American Combat Planes of the 20th Century is an incredible reference for anyone who is interested in any American Combat Plane History.   There are 758 pages and 1700 b/w photos in this substantial labor of love by Ray Wagner, who has been passionately researching and writing about aircraft for over 50 years.   Whether you are already familiar with his past works, or just discovering this accomplished author for the first time... This is the book that you've been waiting for!

If you'd like to see the book's   Table of Contents ... Click here.   You can also browse the entire   Index Section   to get an idea of the extensive amount of information that is covered within this book.

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A- 1 Eaton     A- 4 Skyhawk     A- 6 & A- 7     Air Weapons     AV- 8 to A- 10     A- 20 Havoc     A- 22 Martin Maryland     A- 23 Martin Baltimore     A- 24 Douglas     A- 26 Douglas Invader     Attack Planes     B- 2A, F-111, F-117 Stealth    B- 17 Flying Fortress     B- 24 Liberator     B- 25 North American     B- 26 Marauder     B- 29 Superfortress     B- 32 Dominator     B- 35 Flying Wing     B- 36     B- 47 Stratojet     B- 50 Boeing     B- 52 Stratofortress     B- 57 Canberra     B- 58 Hustler     Biplanes     Biplanes, Army Pursuits     Bombers, B- 70 to Stealth     Bombers, First Big     Curtiss Falcon     CO- 1     DH- 4 De Havilland     F3D- Douglas Skyknight    F3H- McDonnell Demon    F4D- 1 Skyray    F4F Grumman Wildcats    F- 4U Corsair    F6F Grumman    F7F Grumman    F7U Vought    F9F G. Cougar    F9F G. Panther    F- 16 Fighting Falcon    F- 84     F- 86 Sabre    F- 89 to F-94    F- 100 to F-108    First Fighters    Flying Boats    GAX    Iraq to Afghanistan    Martin Bombers    Missile Era Fighters    Navy Fighers    Navy Flying Boats    O- 2 Douglas     P- 35 Seversky     P- 36 to 42 Curtiss     P- 38 Lightning    P- 39 Airacobra    P- 40 Line    P- 47 Thunderbolt    P- 51 Mustang Fighter    P- 61 Black Widow    P- 63 Kingcobra    P- 79 to P-81    P- 82 Twin Mustang    SB2C Helldiver    TBF-TBM Avenger    Thomas-Morse    Torpedo Planes    V- 11 Vultee    XB -28    XP -48 / 77   

Fighters For The Missile Era

F8U-3, F4H-1 (F-4A)

Page 1

The expanding power of nuclear weapons, land-based bombers, and cruise missiles during the Cold War threatened the Navy’s carriers and assault ships. Instead of fighter guns, a more certain defense seemed to be the Sparrow III semi-active radar homing missile, capable of destroying a target 30 miles away with one shot. That missile’s first full guidance flight on February 13, 1953, at Point Mugu, was followed by operational evaluation and deployment with VF-64’s F3H Demons in December 1958. When launched from an all-weather, Mach 2 fighter, such Sparrows would provide the long-range fleet air defense essential to the Navy

Chance Vought designers offered the single-seat F8U-3 as such an interceptor. The fuselage was enlarged to accommodate the Pratt & Whitney J75, the chin intake was raked forward, and blown flaps obtained boundary-layer control on the variable-incidence wings. Three Sparrow III missiles were semi-submerged in the fuselage, APQ-50 radar was provided, retractable ventral fins aided stability, and push buttons engaged an automatic flight control system. Vought F8U-3

Two prototypes were ordered on May 3, 1957, plus 16 F8U-3s on January 16, 1958, and the first prototype flew June 2, 1958, just six days after rival McDonnell’s Phan­tom. A modified J75-P-6 credited with 29,000-pounds thrust powered the first F8U-3, the next was flown Sep­tem­ber 27 with a 24,500-pound thrust J75-P-5, and a J57-P-8 was scheduled for production aircraft. A proposed auxiliary rocket to be mounted at the tail fin’s base was tested on two FJ-4F Fury conversions, but was cancelled before the F8U-3 was flown.

During flight tests a speed of Mach 2.39 (1,600 mph) was obtained, and only the windshield’s heat limitation prevented higher speeds. Full performance data is not available, but test pilots reported the F8U-3 a very maneuverable, superior fighter. By December 1958, however, the Navy had chosen the more versatile rival F4H-l for the mission, the Vought contract was canceled, and only the third F8U-3 was flown before termination.

The F-4 Phantom II
McDonnell’s Phantom II successfully opened the era of the Mach 2 missile-launching fighter and became the most widely used American supersonic fighter, despite its design as a specialized carrier aircraft.

Two prototypes had, in fact, been ordered in an Octo­ber 18, 1954, letter contract as twin-engine AH-l attack aircraft, but on May 26, 1955, they were redesignated F4H-l all-weather fighters, and a second crewman, the radar intercept officer (RIO) was added. McDONNELL F4H-l (F-4A)

The first F4H-l (X prefixes were no longer used on prototypes intended for production) flew May 27, 1958, at St. Louis, piloted by Robert C. Little. Two General Electric J79-GE-3A engines had variable area intakes with flat ramps to shear away the boundary layer from the forward fuselage. The 45-degree swept wing had 12-degree dihedral on the folding outer panel, and 23-degree anhedral on the one-piece stabilator aided stability. Four 400-pound Sparrow III radar missiles recessed under the fuselage had a ten-mile range, while four 200-pound heat-homing Side­winders (two-mile range), or two more Sparrows, could be added under the outboard wing pylons.

The Navy chose the reliability and weapons potential of the twin-engine, two-seat Phantom II over the single-place F8U-3, so competitive tests resulted in a developmental contract for the St. Louis company by December 17, 1958. Eighteen aircraft delivered by November 1959, with 16,500-pound thrust J79-GE-2 engines and APQ-50 radar with a 24-inch dish in the nose, were followed by 29, accepted from May 1960 to June 1961, whose APQ-72 radar had a 32-inch dish. These aircraft were used for tests and training, joining VF-121 at NAS Miramar in December 1960.

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