East Coast Aeronautics MB-3 « Redbird » tow target

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,225
Reaction score
804
As if the whole X-27A/XB-27/X-28A thing wasn't puzzling enough, here's a new find that will likely get your hair rising even higher...

Forum member SgtX contacted me a while ago about a would-be Vought X-27A wreck he'd found while hiking in the country. Now he has finally sent me the photos to back up his claim, and the least I can say is that the wrecked target drone doesn't look much like the pictures we've got so far.

Why does he claim for it to be an X-27A? Let's take a look at the data he provided. First he says that the dimensions match previous descriptions, and secondly he provides a photo of the manufacturing plate which says "Model 27A". However, the drone was not built by Vought, but by Schweizer!

About my concern that this may be a different bird now. The photos clearly show a swept-wing design. I thought that maybe the crash might have angled them a bit, but on closer inspection, they wouldn't be both angled to such an extent and both with the same sweep after a straight crash. We can see that the nose too most of the blow from the impact, while the rest was relatively preserved. I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the way the wings are attached to the fuselage excludes the possibility of a post-crash sweep.

Now about the Schweizer involvement. Time-wise, could the "27A" possibly have been a Schweizer model designation? At the time this drone was built, the latest Schweizer model was the SGS 1-23. Not far, you might say... except the 1-24 came in 1953, the 2-25 and 1-26 in 1954. Besides, we already know that that (undated) SA 2-27 was a two-seat light aeroplane project, which kind of excludes the drone. Designations can get reallocated when a project wasn't carried out, but rarely when it's been manufactured.

We also know that Bellanca did some tow targets in the same period, such as this "Tow Aerial Aero X31A; Dart Configuration, Collapsible Dart Configuration and Body of Revolution Configuration (1954)" which is listed in the Bellanca papers. Now this one is interesting, because there seems to be an obvious designation sequence here (X27A, X28A, X31A) pointing to a probable X series of designations used by the U.S. Navy for tow targets.

And so we're back to square one, or almost... We have a swept-wing target wreck built in 1951 by Schweizer (presumably subcontracting for some other company's design), with a model number and date that are coherent with a known Vought type except it doesn't look much like it... but then again, we have no first-hand documents that certify that the X-27A/XB-27 shown in contemporary press were really just that. And if we consider they look identical to the X28A that was posted earlier in the topic (and this coming from a book that involved some kind of research, not just a Popular Mechanics item), then maybe the X27A WAS the swept-wing bird found by our distinguished forum member...


Any thoughts/comments/leads would be appreciated!
 

Attachments

  • 27A_01.jpg
    27A_01.jpg
    828.4 KB · Views: 168
  • 27A_08.jpg
    27A_08.jpg
    221.3 KB · Views: 12
  • 27A_07.jpg
    27A_07.jpg
    272.3 KB · Views: 13
  • 27A_06.jpg
    27A_06.jpg
    203.4 KB · Views: 15
  • 27A_05.jpg
    27A_05.jpg
    268.3 KB · Views: 101
  • 27A_04.jpg
    27A_04.jpg
    282.8 KB · Views: 106
  • 27A_03.jpg
    27A_03.jpg
    153.8 KB · Views: 117
  • 27A_02.jpg
    27A_02.jpg
    242.3 KB · Views: 130

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,225
Reaction score
804
More photos showing some details, especially the wings, some fuse markings, and finally an aerial view from Google Earth showing the wreck in context:
 

Attachments

  • 27A_aerial_view.jpg
    27A_aerial_view.jpg
    498.4 KB · Views: 25
  • 27A_15.jpg
    27A_15.jpg
    170.7 KB · Views: 14
  • 27A_14.jpg
    27A_14.jpg
    143.8 KB · Views: 9
  • 27A_13.jpg
    27A_13.jpg
    185.7 KB · Views: 12
  • 27A_12.jpg
    27A_12.jpg
    129.7 KB · Views: 14
  • 27A_11.jpg
    27A_11.jpg
    141.9 KB · Views: 15
  • 27A_10.jpg
    27A_10.jpg
    160.4 KB · Views: 13
  • 27A_09.jpg
    27A_09.jpg
    194.2 KB · Views: 7

SgtX

Bingo was really the farmer, not the dog.
Joined
Jul 18, 2013
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Ha! Chapaeux, Stephane+Bill S+Kadija_Man+Del!

