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Convair Model 49 Advanced Aerial Fire Support System

Triton

Donald McKelvy
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Convair submitted the Model 49 as its proposal for the Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) competition.

From Modeling Madness:

The most unique proposal in the AAFSS competition came from the San Diego division of Convair. The Model 49 did not fit the normal mold for either an airplane or a helicopter, and represented something entirely new. Propulsive power came from turbine engines driving counter-rotating propellers within the shroud. Convair believed that the system was inherently more reliable than a conventional helicopter, and pointed out the only pilot control inputs involved directional control and setting rotor blade angle and engine speed. The crew of two occupied an articulating capsule on top of the shroud and was provided with a full array of sensors. The engines, fuel, crew capsule, and avionics bays were equipped with dual-property steel armor for protection against 12.7-mm projectiles

A wide variety of weapons were proposed for use on the vehicle. The normal complement included two side turrets with either XM-134 7.62-mm machine guns or XM-75 40-mm grenade launchers. Each turret was provided with either 12,000 rounds of 7.62-mm ammunition or 500 40-mm grenades. A center turret carried an XM-140 30-mm cannon with 1,000 rounds of ammunition. The center turret could also mount 500 WASP rockets, or a second 30-mm cannon. Each of the turrets could rotate and elevate and was capable of being fired while sitting on the ground, in a hover, or during high-speed forward flight. Mechanical stops were provided that prevented any of the weapons from firing at the nose of the crew compartment when it was articulated forward/down. Four hard-points were located on two of the engine nacelles; each could carry a fuel tank, three BGM-71 TOW missiles, or three Shillelagh missiles. Alternately, one of these hardpoints on each nacelle could carry a single M40A1C 106-mm recoilless rifle and 18 rounds of ammunition. The 106-mm cannon had an effective range of 10,000 yards, and was effective against hardened targets. All of the hard points could rotate so that they could be oriented into the wind during high-speed flight, or aimed while being fired from either forward flight or a hover. Four external fuel tanks provided up to 1,200 gallons additional fuel for ferry flights.

The shrouded-rotor vehicle was capable of vertical takeoff and landing, just like a helicopter, and was also capable of hovering. The propulsion system consisted of three shroud-mounted Lycoming LTC4B-11 turboshaft engines, although the General Electric T64, Allison T56, and Pratt & Whitney JFTD12 were also investigated. The engines were coupled through clutches, shafting, and gear-reduction units to contra-rotating variable pitch rotors within the shroud. The thrust and lift systems were extremely interrelated, and the shroud amplified the thrust under some conditions, compensating for the relatively small diameter of the rotors. The engines and gear boxes were located in three of the nacelles along the sides of the shroud; the fourth nacelle contained the weapons and avionics. The overall control system was thought to be similar to conventional helicopters except for the removal of the cyclic pitch feature. Convair planned to leverage the experience gained during the Navy XFY-1 Pogo program in the areas of vertical control systems and power plant installations, and believed the development risk was minimal.

Sources:
http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread72972/pg1
http://modelingmadness.com/scotts/viet/us/army/model49.htm
 

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overscan (PaulMM)

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There's a great article on this by Dennis Jenkins in eAPR V2N2 available from up-ship.com.
 

Orionblamblam

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Yay! The perfect opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

http://www.up-ship.com/eAPR/ev2n2.htm





Also, *not* blatant self promotion:
http://www.fantastic-plastic.com/Convair49CatalogPage.htm
 

Abraham Gubler

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Is there any more performance and characteristics information for this aircraft? Weights, tactical radius, etc?
 

cluttonfred

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Wouldn't prone pilots more or less standing on their feet in hover have been a much, much simpler solution?
 

Orionblamblam

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Mole said:
Wouldn't prone pilots more or less standing on their feet in hover have been a much, much simpler solution?

