


Both NASA and Boeing have Blended-Wing projects currently underway in both the civilian and military sectors. One such project is for a Blended-Wing Bomber (BWB) that could replace the B-2 Stealth later in the 21st Century.




Boeing X-45A UCAV (2001)












By the early 21st Century,computer and satellite technology had advanced far enough to permit the creation of powerful and reliable remote-controlled combat drones, otherwise known as UCAVs (Unmanned Comat Aerial Vehicles). Boeing's X-45A was one of the first jet-powered UCAVs to the revealed to the public. Essentially a demonstration vehicle, the X-45A made its first successful test flight on May 22, 2002, reaching a speed of 195 knots and an altitude of 7,500 feet.



Boeing "Sensor Craft" UAV (2002)











Supposedly a Top Secret "black" project currently under development by the Department of Defense, the Boeing "Sensor Craft" is purportedly an ultra-sophisticated unmanned surveillance aircraft that will someday replace the RA-4 Global Hawk, the Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicle (UACV) that proved itself so useful in Afghanistan and in the early days of the Iraq War.


Large by UAV standards -- its wingspan is a full 100 feet -- the jet-powered Sensor Craft is said to be capable of flying a wide range of photographic and electronic intelligence-gathering missions while maintaining virtual invisibility to radar and infrared sensors.



X-43 Scramjet (2003)









On March 27, 2004, a 12-foot-long, unmanned remote-controlled aircraft equipped with an air-breathing "scramjet" engine -- an engine that has no moving parts and uses a mixture of hydrogen vapor and super-compressed super-sonic air to create thrust -- became the first non-rocket-powered vehicle to go "hypersonic" -- in this case, Mach 7, a full seven times the speed of sound. This was just the second attempt to test NASA's revolutionary scramjet engine -- the first attempt in June 2003 met with failure unrelated to the vehicle itself -- and the short but successful flight of the X-43A proved the feasibility of scramjet-powered flight, a technology that may one day lead to an entirely new breed of high-speed combat and civilian aircraft.

The wedge-shaped X-43A was fixed to a specially modified Pegasus missile and then carried aloft by a NASA B-52B bomber. The Pegasus boosted the X-43A to an altitude of approximately 95,000 feet, at which point the hypersonic aircraft separated and boosted itself to Mach 7 -- in all of about 10 seconds!


2470s

...ja, da warte ich noch auf die Blaupausen.............










Kommentare:

  1. The primary purpose of the Urban Aero Systems is to introduce cutting-edge aerospace technologies, while having its own modern infrastructure, with an experienced team in Aviation
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  2. Aerospace history! Lot of work went into these models. Wonderful concepts, some of them even airworthy.

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