Alerted by a fellow GE Military earth-watcher, I go out to this fuselage and wing section of this craft on the Eglin reservation. I steal the ID plate. I *still* have no idea what it is.

I correspond with Stargaze/Stephane, who posts the photos I took, and I agree with his reasoning that it cannot be the hoped-for X-27A.

Then, Kadija_Man's question about what could tow any target at those speeds, and then Bill S's and Del's questions about the B-45, reminded me about the storied history of the B-47 at the Eglin Armament Museum. It's 53-4296, and is basically a reconversion of a conversion (with an F-111 nose!) of a RB-47. So, get this, I remember hearing that it had been involved in target towing, but find no record of that.

Further, thinking of the aforementioned follow-on speculation of the other members, and perhaps linking with the "SAC" on the "customer inspection" section of the data plate, I started wondering about how similar a B-45 (which were at Eglin, briefly, for armament tests) and the B-47 would look in a "sketch," that Bill S remembers seeing. They are fairly similar, although almost a cross between those and a *B-57*. (The history of the B-57 at the museum I haven't looked into [because I forgot to stop by on my way home and get its tail and S/N], but, inspired by everybody else's lines of thinking, I found this:)

MB-3 "Red Bird"

Go here: http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675022544_Boeing-B-47-Stratojet-bomber_F-84-Thunderjet_MB-3-Red-Bird_Northrop-F-89-Scorpion

Sans goofy tall tail, this HAS to be it. I saw no remnant of red paint during my initial (and hurried) visit, but I'm going back there tomorrow or Sunday, and I'll flip it over.

Note the unique nose oleo/strut. In the criticalpast film, you can see the two drop-shaped bulbs on stalks. These are attached to the upper side of the nose/gear assembly, and, in the photo of that piece in the woods (with my boot in it), you can perhaps see where they attach, opposite of the strut half of the "cone". At any rate, both of these (which really look like counterweights for control surfaces) are near the wreck.

I shall report back at my earliest convenience. If the Eglin museum was run with any damn interest in the less-than-obvious history of Eglin's testing, I'd involve them. But, as they showed completely NO interest in the fact that an acquaintance of mine had found and POSITIVELY identified the VERY ENGINE at the crash site of the A-17 that LtCol Fredrick Eglin was flying when he crashed--and was killed--in southern Alabama, I don't even want to trust them with the knowledge of the find.

D'accord. We have a new lead: MB-3 Red Bird. (MB= Martin Baker?!?!) Get to it, boys!

Great work so far, too!

Warm regards,
Sgt X
 

_Del_

I really should change my personal text... Or not.
Joined
Jan 4, 2012
Messages
655
Reaction score
459
That has to be it! Impressive!


Edit -- Found another reference:
http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/55741914/
25 APR 1957
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla (UP)--A "Red Bird" tow target broke from an F89 Scorpion net from Eglin Air Force Base late Wednesday and struck a home, almost demolishing the dwelling and slightly injuring a housewife. Authorities said the target, a miniature plane with a 20- foot wingspread, broke from its tow cable at 16,000 feet and slammed into the $15,000 ,home at Mary Esther, Fla, near here Mrs R. E. Smith, about 25, was treated at the Eglin Base Hospital for shock and for cuts from flying glass. Then she and her husband were given quarters at Eglin because their home was too badly damaged to occupy
 

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,225
Reaction score
804
WOW! Bingo!


First time I've heard of it. Congratulations, SgtX!


Here is an item from WESTCHESTER COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 1956:
 

Attachments

  • Redbird.jpg
    Redbird.jpg
    108 KB · Views: 51

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,225
Reaction score
804
Mention in the USAF data cards:
http://airforcehistoryindex.org/data/001/030/944.xml
 

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,225
Reaction score
804
The story of the "Red Bird" is slowly shaping up. I'm preparing a post with a lot more detail for early this coming week.
 

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,225
Reaction score
804
The whole story behind the development of the Red Bird, from Aviation Week & Space Technology, 1953 (number unknown):

EGLIN

Red Birds—There has been one problem in the use of towed targets for firing tests: The targets often disintegrate before they are shot at. This was discouraging, and so the Electro mechanical Branch of the lab was asked to look into the situation.

The Center had been using the A-1 target, a Vee-tailed midwing monoplane with a Vee-shaped towing arm. These could be towed at Mach 0.6 above 30,000 ft. only on rare occasions; more often, they came apart. A modification program produced no great improvement.

