Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

with 4 comments

McDonnell XF-85

Well, that’s an interesting looking plane, nu? Anyone know what it is? Guesses? Note the small size and compactness of the aircraft. Note the complete lack of landing gear. Is it a plane at all, maybe it’s a carnival ride? Wait, look at the tail, it’s the batplane! No, actually, it’s a McDonnell XF-85 Goblin. OK, that’s not terribly helpful, what is a McDonnell XF-85 Goblin? Give up? The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin is what is called a parasite fighter. This is a fighter aircraft that is attached to a larger aircraft, or in this case, carried completely inside the bomb bay of a larger aircraft. In this case three or four of them would be carried inside a B-36 bomber, making the bomber a flying aircraft carrier. For that was the idea, the Goblins would ride in some of the bombers in a bomber formation, be dropped when needed to defend them, and then re-board the bombers when the fighting was done. This was because the fighters of the day didn’t have the range to escort long range bombers, especially jet fighters. It was an interesting idea, though the requirement that it fit inside a bomber severely limited its size and thus fuel load, a Goblin was only good for about 30 minutes of flight time.

So did it work? Well, sort of. In 1948 one was launched on a number of test flights and successfully deployed and flew around. However, re-attaching to the hook that would haul it back inside the bomber proved very tricky in action.  Buffeting from the airflow around the bomber made it a very tricky procedure, and it was only successfully accomplished on three occasions. Many attempts to reconnect were failures, often damaging the plane or the hook in the process. On one try the Goblin hit the hook so hard that not only was the canopy knocked off, the pilot of the Goblin’s helmet was knocked off! He managed to safely belly land it on a dry lake bed anyhow. In fact he (only one test pilot ever flew the Goblin) had to belly land it a number of times because he was unable to reattach to the mother bomber. More disappointing, its flight characteristics weren’t as good as had been planned, and other jet fighters entering service at the time were clearly superior to it. Lastly, progress with figuring out how to refuel jet fighters in the air was rapidly increasing the range of conventional fighters. Poor performance, high skill requirements to fly, and better conventional fighters spelled doom for the Goblin, and the project was cancelled after only a handful of test flights.

The whole thing was a pretty wild idea though. Fleets of giant six engined intercontinental bombers, the likes of which Hitler dreamed of, would fly around the world. Three quarters of them would be carrying nuclear weapons, the others would carry three or four Goblins each. They would have been impervious to the anti-aircraft guns of their day, with a  fighter escort as needed, and the nuclear firepower to exceed the destruction of all of World War Two in just a few dozen planes. A killing machine the likes of which the world had never seen, ready to rain down nuclear death anywhere on the planet. And the name of this giant bomber? The Convair B-36 “Peacemaker.” Yes, that’s right gentle reader, a bomber that could destroy entire cities was called the peacemaker. Wtf?

Yeah, the Cold War was nuts. World War Two was nuts, and it was catching, since the USA carried on as if the war never ended. From the Cold War till the War on Terror. The USA was always ahead of Russia in the so called arms race, and it got further ahead every year. Yet a huge percentage of Americans became persuaded that a communist conspiracy was going to take over the world if we didn’t continue to fund ever more destructive military toys. It made little more sense than Hitler’s theory about Jews being in a secret global plot to run the world. Now of course millions of Americans believe that Muslims or terrorists will take over the world if we don’t wage endless war. Right. Hitler is laughing in his grave, his armies lost the war but his ideas rule the west still. That’s what’s wrong with this picture.

I’m sure many will dissent. Moving right along, I’m going to be writing more posts about some of the weird and wacky and just plain fascinating war aircraft that were built and conceived during and since World War Two. Because, well, it’s fun. Suggestions welcome. Um, let me clarify,  suggestions about what aircraft or secret weapons to write about. I will try to keep the political commentary to a minimum. Have a great weekend everyone!

(The above image came from Wikipedia so it must be OK to use. Likely it was taken by a US government employee in the course of their duties and is thus Public Domain under US copyright law. And boy, they missed a great propaganda opportunity with this plane. With the right paint job, they could have made a flying football! Here is you tube footage of the Goblin in action: Goblin away!)

Written by unitedcats

January 11, 2013 at 9:20 am

4 Responses

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  1. It’s interesting that they chose the name Goblin for this aircraft. In my ”Fairy Almanac” which I had for a Christmas present when I was five ( and I’m sixty six now ) it says, Goblins live underground in the hollows of trees and plants. So I suppose it’s partly the right choice, but sprite would have been better. Those little devils were capable of flying running or even swimming under water. Incidentally ,have you celebrated the 150th anniversary of the London Underground or did I miss it . Jan 9th.

    barry waterfield

    January 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

  2. Well I just can’t find it in my Chant Aviation History.

    Marlene Geiger

    January 11, 2013 at 11:42 am

  3. In your second paragraph you wrote “the pilot of the Goblin’s helmet was knocked off! ” Surely you meant “the helmet of the Goblin’s pilot was knocked off” I’m pretty sure the pilot flew the Goblin aircraft, not the helmet…=

    You could write about the Jet Fighter that was launched by JATO bottles, and landed on a giant rubber mat by catching an arresting wire. I believe that they only got a test pilot to do that once.

    Wade O Kane

    January 12, 2013 at 1:25 am

    • LOL Correct. I in fact noticed there was something not quite right about how I worded that, but didn’t ponder it enough to realize what was wrong. Thanks. — Doug


      January 12, 2013 at 7:26 am

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