Category SUPERPLANES John Gabriel Navarra

Military Aircraft

The aircraft developed and used by our armed forces are the vehicles of aerial warfare. The function for which an aircraft is designed dictates its size, shape, speed, range, weight, and its operational altitude. Our armed forces have a need for many different kinds of aircraft.

The easiest way to classify military aircraft is by the job that they are designed to perform. There are, for example, aircraft used for training, observing, fighting, bombing, trans­porting, rescuing, and air refueling. In the sections that follow you will find some examples of modern military fighter, bomber, transport, and reconnaissance aircraft.

Another important part of military aviation is the devel­opment of new aircraft. It takes a lot of money, time, and patience to develop a new idea that eventually becomes an operational aircraft. In the next few pages you will find a description of three experimental aircraft that have been used to good advantage by our armed forces.


The United States Government approved a Research Air­plane Program in 1944. The first in the series of pure research aircraft, the X-i, was launched in 1946. The “X” in the name of the plane means experimental.

The X-15, shown in the photos, is a small rocket-pow­ered aircraft. On June 8, 1959, the X-15 made its first flight after being dropped from the protective wing of a B-52. In a decade of flight that ended in 1969, the X-15 reached heights and speeds that are still unmatched by any other aircraft. The X-15, f°r example, reached a peak altitude of more than sixty-seven miles. And on October 3, 1967, an X-15 was flown at a speed of 4,520 miles per hour, which is the equivalent of Mach 6.7.

At heights of sixty-seven miles, the X-15 was traveling above the effective atmosphere. Thus, the X-15 collected information on flights in air and space. By flying to the frontiers of space, the X-15 tested the effects of weight­lessness on human pilots. The X-15 research program also demonstrated the ability of human pilots to fly high-pow­ered aircraft with great accuracy.







Another research superplane, the XB-70, is shown taking off from Edwards Air Force Base in California. Two of these planes were developed and built for the Air Force. The XB-7o’s delta wing has a span of 105 feet. The fuse­lage is 185 feet long and 30 feet high.

The XB-70 has a long, pencil-like nose. Stubby horizon­tal stabilizers are located on each side of the plane just behind the cockpit. In the photo you can see the shadow cast by a stabilizer. The shadow reaches to and below the E in the word FORCE.

The delta wings of the XB-70 extend all the way to the tail section of the plane. Twin vertical stabilizers rise from the rear of the wings. Below the wings the exhaust pipes of the plane’s six engines can be seen.

The XB-70 has a range of 7,500 miles. It was designed to fly above 70,000 feet at speeds of 2,000 miles per hour, which is equivalent to Mach 3. The plane was used exten­sively to study the stability, control, and handling charac­teristics of large supersonic aircraft.

The YF-12A is shown in the photo below. This plane is an experimental long-range interceptor that was nicknamed the Blackbird, It was developed for defense against supersonic bombers and airborne missile launchers. The Blackbird flies above 80,000 feet at a speed of Mach 3, which is more than

2,0 miles per hour.

The Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are using the YF-12A in a joint research program. An important part of the program is concerned with flight management and air-traffic control. The researchers are studying the ability of the plane to maintain a precise altitude at supersonic speeds.


The original function of military aircraft was recon­naissance, that is, observation of enemy territory and posi­tions to gather information. Most observation aircraft are of comparatively light weight and small size. They carry one or two observers and sufficient communication equip­ment to report their observations.

A Lockheed U-2 is shown in the photo on the opposite page. This aircraft is a subsonic turbojet that flies very – high-altitude reconnaissance missions. The plane is used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the United States Air Force (USAF). The wing size and its placement give the U-2 the appearance of a powered glider.

There is a large air intake at the wing root on each side of the plane. These air intakes make the U-2 look like a twin-engined plane. But both intakes feed into a single en­gine. The U-2 cruises at about 450 miles per hour. It has a maximum speed of 528 miles per hour.

The U-2 has a wingspan of 80 feet. The plane is almost 50 feet long and stands 13 feet high at the tail. It is a light airplane for its size and weighs less than 16,000 pounds at takeoff. The U-2 has a range of more than 4,000 miles, and it can operate at altitudes of 70,000 feet.

The U-2 was involved in a major international incident in i960: On May 1, a U-2 operated by the Central Intelli­gence Agency entered Russian air space from the direction of West Pakistan. A Russian surface-to-air missile inter­cepted the U-2 at an altitude of 68,000 feet. The U-2 was shot down about 1,000 miles east of Moscow. This incident involving the U-2 was responsible for some difficult times in the United States-Russian relations during the early 1960s.


