The Weird and Wonderful World of US Cold War Aviation
While many US aircraft of the Cold War followed standard concepts of design, several were quite out there.
Pic 1: Begun in 1945 as a rocket-powered interceptor, the Northrop XP-79 was certainly unique. It was a flying wing, with the pilot laying in a prone position, and it was intended to kill enemy bombers by ramming them with its high-strength wings. The project was cancelled after the first flight ended in a fatal crash.
Pic 2: First flying in 1948, the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was intended to be carried as a “parasite fighter” by the B-36 heavy bomber. The fighters would be released from trapezes underneath the bombers in order to fight off enemy aircraft. It was eventually cancelled for its impracticality, though the USAF would repeatedly explore the idea under Project FICON.
Pic 3: The Vought XF5U, jokingly named the “Flying Flapjack” for its circular body, was a proposed carrier fighter for the US Navy during the end of WWII and the postwar period. Though extremely powerful (top speed was estimated at over 550 mph) and maneuverable, the project was cancelled in 1947 due to vibration issues and the rise of jet fighters. An interesting note with the Flapjack is that the original testbed for the wing design was seen by civilians and thought to be a “flying saucer;” this aircraft is partly responsible for countless “extraterrestrial” stories.
Pic 4: Possibly one of the oddest aircraft to ever carry a service designation, the Convair XFY-1 Pogo was one of the US military’s first forays into the field of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). The aircraft took off and landed from a vertical position. Due to impracticality and low speed compared to jet fighters (only around Mach 1), the project was cancelled in 1956.
Pic 5: Another offering from Convair, the F2Y Sea Dart was a proposed supersonic jet seaplane fighter which took off from retractable “skis.” The fighter ended up underpowered and impractical (it shook like crazy on anything except a flat surface), and with the rise of supersonic carrier-based fighters the Navy cancelled the aircraft in 1957.