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I found two Lockheed projects to start the topic

Source: Avion (magazine) January 1959

No more information given ???


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I`m not sure Matej ???

In that magazine both pics are shown in the news section and the only text below it is "Lockheed Nuclear Projects". Any help to identify it will be welcome

The illustrations shown us by Pometabla' appeared also in
'Au dela du Ciel' of January 1960.
Illustrating two nuclear powered design conceived by Lockheed.
One civilian ,with the foreplanes, and one for military purposes.

The military aircraft was one of the preliminary
studies in 1949 for a nuclear powered bomber by Lockheed-California
under their TDD designations CL-225-263-284-286-293-313
and 319.
The research was then transferred to Lockheed-Georgia where
work was done to meet the requirements of the USAF Weapon
System 125 under a variety of TDD designations
beginning with GL-145.

Several sources but mainly:Lockheed Aircraft since 1913.
René Francillon - Putnam. 1987.
Nuclear powered aircrafts are a little studied topic. In particular, we lack a comprehensive review of all the actvities done by aircraft and engine manufacturers. Lockeed and Convair are well known for having being interested, but other manufacturers were involved as well. Fairchild (the orginal one, not Republic) was in the early NEPA study,, and even Hughes had some projects (probably based on the H-4 ?) And then naturally there is the late (1959) Martin studies for a nuclear powered seaplane (seaplanes, preferibly big ones, one of my passions, d'ya notice ;D ) Boeing did extensive studies, too.
Speaking about Martin...

There's an illustration of the Martin 331 nuclear powered
derivative of the Seamaster on the site of AAHS journal...
Two other examples for aircraft with nuclear propulsion:

1. A 1950s helicopter by Bell (the same problems to protect the passengers against the radiation in this two-deck configuration). (Source: „Hubschrauber und Vertikalstartflugzeuge“ by Just)

2. A Lockheed heavy-lift transport with a range reaching ‘round the earth’, shown in the “Flug Revue” 9/1978.

Has anybody an idea of the model numbers?


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Hi lark

If it is possible, please show us from book Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913: Appendices: A (Lockheed aircraft model designations).
O.K devi,

I send the ' L' list to my Friend Pometabla' and he will put it on the
'designation' file.

For the reccord. Only the complete L list is in the book.No CL nor Gl numbers.
(these lists must be endless...)
The L list doesn't include the projects by the Vega division, too.
Indeed .

The list contains only Lockheed basic model numbers
starting with model 1 on to model 99 , a USAF interceptor fighter
project who was cancelled in 1951.
Just found, when I was searching something totally different :
Proposals for nuclear powered cargo seaplanes, either with turboprops,
or turbofans, made by J.F.Brady, engineer at Convair Division of General
Dynamics Corporation.
(from :AviationWeek, 4/1960


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From the opposite side of the "iron wall" - some not very often seen installations of nuclear reactors on Myasischev M-30 and Tupolev Tu-114.

It was published in article The atomic aircraft: Future in the passed time by A. Y. Sovenko in Aviation and time magazine, 3 and 4/2004.


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Just received the marvellous Stan Piet and al's "Seamaster" by Martineer Press.... Some VERY interesting nuclear powered seaplanes there... Just wait till this night, gentlemen.. (a Nuclear Princess model photo, too...)
This is Model 331-6, from first half of 1956. It was leghtned to house the new version of the GE AC-110 reactor with turbojet integrated in the reactor frame. From Stan Piet's "P6M".


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A project based on Lockheed C-130 as nuclear powered and jet engines
transport aircraft.


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the Lockheed also designed a nuclear powered aircraft,the L-125,
L-195 and L-212,I don't rtemember the site which mentioned
that info now,I will search about it,but has anyone a more info
about them ?.
Please see the Prototypes site about nuclear powered aircraft.


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I've often wondered how these nuclear aircraft were meant to work (or rather their engines). How does a nuclear jet engine work? Surely it would spew radiation all over the countryside?
rickshaw said:
I've often wondered how these nuclear aircraft were meant to work (or rather their engines). How does a nuclear jet engine work?

Simplest version: nuclear ramjet. In short, air is fed into a reactor, a reactor which is real close to meltdown. The air serves as coolant for the reactor, in the process getting very hot. The heated air is expelled directly, producing thrust. In essense, the heat from the reactor replaces the heat from normal ramjet combustion.

Turbojet version, simple: similar as above, but instead of providing direct thrust, the heated air is blown past a turbine, with the reactor takign the place of regular burner cans in a turbojet. The turbine then provides mechanical power to run a conpressor and/or an extenal propellor (nuclear turboprop).

