Thursday, November 28, 2013

F7U Cutlass

F7U Cutlass

F7U with Sparrow I AAMs

First Flight:                          1948, September 29
Type:                                     single-seat carrier-based fighter
         J46-WE-8A, Westinghouse (2)
         2767kg / 6100lb afterburning thrust
                                             20mm / 0.78in cannon
                                             Sparrow AAMs (4) - underwing attachments
                Wingspan -         12.09m / 39ft 8in
                                             38o swept wing
                Length -               13.13m / 43ft 1in
                Height -               4.46m / 14ft 7.5in
                Wing Area -        46.08m2 / 496ft2
                Empty -                8260kg / 18,210lb
                Max Take-off -   14,353kg / 31,642lb
                Max Speed -        1094kph / 680mph
                Landing Speed    220kph / 136mph
                Ceiling -                12,190m / 40,000ft
                Range -                 1062km / 660 miles
                Climb -                  3960m / 13,000fpm
Production:                           290 F7U-3 built; introduced in 1951

Radical design featured no tail

The world’s first operational fighter, the German Me 262, brought an end to propeller-driven combat aviation for most air force planners.  From here on out the future would be jets.  In 1945 the US Navy issued a requirement that the next generation of carrier-borne fighters would be capable of speeds of 600 mph.  Chance-Vought won the contract competition with a revolutionary new design.  The F7U would be a tailless aircraft with twin jet engines in its fuselage that would feature afterburners to give it additional bursts of power.  After a long period of development, this aircraft would eventually equip 13 Navy and Marine squadrons.  Yet three years after reaching the fleet in 1954, the F7U-3 Cutlass was withdrawn from service.

F7U pilots suffered many fatal accidents

The aircraft was an ambitious design.  It had gone beyond cutting-edge and strayed into bleeding-edge technology.  The initial Westinghouse engines were disappointing, leaving the aircraft underpowered.  Its radical design enabled it to achieve a tight turning radius but, overall, it was difficult to fly.  The F7U was overly complicated a challenge to maintain.  Engineers eventually added more than 100 doors and access panels to its design.  The twin engines took up most of the available room in the fuselage, leaving little to spare for fuel.  This resulted in a carrier plane with insufficient range for ship-board operations.  This also meant that fuel-guzzling afterburners were of little use.

Extended nosewheel made landing difficult

The tricycle landing gear, featuring a drastically extended nosewheel, contributed to the danger in carrier landings.  The nose of the aircraft was redesigned repeatedly to improve pilot visibility but the problem remained unsolved.  A 25% accident rate added considerably to pilots’ unhappiness with the Navy jet.  Once the safer, more reliable and powerful F-8 Crusader became available to the fleet, the F7U was gratefully withdrawn.  The aircraft was not a success but its experience aided the research in developing future jets for the Navy, such as the F-14 Tomcat.

Reconnaissance version of F7U

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