XF-108 Rapier

XF-108 Rapier

Infobox Aircraft
name=XF-108 Rapier
manufacturer=North American Aviation

captio=XF-108 Rapier mock-up.
first flight=
number built=1 mock-up
unit cost=US$141.9 million for the programKnaack, Marcelle Size. "Encyclopedia of US Air Force Aircraft and Missile Systems: Volume 1 Post-World War II Fighters 1945-1973". Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1978. ISBN 0-912799-59-5.]
variants with their own articles=
primary user=
more users=
The North American XF-108 Rapier was a proposed American design for a long-range, high-speed interceptor aircraft to defend the United States and Canada from supersonic Soviet bombers.

Development history

A very high performance, long-range interceptor had been proposed by the USAF as early as 1952, but formal development of what became known as the Long-Range Interceptor, Experimental (LRI-X) was not approved until 20 July 1955. The specification was laid down on 6 October, calling for an aircraft that could fly at 60,000 ft (18,000 m) at a speed of Mach 1.7 (1,122 mph/1,795 km/h at that altitude) with a range of 1,150 miles (1,840 km). It was to have a two-man crew, at least two engines, and a powerful radar. Contracts for preliminary studies were issued to North American Aviation, Lockheed, and Northrop. Of the paper designs, the North American proposal, dubbed NA-236, seemed most promising. Political and budgetary difficulties led to the cancellation of the program on 9 May 1956.

After considerable confusion, the program was reinstated on 11 April 1957 and North American was awarded a contract for two prototypes. The designation F-108 was issued, also known as Weapon System 202A. North American's company designation was NA-257, although it was basically identical to NA-236. At the time, Air Defense Command anticipated an order for 480 aircraft.

The resulting design went through considerable evolution, both owing to its cutting-edge technology and continual redefinition of the USAF requirements. In addition to the F-108's interceptor role, North American proposed it as an escort fighter for the Strategic Air Command's XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber, which NAA was also developing. The F-108 was intended to share the Valkyrie's General Electric YJ93 engines and some other subsystems. By that time, however, it was unlikely that it would have served in that role. SAC had lost any interest in the escort fighter concept and, in any case, the F-108's range was at best marginal to accompany the B-70 all the way to its target and back.


The eventual design, which was built as a full-sized XF-108 mock-up shown to Air Force officials in early 1959, was given the name "Rapier" on 15 May 1959 following a contest by the Air Defense Command asking airmen for suggestions. Production numbers were radically curtailed and the program was officially cancelled on 23 September of that year. North American kept refining the design through 1960 in hopes that the program might be revived, but it never was. Testing of the radar and missiles developed for the aircraft continued, intended for the Lockheed YF-12 program, but that, too, was ultimately cancelled, and no Mach 3 interceptor has yet been operational in the U.S.

However, the money and time spent on the Rapier was not wholly in vain – the later A-5 Vigilante supersonic bomber developed for the U.S. Navy retained the fuselage/weapon package and systems design of the Rapier. In many ways the Vigilante can be seen as the successful application of the Rapier design principles in a Mach 2 supersonic bomber design.Fact|date=September 2007


The F-108 had a very large "cranked" delta wing, with a 58° sweep angle at the leading edge and wingtip extensions of about 40°, with a 4° anhedral. There were fixed ventral stabilizers on the wings, mounted at mid-span, and a tall all-moving vertical tailfin, supplemented by two ventral stabilizers that extended when the landing gear retracted. Although some earlier versions of the design had had separate tailplanes and later forward canards, both were abandoned in the final design. There were two General Electric J93 turbojet engines, also used in North American's XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, in the fuselage; USAF requests for an alternate installation of the Pratt & Whitney J58 later used in the SR-71 came to naught. The engines were fed by side-mounted intakes with a shape very similar to the later North American A-5 Vigilante.

The large fuselage and wing had nine tanks for a total of 7,109 gallons (26,911 liters) of JP-6 fuel, giving an estimated combat radius of some 1,271 mi (2,033 km), which could be extended by in-flight refueling. Top speed was estimated at 1,980 mph (3,190 km/h), about Mach 3, at 72,800 ft (22,200 m). It was stressed for +5.33/-3.00 ""g"".

The aircraft had a crew of two, a pilot and a weapon systems officer (WSO), in a tandem cockpit arrangement. Each crewman had an escape capsule designed to permitting safe ejection even at extreme speeds and altitudes. The weapon systems operator in the rear seat had no flight controls.

The F-108 was intended to carry the Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar, the U.S.'s first pulse doppler radar set. It was to have look-down/shoot-down capability, but could only track one target at a time. It was a massive 2,100 lb (950 kg) installation filling most of the long nose. The radar was paired with an infrared search and track (IRST) system on the wing leading edges.

The radar was used to guide the Hughes GAR-9 (later redesignated AIM-47) air-to-air missile, three of which would be carried on a rotary launcher in an internal weapons bay. The GAR-9 was a very large, long-range weapon with its own radar set for terminal homing. It was intended to fly at Mach 6, with a range of almost 115 miles (185 km). An alternative version with a heat-seeking terminal homing mode was also developed. The missiles were 12 ft 6.5 in (3.82 m) long with a 33 in (84 cm) wingspan, weighing 818 lb (371 kg) for the radar version, 998 lb (453 kg) for the IR version. The earlier Northrop N-126 proposal suggested various weapons combinations, including GAR-1 Falcon missiles, packs of 2.75 in (70 mm) FFARs, or two T-171 Vulcan 20 mm cannon, but none were part of the North American design.

The F-111B and later F-14 Tomcat would both adopt a pulse doppler radar and long range AIM-54 Phoenix missiles similar to the AIM-47.

pecifications (XF-108, as designed)

aircraft specifications

plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet

ref=Fact|date=April 2008
length main=89 ft 2 in
length alt=27.2 m
span main=57 ft 5 in
span alt=17.5 m
height main=22 ft 1 in
height alt=6.7 m
area main=1,865 ft²
area alt=173.4 m²
empty weight main=50,907 lb
empty weight alt=23,098 kg
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
max takeoff weight main=102,533 lb
max takeoff weight alt=46,508 kg

engine (jet)=General Electric YJ93-GE-3AR
type of jet=afterburning turbojet
number of jets=2
thrust main=20,900 lbf
afterburning thrust main=29,300 lbf
thrust alt=93.0 kN
afterburning thrust alt=130.3 kN

max speed main=1,980 mph
max speed alt=1,720 kn, 3,190 km/h
ceiling main=80,100 ft
ceiling alt=24,400 m
climb rate main=
climb rate alt=
range main=1,271 mi
range alt=1,104 NM, 2,033 km
range more=combat
ferry range main=2,488 mi
ferry range alt=2,162 NM, 4,004 km
loading main=55.9 lb/ft²
loading alt=183.4 kg/m²

missiles=3× Hughes GAR-9A air-to-air missiles in an internal weapons bay

ee also

* A-5 Vigilante

similar aircraft=
* CF-105 Arrow
* Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25
* Mikoyan MiG-31
* Republic XF-103
* Tupolev Tu-28
* UK F.155 project

* List of fighter aircraft
* List of military aircraft of the United States


External links

* [http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2319 XF-108 Rapier page on National Museum of the US Air Force website]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-108.htm F-108 Rapier page on GlobalSecurity.org]
* [http://home.att.net/~jbaugher1/f108.html North American XF-108 Rapier page on J. Baugher's site]

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