A modern fighter aircraft is smaller than a bomber or a transport. But it is far from being a small airplane. It must be large enough, for example, to carry sufficient fuel to ac­complish its mission and return to its base. A modern fighter must also carry a heavy payload of cannon, air-to – air missiles, rockets, and guns.

A Lockheed F-104 Super Starfighter is shown in the photo on the next page. This plane has a speed of better than Mach 2. The Starfighter can operate at altitudes above 100,000 feet. An F-104 can climb as fast as it flies straight and level.

The F-104 has stubby knife-thin wings and a high T – shaped tail. From nose to tail the Starfighter measures 54 feet, 9 inches. It stands 13 feet, 6 inches high and has a wingspan of 21 feet, 11 inches.

Some F-104S are assigned to the Air Defense Command. These Starfighters are being used as air-defense fighters. This means that they are designed and equipped for attack against enemy bombers that are unprotected by enemy fighters. Thus, an air-defense fighter carries rockets. Radar equipment on board is used to find the enemy aircraft and aim the rockets at the incoming bombers.




An F-шА is shown in the photo above. This plane is a tactical fighter. As a tactical fighter its mission may involve an air attack on enemy ground forces or positions. Such an aerial attack is often undertaken in close support of friendly ground forces.

The F-111 was developed by General Dynamics in 1964. Two basic models were put into service in 1967: the F-111A and the F-111B. The F-111A is used as a tactical fighter by the U. S. Air Force. The second model, the F-111B, is operated from the decks of aircraft carriers by the U. S. Navy.

Two other types of F-ins using the same basic design have been built: the RF-шА and the FB-111. The RF – 111A is a reconnaissance fighter. And the FB-111 is a stra­tegic bomber.

The F-111 is a variable-wing aircraft. This means that its wings can be moved into various positions. When a slow takeoff is desired, the wings are extended or placed in a position that is almost perpendicular to the fuselage. In flight, the variable-sweep wings can be folded or swept back into a triangular or delta configuration. The delta configuration is used when very high speeds are desired at both low – and high-flight altitudes.

The wings are usually extended during takeoff and land­ing. The extended or perpendicular position with a wing­span of 63 feet provides maximum lift. When the wings are extended, less than 3,000 feet of runway are required for takeoff and landing. The position of the wings shown in the photo of the F-111A is an intermediate angle be­tween the perpendicular and the delta positions. In the delta position, the wingspan is a mere 32 feet.

The F-111 is a 72-foot-long supersonic aircraft. It has a maximum speed of Mach 2.5 at 60,000 feet. The F-111 has a range of 5,000 miles without refueling. This means that it can be sent on transoceanic missions. In addition, how­ever, this aircraft is equipped so it can be refueled in flight.

The F-111 is equipped to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. Its armament includes air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and rockets.


Modern bomber aircraft are streamlined giants. They are equipped with the best jet engines, which produce speeds that compare favorably with fighter aircraft. Bombers nor­mally have extensive ranges. And when a bomber is equipped for aerial refueling, it has a virtually unlimited range.

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is the last of the so – called “conventional bombers/’ The first B-52 was flown in April 1952. The last Stratofortress came off the production line in 1962.

The B-52 was designed as a nuclear bomber. Its belly is divided into two separate bomb bays to carry two nuclear weapons. As many as twelve Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAM) can be carried externally under the wings.

The last of the B-52S built has a wingspan of 185 feet. From nose to tail, the plane is 160 feet long. The B-52 is

powered by eight jet engines that push it through the air at 650 miles per hour. Its unrefueled range is more than

6,0 miles, and the plane normally flies above 50,000 feet.

The Stratof or tress carries a crew of six. There are two pilots, a navigator, a radar bombardier, an electronic coun­termeasures officer, and a fire-control director who sits in the forward section of the aircraft. The tail guns are trained through the use of radar that is mounted in the tail.

A Convair B-58 Hustler is shown above in the process of completing an aerial refueling. The B-58 is a Mach 2 bomber that was first flown on November 11, 1956. The Hustler was the first supersonic bomber in the world.

The B-58 with an overall length of 97 feet is much shorter than the B-52. The B-58S delta wing spans almost 57 feet. The delta-wing design of the B-58 requires that all takeoffs and landings be made at high speeds. The takeoff speed of a B-58 is often above 230 miles per hour. Its landing speed is as high as 190 miles per hour.