Simpler, yes. But they would not have been able to see the world very well. Imagine doing the hovering & attacking thing while standing up and looking out a relatively small porthole in the "floor" of the cockpit... never mind landing.
 

cluttonfred

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I disagree, there is absolutely no reason that the visibility would have to be bad. Look at the Hiller VXT-8 concept:

 

Orionblamblam

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Mole said:
I disagree, there is absolutely no reason that the visibility would have to be bad. Look at the Hiller VXT-8 concept:

A much simpler vehicle... meaning far, far fewer instruments. Where are the CRTs displaying IR images? Where are the nav displays? Where are the innumerable engine and weapons controls????

If a large, complex tailsitting VTOL aircraft capable of carrying out complex missions with multiple weapons systems could get away with having a "cockpit" as simple as the VXT-8's.... then *any* aircraft could. And yet, we almost never see cockpits this spartan.
 

ABU625

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Yes, the upcoming kit will have a variable-position nose. Look for it in about 6-8 weeks.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Mole said:
I disagree, there is absolutely no reason that the visibility would have to be bad. Look at the Hiller VXT-8 concept:

Look at the angle of the head. Do you think you can maintain that for a two hour mission? Prone pilot position is a real pain in the neck...
 

Rickshaw

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Abraham Gubler said:
Mole said:
I disagree, there is absolutely no reason that the visibility would have to be bad. Look at the Hiller VXT-8 concept:

Look at the angle of the head. Do you think you can maintain that for a two hour mission? Prone pilot position is a real pain in the neck...

Interestingly, Eric "Winkle" Brown's comments suggest otherwise and he has flown several different prone aircraft prototypes. He didn't like the modified USN Tigercat with the reclining crouch but was quite happy with the prone Meteor prototype he flew, finding it far more comfortable.

My question about Model 49 is why do they have a section of the ring aerofoil where the gun turrets are, fold down to the ground?
 

Orionblamblam

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rickshaw said:
My question about Model 49 is why do they have a section of the ring aerofoil where the gun turrets are, fold down to the ground?

Maintenance. Otherwise the guns would be twenty feet up in the air. Folding down also exposes the innards for maintenance purposes.
 

Rickshaw

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Orionblamblam said:
rickshaw said:
My question about Model 49 is why do they have a section of the ring aerofoil where the gun turrets are, fold down to the ground?

Maintenance. Otherwise the guns would be twenty feet up in the air. Folding down also exposes the innards for maintenance purposes.

Wouldn't have been simpler to provide a ladder? ;)
 

Orionblamblam

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rickshaw said:
Orionblamblam said:
rickshaw said:
My question about Model 49 is why do they have a section of the ring aerofoil where the gun turrets are, fold down to the ground?

Maintenance. Otherwise the guns would be twenty feet up in the air. Folding down also exposes the innards for maintenance purposes.

Wouldn't have been simpler to provide a ladder? ;)

Not really, no. If a 500-pound assembly needs to be dismounted for cleaning, it's easier if it's two feet off the ground next to a table than if it's twenty feet off the ground next to a ladder. In the first case, you just need a number of strong guys. In the latter case you need a crane.
 

Rickshaw

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Orionblamblam said:
rickshaw said:
Orionblamblam said:
rickshaw said:
My question about Model 49 is why do they have a section of the ring aerofoil where the gun turrets are, fold down to the ground?

Maintenance. Otherwise the guns would be twenty feet up in the air. Folding down also exposes the innards for maintenance purposes.

Wouldn't have been simpler to provide a ladder? ;)

Not really, no. If a 500-pound assembly needs to be dismounted for cleaning, it's easier if it's two feet off the ground next to a table than if it's twenty feet off the ground next to a ladder. In the first case, you just need a number of strong guys. In the latter case you need a crane.

But all you're doing is transferring the weight and complexity from the ground support equipment to the aircraft. Surely it would be better from the perspective of payload/fuel costs to leave that weight and complexity behind on the ground? A ladder, a servicing stand and a crane are simpler and more than likely cheaper than having a folding section of aircraft which is hydraulically powered and hinged.
 

