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F-114 Dragon in USAF service

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F-114 Dragon in USAF service

 

The Douglas F6D Missileer was a proposed carrier-based US Navy fleet defence fighter aircraft, designed by Douglas Aircraft Company in response to a 1959 US Navy requirement. It was designed to be able to loiter for extended periods at a relatively long distance from the Navy's aircraft carriers, engaging hostile aircraft 100 miles (160 km) away with its powerful radar and long-range missiles. Since the enemy would be fired on long before they reached visual range, the aircraft had little dog fighting capability and was strictly subsonic. When doubts were expressed about the Missileer's ability to defend itself after firing its missiles, the value of the project was questioned, leading to its cancellation. Portions of the Missileer continued development in spite of the cancellation, eventually emerging on the ill-fated General Dynamics–Grumman F-111B and successful Grumman F-14 Tomcat years later.

 

When the USAF learnt about the existence of the F6D Missileer they were intrigued. One of the major threats facing the USAF Air Defence Command was destroying potential Soviet bombers high in the Arctic latitudes before they could get within range of US cities and other targets of strategic importance. The concept of the Missileer was such that it appeared to be an alternative route to the short ranged supersonic interceptors with their aerodynamic problems resulting from their high speeds. So, they secretly asked the aircraft production companies for a similar solution – a subsonic, long ranged, missile armed interceptor equipped with a powerful radar which could engage an attacking bomber from extreme range.

 

After considering the submissions, it was decided that it might be best, considering the problems that Navy were having with their system to build a proof-of-concept design first before embarking on a completely new aircraft. Martin was selected, as they had the only medium bomber still in production which could be easily converted to carry missiles and a large radar. Martin, decided to consult with English Electric, the original designers of the Canberra as to what could be the best method to approach this problem. English Electric suggested that Martin might like to look at their P.12 design which essentially was what the USAF might be looking for.

 

Equipped with a powerful radar in a large nose cone, coupled with several large, full-active radar seeking missiles with a long range, it appeared perfect. However, Martin preferred to adopt the design to their own version of the Canberra, the B-57. English Electric agreed to sign production rights over to Martin as it appeared that manned fighter development in the UK was about to end after the issuing of the Sandy's Defence White Paper of 1957.

 

Martin therefore took over the design and what was to become the F-114 Dragon fighter was born. By 1958, however the threat had substantially started to change. Manned bombers were on their way out, the Soviet Union had started to develop ICBM missiles. However, this was not obvious to the USAF until after the launch of Sputnik I. The USAF did not understand this and the development of the F-114 continued.

 

Using the Navy's radar and missile was not possible because of the Air Force's pride. A modified version of the Missileer's equipment was developed. Bendix was awarded a contract to develop the AAM-12 Bald Eagle missile system. After launch, the Bald Eagle was boosted to Mach 3.5 by a large solid-propellant rocket booster, and then after a glide period, a long-burning sustainer motor slowly increased speed to Mach 4.5. Using a lofted trajectory that flew up and over the target at high altitudes, the missile had an effective range of 160 miles (260 km). On final approach the missile activated its AN/DPN-53 radar, adapted from the Boeing CIM-10 Bomarc, using these signals for terminal active radar homing.

 

Westinghouse won the contract to develop the AN/APQ-82 radar for the aircraft. This was an advanced pulse-Doppler radar system with a maximum range against bomber-sized targets at about 140 miles, and was able to track sixteen targets at a time in its track while scan mode at up to 80 miles (130 km). The radar also broadcast midcourse corrections to the missiles, and was in charge of calculating their lofted trajectories. The 120 miles (190 km) range of the AN/APQ-82 meant the Eagle could not be fired at its maximum effective range of 160 miles (260 km), but the Eagle also had a home-on-jam capability that allowed it to attack targets at its maximum range, although this was reduced in practice as it did not use midcourse corrections and flew directly at the target at lower altitudes.

 

By the time development of both the missile and radar had finished, as already explained, the threat had changed. ICBMs were now the main threat. The USAF found itself with an effective, long range interceptor but no enemy aircraft to intercept. So, they palmed it off on the Air National Guard where it served for ten years before finally being retired in 1973, with the end of the Vietnam War and it's substantially reduced budgets being their excuse.

 

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The Model

 

The model represents an aircraft wearing the retirement scheme that the Washington ANG squadron wore when they retired the F-114 Dragon. It carries four out of a maximum of eight Bald Eagle missiles which it could carry.

 

The model consists of an Italeri B-57B kit, coupled with the Freightdog Canberra P.12 nose. The Missiles were made from 1/48 missiles. It was painted with a hairy stick.

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