The B-58 shown above carries a three-man crew consist­ing of the aircraft commander, bombardier navigator, and the defense-systems operator. The entire wing and most of the fuselage behind the cockpit are used to store more than fifty tons of fuel. The weapons payload—18,000 pounds of bombs—is carried beneath the aircraft in a long pod. The pod can be seen in the photo; it is numbered B-1105.

A photo of the B-i strategic bomber is shown on page 53. This aircraft was developed by the Air Force to mod­ernize its bomber fleet. The first flight of a B-i took place on December 23, 1974. A rather extensive flight test pro­gram was developed by the Air Force for the B-i.

The В-1 is a variable-wing bomber. In the extended or forward position the wingspan is 135 feet. In the folded or swept-back position the wingspan is 78 feet. The swing wing allows the B-i to perform efficiently at low and high speeds.

At low, slow speeds a straight wing is much more efficient than a swept wing. During takeoffs, landings, air­borne loiter, and aerial refueling there is a distinct advan­tage to being able to place the B-Ts wings in a straight or forward position.

Four powerful jet engines give the 150-foot-long B-i a top speed of Mach 2.1, which is approximately 1,350 miles per hour. For high-speed supersonic flight at both low – level and high altitudes, there is a definite advantage to having the wings in a swept position.


A military air transport is an aircraft designed for the movement of cargo and passengers. Transports usually have the capability of being modified so they can be used for special missions. For example, the photo below shows the interior of a C-141 modified to provide litters, oxygen equipment, and the facilities necessary for the air evacua­tion of wounded.

A Lockheed C-141 Starlifter is shown in the photo on the opposite page. The Military Airlift Command began using these planes in 1963. The C-141 has a maximum takeoff weight of around 320,000 pounds. Today the C-141 is used primarily for carrying troops.

The C-141 has a 145-foot fuselage. It has a wingspan of 160 feet. The T-tail stands 39 feet high. The C-141 has four fanjet engines. Each of the engines develops 21,000 pounds of thrust, which allow the C-141 to cruise at more than 500 miles per hour.

The C-141 can carry troops in airline-type seats. Study the photo of the C-141 interior on the opposite page. There are seven rows of airline-type seats behind the lit­ters.

The C-141 was the first pure jet aircraft specifically de­signed and built to meet military standards as a troop and cargo carrier. This four-engine, T-tailed jet regularly flies nonstop from Dover Air Foce Base in Delaware to Ger­many. It can fly nonstop from San Francisco to Tokyo.

The gigantic С-5 Galaxy, put into service in 1970, is modeled after the C-141. But it is much larger than the C-141. The C-5, for example, has a maximum takeoff weight of 760,000 pounds. This is almost two and one-half times greater than the C-141S takeoff weight.

The C-5 is just about 248 feet long. It has a wingspan of almost 223 feet. The T-tail of the C-5 reaches 65 feet into the air.

The C-5 has unique front and rear cargo openings. The visor-nose opening at the front of the plane can be seen in the lower photo on the opposite page. The cargo compart­ment is 121 feet long, 13.5 feet high, and 19 feet wide. The C-s’s cargo floor area is triple that of the C-141 Starlifter. And the volume of the C~5’s cargo hold is four and one-half times larger than that of the C-141.

The C-5 does not carry troops in the cargo compart­ment. The second story or upper deck, however, has sev­enty-three seats that are in a rear compartment. Drivers and operators of equipment being airlifted use the seats available in the rear compartment on the upper deck. The forward compartment on the upper deck has accommo­dations for a six-man crew, a six-man relief crew, and eight couriers. The flight deck, of course, has the work sta­tions for the crew.

Four jet engines are mounted on pylons beneath the wing. The average cruise speed of the C-5 is 520 miles per hour. The Galaxy flies above 35,000 feet and has a range of 6,300 miles with 100,000 pounds of cargo. The maxi­mum load it can carry is 255,000 pounds.





Special Aircraft

The traditional purpose of aircraft has been to provide a means of transportation for people and cargo. In this third section, you will read about helicopters, VTOLs, and the space shuttle program. Each of these machines is designed to accomplish the task of transporting people and cargo in a very special way.

Many agencies of government are beginning to find that their missions can best be accomplished by the use of air­craft. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis­tration, a branch of the United States Department of Com­merce, for example, has found that specially outfitted aircraft can provide valuable information about the atmos­phere and the ocean. In addition, specially equipped re­search aircraft are being used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to make surveys of the Earth’s surface and objects in space.

Private companies are finding that aircraft can help them in their tasks, too. The Zapata Corporation, for exam­ple, is a company that uses modern technology to good ad­vantage. They have found a very important use for a spe­cially equipped light plane.


