Friday, December 13, 2013

F-102 Delta Dagger

F-102A Delta Dagger

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger / ‘Deuce’

First Flight:                          1953, October 24
Type:                                     Single-seat interceptor
                                                Pratt & Whitney J57P-23 turbojet
                                                5307kg / 11,700lb thrust
                                                7802kg / 17,200lb afterburning thrust
                                                AIM-4C Falcon infra-red homing air-to-air missiles (3)
                                                AIM-26A Nuclear Falcon
                                                AIM-4A semi-active radar homing (3)
                                                AIM-4C Falcon infra-red air-to-air missiles (3)
Weapons System:
                                                Hughes MG-10 fire-control system
                                                Track several targets simultaneously – 50km / 31 miles
                                                Lock-on individual aircraft – 25km / 16 miles
                                                Internal weapons bay holds all armament to reduce drag
                Wingspan:           11.62m / 38ft 1.5 in
                Length:                 20.84m / 68ft 5in
                Height:                 6.46m / 21ft 2.5in
                Wing Area:          61.45m2 / 661.5ft2
                Empty:                  8630kg / 19,050lb
                Load, normal:    12,565kg / 27,700lb
                Max Take-off:   14,288kg / 31,500lb
                Max speed:        1328kph / 825mph
                            Cruise:    869kph / 540mph @ 10,670m / 35,000ft
                Ceiling:              16,460m / 54,000ft
                Range:                2173km / 1350 miles – max
                                             1610km / 1000 miles – 2 drop tanks / full armament
                            Fuel:      4107 liters / 1,085 gallons – internal, max
                                           5735 liters / 1,515 gallons – drop tanks, 2
                Climb:                5304m / 17,400ft per minute
Production:                        875 aircraft delivered to the US Air Force

YF-102 pre-production model

The early interceptors used by the US Air Force lacked the necessary speed and climb rate to intercept enemy bombers far from their intended target.  The jets coming off the drawing board following World War II were designed to be fighters, able to maneuver in dogfights, although these first efforts like the F-80, F-84 and F-94 were disappointing in this ability.  They also lacked thrust and swept-wing aerodynamics. 

F-102 shadows Tu-95 Bear

An interceptor doesn’t need dogfighting ability to defeat bombers.  It just needs speed and lots of it.  It also needs to pack a knockout punch that will quickly dispatch a bomber from the sky.  What the Air Force wanted for this role was an airborne weapons system that could fly faster than the speed of sound at level flight.  Using gravity in a dive to break the sound barrier was cheating.  The winning design was for a jet that would eventually come to be known as the F-106 Delta Dart.  It was a very ambitious project and it was soon apparent that development would take too long to meet the current threat posed by Soviet strategic bombers.  The Air Force agreed to produce an interim solution that would become the F-102 Delta Dagger, or ‘Deuce’ as it was called by its pilots. 

Early F-102s fired unguided Mighty Mouse missiles

The F-102 benefitted from a research plane developed by Convair in 1948.  This was the XF-92.  It was specifically designed to test research Germany had done on developing a delta wing jet during World War Two.  The knowledge gained from flying the XF-92 contributed considerably to the design of the F-102.  Still, there were unanticipated problems.  Despite a powerful jet engine the F-102 was not able to attain supersonic speed at level flight – a basic requirement.  The problem was the aircraft wasn’t slippery enough in cutting through the atmosphere.  It had an unexpected problem with drag.  Transonic speed, or going faster than sound, required the fuselage to be redesigned so that it was narrower over the wings and wider on the ends.  This became known as the “area rule” and it resulted in a fuselage that vaguely resembled the shape of a Coke bottle.

All armament was within an internal weapons bay

The exotic fire control system developed by Hughes also delayed the jet’s delivery date.  Besides having an airborne radar system capable of tracking multiple targets simultaneously, it introduced an on-board computer to fighter-sized jets and it provided a datalink system synchronized with the ground-control radar operator.  It was a fine package but it proved to be a difficult birth and when the F-102 finally went into service with the Air Force in 1956 it was three years late. 

XF-92 had a nose air intake

Captured German war designs benefited the XF-92

Better late than never.  The F-102 performed admirably and at its peak it was flown by 26 squadrons of the US Air Defense Command.  It was more than an interim solution.  It was a world-class interceptor in its own right and it made a significant contribution to the history of Cold War aviation.

Tail bulge, or Marilyns, enabled supersonic flight

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