Turbojet version, complex: A heat exchanger is placed between the air and the reactor. The reactor is now cooled with some fluid - compressed helium, lithium, various salts, etc. - and the now-heated fluid in turn heats the air. The fluid and the air do not come into direct contact; fluid is contained within metal tubes (like the coolant in a regular car engine, just vastly hotter).

Surely it would spew radiation all over the countryside?

In direct cycle engines, like the first two described above, yes. In indirect cycle engines, no. The reactor is still hot and emits gamma rays and neutrons, but does not emit radioactive exhaust.
There have been nuclear UAV studies quite recently. It's not as crazy as you think. First, there's no crew to be protected from long-term exposure a few feet from the reactor. Second, you can use jet fuel to climb to altitude before turning up the teakettle, so you need less shielding around the engine. Third, you can actually exploit the nuc's advantage: unlimited endurance.
Since such high glide ratio UAV:s could get by with relatively little power, I wonder if a nuclear battery could work instead of a reactor. There are already solar UAV:s in the works.
Some nuclear materials glow even red hot by themselves. You could probably build it to survive a crash without spreading the radioactive material around. A jet, fan or a stirling engine prop might be the best way to extract power.

Good pictures in that last post. I have to add that the third and fourth pictures of the Northrop proposal were in my copy of 1958 AIR PROGRESS annual. It was good to see them again
I don't think the nuclear aircraft idea would have been successful

Nuclear cores seems don't transfer very well the heat to the medium, because the heat is absorved by the fuel/moderator mass, 1000-1500ºC would have been the best transfered temperature, not very good for a jet propulsion concept

Maybe for some kind of turboprop with steam cycle (or some kind of gas using stirling cycle) would have worked
the major point is that nuclear powered aircraft will crash like other aircraft also

only that this more a chernobyl like disaster...
"the major point is that nuclear powered aircraft will crash like other aircraft also"

That's right and it will protests from many people ... if they know ! If not, then not ...
And remember, several satellites were using radioactive material, too, an sooner or later,
they all come back.
LowObservbles point is correct, I think : A nuclear powered UAV could cruise for very long
periods over an area and, if small and stealthy enough, nobody will notice. And even better :
If it comes down, there's no crew for interrogation. So, if this type it wasn't made public,
It would be quite deniable ! Who ? Me ?? ;D
fightingirish said:
5 years ago, there was a discussion about a "quantum nucleonic reactor powered Global Hawk".
Source: New Scientist - 19th February 2003 - Nuclear-powered drone aircraft on drawing board

It's a pity that the hafnium isomer nuclear battery concept turned out to be bunk. It's a neat neat... zap a hafnium isomer with Xrays and the isomer will release up to 60 times the energy; shut the Xrays off and the reaction stops, and you're left with a *non*radioactive chunk of metal. Tur the Xrays back on and it starts up again. A wonderful concept. That nobody was able to replicate. Sigh... more "cold fusion."
t's a pity that the hafnium isomer nuclear battery concept turned out to be bunk.

that sad, i like the idea
lets put to rest of "flash in pan stuff"
like E-115, Cold fusion and Nazi UFO engine...

has Anti Matter power Jet Engine still a intrest at USAF ?
The site you mentioned is incorrect about the designations for the nuclear powered projects.
For exemple L-212 was a bomber crew training variant of the L-12 Electra Junior...
From Aviation Week october 1967, concepts studied by the USAF.As the article says,
mainly to analyze roles, nuclear powered aircraft could be used for.


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Hi Orionblamblam,

can you name the other air craft in your picture? ???

Thanks and Servus

Yes indeed , L-212 is mentiond in Bill Slayton's list (AAHS) as a nuclear powered design
but model 212 -as a 12 derivative- is mentioned in Lockheed Aircraft since 1913-Putnam.R.J.Francillon.
Could be confusion between 'L" and "Model" ....
I wonder if radioisotope thermoelectric generators were considered as propulsion systems, maybe for light UAVs?
Spring said:
I wonder if radioisotope thermoelectric generators were considered as propulsion systems, maybe for light UAVs?

You'd have to be insane to do so. Power output of RTG is measured comfortably in *watts.* Not kilowatts, not megawatts.... just watts. Cassini's RTG, for example, has an electrical power output of 300 watts/thermal output of 4400 watts, and weighs more than 50 kg. The engine of a light aircraft can be assumed to have a power output measured in hundreds of kilowatts, and would weight roughly the same as the RTG.

RTG's make great long-lived batteries... but their power to weight ratio sucks.

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