McDonnell Douglas submitted 3 different concepts for the 1982 AF RFI: 1 fighter, shown as Concept 4, and 2 Air To Surface (ATS) fighters, shown as Concepts 17 and 18. There was very little difference between Concepts 17 and 18, other than the projected weight. Concept 4 was projected to be 17,700 lbs, the lightest proposal along with Northrop's diminutive Concept 1, however it is difficult to see how they could have achieved this given the size. Given the sizes and weights of all the other proposals, Concept 4 looks like it would have been closer to 34,000 lbs. It was a very gawky design optimised for transonic high alpha manoevuring, using a high-set straight wing and a canard. It seems an odd proposal given that McDD was the manufacturer of the F-15 Eagle and this design seemed to offer nothing over the F-15. It featured retrograde air intakes and a vertical fin harking back to the F-4 Phantom. It is very difficult to see how the AF could have taken this concept seriously. Concepts 17 and 18 were projected to be just over 72,000 lbs and were a more credible effort. There was an attempt to incorporate stealth by inclining the sides of the fuselage and employing a shallow air intake. They employed a relatively large double delta wing planform, to which twin vertical fins were attached at an angle. The illustrations shown here differ from the AF RFI chart in the configuration of the air intakes.
This is Horonzak's impression of the final proposal submitted for the actual ATF programme in 1986. McDonnell Douglas scored 4th with this effort. This first thing that jumps to attention is the completely frameless bubble canopy; the only proposal to incorporate such a feature. The air intakes dominate the design, being well forward, large and relatively shallow. McDD appears to have appreciated the concept of stealth, with lots of angular lines evident, but there is some subtle faceting present on the upper fuselage where none need be. Whoever was responsible for this shape did not seem to truly understand how this portion of the airframe should be treated. Faceting in this area would have been an unnecessary complication slowing the manufacturing process and disturbing local airflow. They also ran into problems trying to resolve the side of of the nose where it runs into the LERX: the painting shows a very messy juncture both aerodynamically and stealthwise. It appears that McDD made a considerable effort to mask the efflux like Boeing and Northrop. The overall configuration appears practical except that the relatively narrow chord of the wing was an opportunity missed to incorporate the kind of wing area that would enhance high alpha manoevure. Given that they were the maker of the USAF's premier fighter at the time, it's disappointing that they were not able to come up with a hotter design that truly eclipsed the Eagle. It's unfortunate that the timing of the contract was such that stealth technology had not deseminated through the aviation industry to the extent it has now. It is now very obvious as to how to make a stealthy aircraft and apply those principles to a highly manoevurable design. Had McDD been in on the secrets, they would have done a much better job. The F-15 Eagle was the zenith of McDD's history as an independent entity.
Last updated February 2010.
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