Armstrong Whitworth Tail-First Fighter Project

Jemiba

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The first time, that I see a fin/landing gear symbiosis, that isn't hampered by
thoughts from Luigi Colani ! ;D
 

Schneiderman

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This project bothers me for many reasons. The article in Aeroplane was written by Don Brown, of Miles fame, and describes several unbuilt projects of other companies. There are a few errors, from what we know now, but basically it is correct. I checked the later issues of Aeroplane to see if there had been any feedback or corrections from representatives of other companies but there was nothing, so I have to assume that the project did exist.
In Brown's narrative this project would date from 1941, and hence it is reasonable to believe that it was designed to meet spec 4/40 for a high altitude fighter, the spec that eventually led to the Westland Welkin. There were other single-engine submissions to meet this, certainly from Hawker. The AW design, even taking into account that it was ultimately intended for jet-power, once a engine became available, is bizarre and way out of line with any other project underway at AW at this time. The company was long out of the fighter business and this seems like and odd way to get back into it.
Ray Williams, the AW specialist, and Tony Buttler have never mentioned it, which I find a little odd too.
 

Avimimus

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Jemiba said:
The first time, that I see a fin/landing gear symbiosis, that isn't hampered by
thoughts from Luigi Colani ! ;D
Well... there are a lot of 'lifting' cowls for landing gear in history :) Even landing gear which has the axle surrounded by a wing.

Anyway, the purported A.W. design shown could only be made stable with an extremely high aspect ratio wing & canard, and probably would also require great amounts of dihedral ;) It'd be interesting to find out how far one would have to go to keep it from immediately 'deciding it is meant to fly backwards' as soon as it takes off.
 

newsdeskdan

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Problematic though it seems in some respects, this is a very interesting find!
 

hesham

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My dear Jemiba,

please can with your magnificent skill in paint make a 3-view to it and thanks.
 

Schneiderman

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Actually I hope that Jem doesn't. With just the side view and aspect ratio of the wing to go on he would have to use more than a reasonable amount of guesswork. There is quite enough problem with fictional, 'what-if' and questionable material on the internet without us adding to it. Even the best authors have fallen into the trap of using erroneous drawings at times.
 

kitnut617

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I was just thinking, if this had been a Luft'46 discovery, there would have been a model of it already and articles saying just how advanced the Germans thinking was back then ----
 

Jemiba

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Schneiderman said:
... Even the best authors have fallen into the trap of using erroneous drawings at times.
Indeed, and if there's a side view, without doubt there are the virews, too, somewhere.
 

newsdeskdan

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Schneiderman said:
Actually I hope that Jem doesn't. With just the side view and aspect ratio of the wing to go on he would have to use more than a reasonable amount of guesswork. There is quite enough problem with fictional, 'what-if' and questionable material on the internet without us adding to it. Even the best authors have fallen into the trap of using erroneous drawings at times.
Completely agree. Even aside from the drawing's problematic background, it's simply impossible to create a 3-view when there is only one known view. If it is indeed a genuine project, and there seems little reason to doubt that it is, given that Armstrong Whitworth still existed as a functioning company with whom facts could be checked in 1948 (albeit having long since become a sub-division of Hawker), it is surprising that no other details - and other views - have survived.
 

FXXII

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A fin up front! If I remember correctly, every junior student in the aerodynamics will learn, that a vertical fin on the front of an aircraft will lead to serious instability. Such an aircraft will never be able to fly.
 

hesham

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Please my dear Jemiba,

can you even make a sketch to it and thanks.
 

Nick Sumner

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This picture reminds me of a remark attributed to a USAF pilot upon first seeing an F4B Phantom. "Did they deliver it upside down?"
 

Hood

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This is a curious design for several reasons, especially if it is related to Armstrong Whitworth.

Firstly, there appears to be no spare A.W. designation, or existing description of one that matches this design. It could be that this design was a speculative un-tendered design.

Second the date of the design. The reference to a "Whittle engine" places the design to around 1941 at the earliest and probably no later than 1943. The reference to 40,000ft would indicate performance approximating F.4/40 for the Welkin, but of course turbojet power was not part of this specification. All the designs tendered, that we know of, were twin-engined aircraft with Merlins except for the Hawker P.1004 with a single Napier Sabre. Therefore a single Merlin would seem underpowered to meet the stated altitude. Furthermore most of those designs were two-seaters. The small cockpit windows seem to indicate a pressure cabin. It seems more likely that the intended jet-powered example without the interim Merlin may have been designed around F.9/40 or perhaps a speculative design pitched to the MAP, much like the DH.99 of 1941 or Hawker's P.1101 around the same time.

The other point is that by 1942 AWA were pushing ahead with flying wings and laminar flow wings, with John Lloyd very much in favour of low-drag wings. So much so that he put them on the A.W.49 ground attack aircraft of 1942. The A.W.42 was of pusher configuration too, but was a fairly conventional twin-boom design. I would seem logical that had this design been formulated in 1942 that a laminar flow wing would have been used. As to the tail arrangement, it is possible the tail-forward layout was chosen over the traditional twin-boom due to jet efflux concerns. Even so it seems a rather crude design overall, even compared with the workmanlike A.W.49.

As a jet-powered design the layout makes more sense for 1941 when designers were trying to come to terms with the new form of propulsion and designing for the altitudes it could reach. If this was a 1941 design it would also explain the lack of laminar flow or other tailless features that AWA readily adopted just a year later. It does rather make the interim Merlin-powered design shown here an oddity, certainly Gloster, de Havilland and Hawker didn't bother with piston-engined variants of their jet fighters, they were prepared to wait until an engine was ready. And there is no way a single Merlin could offer comparable performance over current fighters and certainly not at 40,000ft.
 

riggerrob

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FXXII said:
A fin up front! If I remember correctly, every junior student in the aerodynamics will learn, that a vertical fin on the front of an aircraft will lead to serious instability. Such an aircraft will never be able to fly.
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Agreed!
Only one engineer has designed a successful rhino rudder and it only worked on one of this designs.
After a couple of attempts, Burt Rutan finally got a rhino rudder to work on his Defiant push-me-pull-you light twin (4 to 6 seats). Defiants still have fixed vertical fins (Witcomb winglets) mounted well-aft on their main wing tips.
Defiants are stable in turbulence as long as pilots keep feet off rudder pedals. When feet "fix" the rhino rudder, Rutan Defiants "hunt" directionally.
About 10 Defiants have been built from plans.
 
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