Most helicopters flying today use simple rotating blades to get lift and control. A main rotating blade lifts the craft. The small blade at the tail helps the pilot to move the hel­icopter in different directions.

The tail blade does something else, too. It balances the twisting forces of the main blade. Without the tail blade the cabin of the helicopter would spin like a top.

Sikorsky Aircraft s ABC helicopter is shown in the photo below. The ABC does not have a tail blade. It has two main blades. One is placed above the other. These blades rotate in opposite directions. They balance each other and the cabin does not spin.

The ABC in the photo is flying over the Connecticut countryside. The tail with movable parts allows the pilot to change direction. This new tail feature gives the pilot greater control of the craft and offers improved maneu – ■ verability.





Sikorsky Aircrafts twin-turbine-powered S-76 shown above has a four-blade main rotor. No wheels can be seen in the photo. The wheels are retractable. The S-76 carries up to twelve passengers plus a crew of two. It has a maxi­mum cruise speed of 179 miles per hour and a range of 460 miles.


The instrument panel of the S-76 is shown below. IFR equipment is installed. The S-76 is equipped with com­munication and navigation aids for all-weather operation.

The Sikorsky S-58T—shown in the photos on this page—is a medium-lift helicopter. The S-58T above is heading for a drop zone on the shore in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The helicopter is carrying a load of cement from one of the ships waiting in the harbor. Helicopter unload­ing is being used because Jeddah’s dock facilities are not adequate for the amount of shipping coming into the port.

The Sikorsky S-61 can carry thirty passengers plus its crew. This helicopter has a cruise speed of 140 miles per hour and a range of about 500 miles. Okanagan Helicop­ters in Canada and New York Airways in the United States put the S-61 to good use in passenger service.


The S-61 gives good reliable service. One of these trans­port helicopters operated by the Evergreen Company is shown landing on a drilling rig in the Gulf of Alaska. High winds, heavy seas, ice, rain, and snow are constant threats to operations in these waters.

SUPERPLANES John Gabriel Navarra

Oceans and mountains are no longer significant barriers to travel. In this age of jet aircraft the time it takes to cross such barriers is not very significant. Today it is possible to reach any location on this planet of ours in less than twenty-four hours.

The high-speed transportation of jet aircraft is available to almost everyone. Each day commercial airlines carry more than one-half million people on giant subsonic air­craft. High-performance military aircraft are streaking across the sky at twice the speed of sound. And commer­cial supersonic transports are carrying passengers from continent to continent.

Our present world-wide transportation network would not be possible without jet aircraft. The airplane is an im­portant part of our social, political, and economic life. In this book you will find information about some of the air­craft used in commercial and military aviation. In addition, you will find a section that details the use of aircraft for special purposes such as weather forecasting, astronomical observation, and surveying.


SUPERPLANES John Gabriel Navarra


The length of a runway limits the kinds of planes that can land at an airport. Airlines have been searching for ways to get around this problem. One answer is to use aircraft that can take off and land vertically.

The vertical takeoff and landing machines are known as VTOL airplanes. A VTOL does not need a runway. It can hover like a helicopter. And it can fly like a regular air­plane.

The X-22A is a VTOL aircraft. It has four huge ducted fans. Four jet engines provide the power to drive the seven-foot-diameter propellers. The fans can be tilted. They can be tilted vertically or horizontally.


During takeoff the fans of the X-22A are tilted ver­tically. The thrust is directed downward. The downward thrust causes the plane to be lifted straight up.

As the X-22A rises, the pilot begins tilting the fans hori­zontally. In the photograph on the opposite page, the fans are being tilted from a vertical to a horizontal position. The plane moves forward with the fans in a horizontal po­sition.

The X-22A basically is a research craft. It is 40 feet long and 20 feet high. The X-22A has two wings. A fan is fixed to the end of each wing. The long wing—located just for­ward of the vertical stabilizer—has a span of 39 feet. The shorter wing is mounted just behind the cockpit.

The Vertol 76 shown above is a VTOL that has a tilt­wing. With the wings in the position shown in the photo­graph, the propellers are used as rotary wings for takeoff. The wings and engines tilt to a horizontal position to pro­vide thrust and lift for conventional flight.

The Hawker Siddeley Harrier shown below is a British fighter used by the Royal Air Force. It has a speed of Mach 1,25 and operates above 50,000 feet. The Harrier looks like a regular jet but it is a VTOL. There is a thrust – deflection nozzle inside its engine. The nozzle is used to direct the exhaust power of its engine downward for takeoff and landing and to the rear for horizontal flight.