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F-108 "Rapier"

First known as the LRIX (long-range interceptor, experimental), development of the XF-108 followed USAF GOR 114, dated 6 October 1955. The North American letter contract of 6 June 1957 called for an all-weather, two-man, two-engine, long-range interceptor, with a combat speed of at least Mach 3 and swift maneuver at 70,000 feet. The aircraft would carry two or more air-to-air missiles with nuclear or conventional warheads. The armament bay was to house a number of weapon combinations.

The Air Force expected a lot from the complex new plane. Many subcontractors were involved. Hughes Aircraft Corporation would provide the aircraft's fire-control system and GAR-9 missiles; Convair, the wing, Marquardt, the air induction control system; Hamilton Standard, the air conditioning and pressurization; Federal Division of the International Telephone & Telegraph Co., the mission and traffic control system; and Electronic Speciality Co., the antenna system. The Air Force would take care of the engine, the General Electric J-93 turbojet (first developed as the X-279E). It wanted an early 1963 operational date, 1,000-nm cruise speed with 5 minutes of combat at Mach 3, and a cruise speed of Mach 3 for 350-nm and 10 minutes of combat time (also at Mach 3). Finally, the F-108 should be able to fly to a specified point at supersonic speed, loiter for about an hour, and speed on to the target.

A mockup inspection on 26 January 1959 disclosed few needed changes. Nonetheless, the XF-108 (nicknamed the Rapier on 15 May 1959) never flew. The Air Force in 1957 had programmed for more than 480 F-108s, but the pinch in funds wiped out the whole project on 23 September 1959. The Air Force believed the F-108 would have been a good mobile missile launcher to intercept enemy aircraft far away from their intended targets. This was a role the B-70 bomber (being also built by North American and later consigned to the XF-108's fate) could not perform. Total RDT&E expenditures then stood at $141.9 million.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:30:11 ZULU