The basic faults were instabilities resulting in oscillations. After a series of tests to isolate some of these and to observe them, the engineers in the EM Branch developed a mockup of a redesign which they thought would do the required job.

What they did was to take the standard target, and sweep its wings back at a 45-deg. angle, by cutting out a wedge at the trailing edge and making a fairing for the leading edge. Then they chopped off one of the Vee-tails and rotated the other on the fuselage to a vertical position. The result was the Red Bird, a trim modern-looking tow target.

After three flight tests, the Branch got the go-ahead to produce a few experimental versions. The targets have performed up to the limits of Mach 0.82 and 42,000 ft., imposed by the particular type of Republic F-84 Thunderjet used for tow planes. A production contract for the new Red Bird has been let to East Coast Aeronautics.

The once-considered connection between the MB-3 and the Vought X-27A was not so silly after all. See the description of the Army's A-1 target from the above text: straight wings, vee-tails and a vee-shaped towing arm... Sounds pretty much like the MB-3 Red Bird (already identified in SgtX's photos as the Model 27A" and found to have been the Navy's "Aero 27A") may have been an Air Force variant of the Vought X-27A...



Also from Aviation Week & Space Technology in 1957, a short but very interesting description of the program's success:

East Coast's Red Bird tow target has been sold to Liberty Aircraft, Farmingdale, N. Y., a subsidiary of the Penn-Texas Corp and its fuel filler (can?) business has been sold to Federal Manufacturing and Engineering Co., Garden City, N. Y. The Redbird tow target was one of East Coast's most successful projects. Fifty were built for USAF and a few more for the French and other NAP countries.



As a footnote, more about the company:

East Coast Aeronautics, Inc., Mount Vernon, N. Y.
A subsidiary of Barium Steel Corporation.

  • In the mid-1940s, the company built two Lockheed XF-80C Shooting Stars almost entirely of magnesium alloy as an experiment in weight reduction.
  • They also developed arctic shelters and elongated spherical shelters for the F-80 (source: https://archive.org/stream/catalogofcopyri391libr/catalogofcopyri391libr_djvu.txt).
  • In the mid-1950s, they were deeply involved in the development and construction of the Loki anti-aircraft weapon (based on the German Taifun), especially the motor and heads (see: http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADA434200).
  • In the late 1950s, they were one of the many subcontractors who built parts for the Beechcraft T-34A Mentor.
  • They were also contracted to build Australian Jindivik pilotless target under license for U.S. armed services.
 

Attachments

  • AF To Test New Plane.jpg
    AF To Test New Plane.jpg
    88.2 KB · Views: 6
  • Loki.jpg
    Loki.jpg
    50.1 KB · Views: 6
  • Jindivik.jpg
    Jindivik.jpg
    49.3 KB · Views: 6
  • Aero 27A caption.jpg
    Aero 27A caption.jpg
    8.9 KB · Views: 6

SgtX

Bingo was really the farmer, not the dog.
Joined
Jul 18, 2013
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Latest update from Eglin:

I rudely forgot to mention by name the ORIGINAL finder of this odd beast--Bill/"bilmodel" on Google Earth's military forum--who does a great job of scouring the local (to me) area, and really scored this time. It's a great international and wide-ranging forum, and I recommend it.

And, _Del_, thanks for that newspaper article, as tomorrow I'm going to the very house (well, one of four possible houses in Mary Esther) that the beast landed in (from my research, I'm realizing that this wasn't THAT rare of an occurence during the heydays of Eglin and Hurlburt). My contact--an ancient man and lifelong resident of Mary Esther--remembers the incident, and believes relatives still live in the house.

So, I'm going a-knocking! I MUST have a copy of any of the photos that I'm sure must have been taken of this shot-up drone sticking out of the kitchen window.

Regards,
SgtX
 

_Del_

I really should change my personal text... Or not.
Joined
Jan 4, 2012
Messages
655
Reaction score
459
I definitely want to hear the update to that story! :D
 

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,225
Reaction score
804
SgtX said:
I MUST have a copy of any of the photos that I'm sure must have been taken of this shot-up drone sticking out of the kitchen window.


Cool! As this was the 1950s there is a remote chance that such pics might still exist. I'm sure if the same thing happened today, you'd get military police closing all the roads of the area 50 miles from there and various agencies visiting the houses, confiscating all cameras and strongly suggesting that nothing happened...
 

Similar threads

Top