Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Nah, That Wouldn't Have Worked

The "Sea Eagle", a navalized F-15.

It's not a matter of "Not Invented Here". The simple truth is that navalizing land-based fixed-wing airplanes doesn't usually work so hot. Naval aircraft take a hell of a lot of abuse. Naval pilots don't flare;* they fly into the deck at a set attitude and then slam right down and get yanked to a halt in a few hundred feet. Then, fully-loaded, they get flung into the air in 300 feet. So the airplanes take a hell of a lot of abuse from arrested landings, catapult takeoffs and salt-laden air in general. Naval aircraft are designed to take that abuse.

When McDonnell built the F4H for the Navy, even though it was designed as a carrier-based aircraft, the initial ones suffered a series of nose-gear collapses. The squadron operating them had McDonnell send some landing gear engineers out to the carriers to watch operations. The engineers were shocked. One supposedly said "we had no idea that you were doing that to our landing gear." The engineers went back to St. Louis, redesigned the gear and McDonnell sent out replacement kits to the Fleet.

That, mind you, was with an airplane designed to land on carriers. With an airplane that wasn't designed for carrier ops, all that beefiness and such has to be retrofitted. It rarely works out very well (FJ-2/3). The British Seafire was replaced by the F6F Hellcat as soon as the Royal Navy could make the switch.

The "Sea Eagle" would have been more of a "sea gull".
* "Flare to land, squat to pee."