By Tommy H. Thomason

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Hell It Won't Fit

In the early 1950s, atomic bombs were reduced to a weight that could be managed by tactical aircraft. The lighter of the two options, the Mk 7, was the implosion device but the mechanism was bulky. It could just barely fit under an AD Skyraider with the one of the three tail fins retracted. However, the admirals wanted to also deliver it by jet, with the best candidate at the time being the F2H Banshee. As can be seen from this drawing, there was negative ground clearance under normal circumstances.
I've read that when the F2H-2B was jacked up to load the Mk 7, metal sleeves were put over the main landing gear pistons to keep the struts fully extended and provide a few inches of ground clearance for taxi and takeoff. This fell off at lift off, restoring normal function to the landing gear struts. That may be but on the F2H-3/4 at least, strut extension was accomplished by a system that added additional hydraulic fluid to the main landing gear shock strut to get a few inches of ground clearance for launch with this huge store. A portion of this fluid was automatically bled from the strut on gear retraction to provide the capability to land with the store, presumably not aboard a carrier.  The pilot was provided with a switch to bleed off the remainder for normal strut operation.

This F2H-3 picture shows the extended main landing gear struts. (The weapon is a BOAR, which was a Mk 7 modified with a rocket for greater separation from the explosion, primarily for the benefit of the AD Skyraider community, whose survival after delivering an atomic bomb was otherwise iffy at best.)
 For a bit more on nuclear Banshees, go here

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