Orionblamblam

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rickshaw said:
But all you're doing is transferring the weight and complexity from the ground support equipment to the aircraft.
No, not really. All this stuff would of course have to be designed to come off anyway. So all you need to do (in the most rudimentary form) is add a hinge and the bottom, a few latches at the top, and a simple winch and pulley to lower it down. Easy, lightweight.

This vehicle was designed to be serviced in the field. And the field might be little more than a truck with ammo and fuel in an unprepared field. You don't want to have your tactical vehicles designed so t hat they can only be serviced in dedicated facilities.
 

Rickshaw

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"being serviced in the field" is not what has happened to each and every one of these supposed "simple designs" designed to operate from "rough fields". Even the Harrier had to have specialised equipment to service the aircraft when operated from the small strips deployed as far forward as possible. The Bronco, which was originally intended to fulfill very much the role that this creature was, ended up being operated from rear airstrips, rather than the forward ones which it was intended to, because of the service and logistic needs required. The same goes for helicopters. They tend to be operated from fairly large bases, not isolated strips. So in the end, having the folding down armament's module is rather pointless on this thing IMHO.
 

Orionblamblam

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rickshaw said:
"being serviced in the field" is not what has happened to each and every one of these supposed "simple designs" designed to operate from "rough fields".

So, rather than trying for best design practice, your suggestion is to make every aircraft a hangar queen.
 

Rickshaw

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Orionblamblam said:
rickshaw said:
"being serviced in the field" is not what has happened to each and every one of these supposed "simple designs" designed to operate from "rough fields".

So, rather than trying for best design practice, your suggestion is to make every aircraft a hangar queen.

No, its a recognition that you can't maintain complex aeronautical systems away from complex support technology. I don't want to make them "hangar queens" they are by necessity, "hangar queens".
 

Orionblamblam

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rickshaw said:
No, its a recognition that you can't maintain complex aeronautical systems away from complex support technology.

Then don't make them complex aeronautical systems. One good way to do that is to design basic maintenance into them in the first place.
 

Rickshaw

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Orionblamblam said:
rickshaw said:
No, its a recognition that you can't maintain complex aeronautical systems away from complex support technology.

Then don't make them complex aeronautical systems. One good way to do that is to design basic maintenance into them in the first place.

Complexity is the nature of the beast. As I pointed out, even helicopters need complex maintenance facilities to maintain them. Harriers required complex maintenance facilities to maintain them. Unless you want to go back to non-complex WWII style systems, you can't avoid having to base aircraft at fairy substantial and complex bases. Why not simply recognise that and stop trying to avoid it?
 

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Maybe I'm pushing it a bit too far but one could call the Honeywell MAV and other UAVs based on the augmented ducted fan concept, spiritual successors of the Model 49.
 

cluttonfred

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Unless you want to go back to non-complex WWII style systems, you can't avoid having to base aircraft at fairy substantial and complex bases. Why not simply recognise that and stop trying to avoid it?

I'll jump in here to say that there is something to be said for the argument that aviation and especially military aircraft technology is becoming so complex and maintenance-intensive that we end with a dangerously low number of aircraft. I wonder if we have begun to reach the point of diminishing returns, where the same investment or less could buy many, many less complex airframes which could overwhelm our ultra-modern fighters by sheer weight of numbers.
 

sferrin

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rickshaw said:
Orionblamblam said:
rickshaw said:
No, its a recognition that you can't maintain complex aeronautical systems away from complex support technology.

Then don't make them complex aeronautical systems. One good way to do that is to design basic maintenance into them in the first place.

Complexity is the nature of the beast. As I pointed out, even helicopters need complex maintenance facilities to maintain them. Harriers required complex maintenance facilities to maintain them. Unless you want to go back to non-complex WWII style systems, you can't avoid having to base aircraft at fairy substantial and complex bases. Why not simply recognise that and stop trying to avoid it?

