General Dynamics
 

According to the chart, General Dynamics submitted just one concept for the 1982 AF formal RFI: Concept 14. It was a very conservative configuration for a strike aircraft based on a twin engine F-16, weighing 61,920 lbs. General Dynamics also pursued a triangular planform based on an unrelated study for a stealthy subsonic strike aircraft, nicknamed "Sneaky Pete". Recently some studies done by GD related to the ATF programme have been uncovered, showing more adventurous designs. From Col Albert Piccirillo's book comes a diagram showing several concepts investigated; shown here because 2 are in a V-tail configuration like the YF-23. These and Boeing's final ATF proposal show that although the YF-23 was considered radical at the time of its rollout, the basic idea was well known and explored by American fighter airframe manufacturers.

 
 

Not many pictures of wind tunnel models made specifically for the ATF programme have come to light, except for GD's. We can see that they were thorough in configuration investigation, and willing to think laterally. Some of the triangular wing configurations were extremely radical for a fighter at the time.

 
 

An assortment of display models indicating the level of exploration done leading up to the final configuration. A basic planform has evolved using an arrow-like wing, but they seem to have had trouble trying to figure out where to put the vertical fins.

 

This is probably one of the more graceful of all GD's ideas, but it would have had some long term structural fatigue problems around the fin mounting area. Like most of GD's concepts, the trailing edge is a complete mess.
 

This was GD's final submission for the actual ATF programme in 1986. Analysis of the model shows that they appreciated the concept of stealth and how to achieve it, but their insistance on a particular wing planform, that of a sort of delta with a curved trailing edge, meant that it was impossible to align the trailing edge without resorting to exagerated serration. The designed featured the by now classic F-16 style canopy offering excellent pilot view, and had a slim nose where the radar antenna was split into left and right hemispheres and placed inside the swollen LERX's. The design would have been feasible except for one glaring sore thumb: the vertical fin. GD's design looks like a mess of conflicting requirements that they were not able to effectively harmonise. They tried all kinds of layouts for the vertical fin, but in the end they gave up in exasperation and stuck an enormous single vertical one on the back ala Tornado. Not very stealthy. They seem to have been hell bent on sensor dispersion as well, because there are 2 pods outboard on the wing trailing edges which marr the stealth profile. It's easy to see why GD's final proposal did not win, but they did place the highest of all the bidders apart from Northrop and Lockeed. It's hard to see how or why. It appears that their conclusions about the wing planform were very solid, because this essential geometry survived on thru to the F-22A Raptor. After Lockheed won and GD joined the YF-22 team, their efforts were integrated into the F-22, and we can see their thinking regarding the nose profile present in the nose of the F-22.

 

Last updated October 2011.

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