By Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, February 9, 2009

Carrier-Based Jet Fighters: Plan B

After World War II, it was by no means clear to all Naval Aviators responsible for the development of future carrier-based aircraft that jets could be safely operated from aircraft carriers. The powerplant division and the attack class desk at the Bureau of Aeronautics teamed up with Douglas to promote a turboprop variant of the new Wright R-3350-powered AD Skyraider. It was "designed as a general purpose carrier attack airplane and as a fighter of conventional arrangement and construction." The Aircraft Characteristics & Performance (ACP) chart went on to state that it could "function as a fighter with better climb performance and maneuverability at high altitudes than most turbo jet fighters." (The very unusual insertion of an advocacy statement in an ACP was indicative of the infighting involved.) Fortunately, the earliest jets showed enough promise that the dead-end development of turboprop and mixed powerplant fighters was ended. The XAD-3 proposal was carried forward as the A2D, which was eventually terminated after its flight test was plagued by problems with its Allison T40 turboprop engine, including one fatality.

Thanks to Ryan Crierie for a copy of the April 1947 XAD-3 ACP chart, the forerunner of today's Standard Aircraft Characteristics chart.

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