Why not do what you can to minimize it? Look at the aircraft that have built in ladders so you don't need to drag that piece of gear around everywhere you go. Are you suggesting it would be better to get rid of that so we add another item to the laundry list of things required to support the aircraft? That's just poor design.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Now available in plastic:

http://www.fantastic-plastic.com/Convair49Page.htm
 

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LowObservable

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It's interesting that this proposal was submitted at the point where recreational drug use in California was really taking off.
 

ABU625

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Fantastic Plastic's first release for April is the Convair 49 Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS), a radical ground-support VTOL concept from 1967.

Produced exclusively for Fantastic Plastic by Anigrand Craftswork, the 1:72 scale kit contains 53 pressure-cast resin pieces, including a cockpit interior and clear resin canopy. Two sets of JBOT decals are included: One for U.S. Army markings, the other USMC.

This unique kit sells for $70, plus shipping. For complete information, please visit:

http://www.fantastic-plastic.com/Convair49CatalogPage.htm

If weird, wild aircraft are your thing, you've got to have this one!

Thanks for looking!
 

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Jemiba

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Well, this thing looks really cool, even to our youngsters, who have seen the movie "Transformers" !
But it would have used materials destined for aircraft, not for tanks and although well armoured and
protected in comparison to other attack aircraft, I cannot help the feeling, that it would have been
exactly the kind of target, a Vietcong. or just another "bad guy" was dreaming of ! ;D
 

AeroFranz

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Jemiba said:
I cannot help the feeling, that it would have been exactly the kind of target, a Vietcong. or just another "bad guy" was dreaming of ! ;D

Quite right. One RPG-7 and that thing'd be toast.
 

GTX

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Either 1/48 or 1/35 (or to split the difference 1/32 ;D) would be fine - here's hoping!

Regards,

Greg
 

Abraham Gubler

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Does anyone have any idea what the "WASP Rocket" mentioned in the Convair AAFSS offer is? The limited information says that the centre turret could be equipped with either two 30x113mm cannons with 1,000 rounds for each gun or a single 30mm and 500 WASP rockets. If weight is matched between the options this would mean each "WASP" would weigh about 1kg (2.2 lbs). I would imagine something like the 66mm rocket of the M72 LAW? Google turns up nothing except that the Yugoslavian name for their M72 clone was 'Osa' or 'Wasp'.
 

Abraham Gubler

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AeroFranz said:
Jemiba said:
I cannot help the feeling, that it would have been exactly the kind of target, a Vietcong. or just another "bad guy" was dreaming of ! ;D

Quite right. One RPG-7 and that thing'd be toast.

I greatly doubt that the Convair AAFSS would be such an easy and soft target.

Firstly it was to be heavily armoured. The engines, fuel, crew and avionics bays (which is pretty much the entire aircraft) were to be protected by dual property steel armour. Making it bullet proof to 12.7mm.

It would also be very fast and manoeuvrable making it very hard to hit. Much faster than a helicopter or even an advanced rotor helicopter like the AH-56A. It has 9,000 hp driving that propfan, that is a lot of power.

It would also fight back with up to two channels of fire (with either 7.62mm minigun, 40mm AGL, 30mm cannon or WASP rocket) and the AAFSS helmet mounted sighting system be able to suppress anti-aircraft fire like no other aircraft.

Finally if you actually hit it with an RPG-7 (say it’s hovering or sitting on a hill top) the effect would be minimal because of the armour, multiple redundancy and high structural strength of the ‘barrel’ structure. While the RPG in either HE or shaped charge would do a lot of damage it wouldn’t be sufficient to take out more than one engine (because of their wide separation) allowing the AAFSS to escape on the remaining two. If enough hits were scored to knock it down the crew capsule would probably have an F-111 style ejection system enabling the crew to survive the crash.

No helicopter planned, past or present has anything to match this kind of survivability. Considering Convair’s experience with the tailsitter VTOL XFY and the comparative simplicity of its flight and power system compared to the more helicopter like AAFSS offers (Lockheed hingeless rotor and Sikorsky’s translating ‘rotorprop’) the US Army would have been better thinking out of the box and going with the complex concept rather than the complex engineering.
 

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