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."


Jimh. said...

That is a truth. Good thing the Navy had the Turkey!

Frank Van Haste said...

Comrade, the story of McDonnell engineers being shocked, shocked by the abuse of the undercarriage during traps is a bit hard to buy, as they had already designed tricycle gear for the FH, F2H and F3H. Hard to believe they'd have forgotten everything they'd learned when it came time to develop the F4H.

Comrade Misfit said...

Frank, you mean that the aviator who wrote the story of the F4H's nose gear in Proceedings over 30 yars ago was telling a fib?

I'm shocked!

Frank Van Haste said...

Not telling a fib. Just reporting what he heard from a guy who knew a guy who bunked with a guy who was there. TINS!

Iron City said...

Seafire not a great example wrt catapult launch because they (and F6Fs) did free deck takeoff, no cats, but did do arresting gear.

The only airplane I know that regularly traps and takes cat shots that wasn't designed as one from the word go is the T-45. Started life as the British Aerospace Hawk trainer. It so happened that the structural design was more or less like a Naval aircraft, but not strong enough and was a relatively more straightforward job to strengthen structurally. The nose section has the nose gear that takes the cat shot and is/was all built in the USA, while the rest of the structure was built in the UK. And the tail hooks on USAF aircraft are for long field rolling arrestments, they can not take a real arrested landing. Looking at Vietnam era isn't it amazing that when we needed airplanes to go to war the A-7 became the A-7D, the F-4 became the F-4C, the A-3D became the B-66 (sort of) etc etc etc. Can go from naval to land based (of course) but not the other way. And don't talk about the F-111