Thursday, December 12, 2013

F - 94

F-94C Starfire with mid-wing rocket pods

Lockheed F-94C Starfire

First Flight:          1949, April 16 (YF-94)
Type:                     two-seat all-weather interceptor
                              Pratt & Whitney J48-P-5 turbojet engine
                              License-built version of Rolls-Royce Tay turbojet
                              3969kg / 8750lb afterburning thrust
                            69.85mm / 2.75in Mighty Mouse air-to-air rocket projectiles (24) / nose
                            Mid-wing launcher pods with Mighty Mouse unguided rockets (12 + 12)
                Wingspan:           12.93m / 42ft 5in
                Length:                 13.56m / 44ft 6in
                Height:                 4.55m / 14ft 11in
                Wing Area:          31.4m2 / 338ft2
                Empty:                  5761kg / 12,700ft
                Loaded:               8301kg / 18,300lb
                Max. Take-off:    10,977kg / 24,200lb
                Max. Speed:      941kph / 585mph
                                            1030kph / 640mph @ sea level
                Cruise Speed:    793kph / 493mph
                Ceiling:               15,665m / 51,400ft
        1930km / 1200 miles – maximum
        1295km / 805 miles – normal
                Climb:                 2430m / 7980ft per minute
Production:                        853 F-94s (models A, B, C)

F-94 featured in comic strip Terry and the Pirates

The detonation of an atomic bomb by the Soviet Union in 1949 and the fear by American leaders of a Soviet bomber threat pushed the United States into an urgent program to develop an all-weather jet interceptor.   This sense of vulnerability created a rush to convert the T-33 jet trainer into a jet equipped with a first-of-its-kind radar fire control system.  These first versions of the F-94 were considered to be interim solutions at best.  Because the T-33 was a converted F-80 Shooting Star, it passed along the deficiencies of this early jet fighter to the new Air Force interceptor.  Foremost among these problems was the lack of fuel capacity which severely limited the F-94’s range.  While the thrust of the new jet and its armament would be improved over time there was never a remedy for its inherent design weakness that required nearly all of its fuel to be stored in the wing and wingtip tanks.

Unguided Mighty Mouse rockets use shot-gun effect

The introduction of the MiG 15 into the Korean War in late 1951 and its success in downing B-29s was the main reason for introducing the F-94 into that conflict.  Unfortunately the presence of the F-94 had little effect on MiG operations because Air Force policy forbid the plane be used over Communist controlled territory.  This decision was made to prevent the plane’s secret airborne radar technology from falling into enemy hands.  This is an understandable concern but, unfortunately, this revolutionary weapons control system was highly unreliable and very limited in its effectiveness in directing attacks against enemy planes.  Many of the F-94 missions involved using their technology in night operations to intercept hostile aircraft operating over friendly territory.  These consisted largely of preventing obsolete propeller planes from launching ‘Bedcheck Charlie’ nuisance attacks on allied air bases. 

Snap-hinge doors contain Mighty Mouse rockets

The F-94 will be best remembered for contributing to the air defense of the North American continent between 1949 and 1953.  In 1953 development of the aircraft had matured into its final form as the F-94C Starfire.  The aircraft had substantial greater thrust and its armament had been significantly upgraded from four .50 caliber machine guns in the nose to being able to launch a flurry of 24 missiles at its target.  Development had taken two years longer than hoped for primarily due to the difficulty in perfecting the jet’s new fire control system.  One of the difficulties involved launching rockets near the plane’s radome in the nose which had a tendency to cause an engine flameout.  As it turns out the F-94C had limited service as a front line interceptor as it was soon replaced by the F-89 Scorpion and the supersonic F-86D Sabre. 

F-94 deployed drag chute for landing

These initial combat jets were designed under the time constraints of facing imminent threats generated by tensions of the early Cold War.  Pilots on the frontline were Beta testing aircraft often rushed to the field.  Everyone, engineers and pilots alike, was discovering through personal experience what this new jet technology was all about.  If you were a combat pilot over Korea during these years you are eating, drinking and sleeping this stuff or taking on a far greater risk of an early death headed nose first towards the ground.

Click picture for video of rocket firing

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