Opposing Archangel: Bell System 118P


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5 April 2006
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A mystery project (a mystery to me, at any rate) is Bell's "Weapon System 118P." What few references can be found about it generally put it in with boMi and RoBo (sub-orbital manned recon/bombardment systems... predecessors of Dyna Soar). However, several photos of display/wind tunnel models of “Special Reconnaissance Airplane Weapon System 118P” have come to light, including:

This shows what is clearly an airbreathing manned vehicle intended for high speed. For a long while, this photo and a bunch of references to documents dated 1956 held by the DTIC (a FOIA request for them having been made in May, 2006.... STILL waiting) was the only hard evidence.

On my recent trip to the Niagara Aerospace Museum, I got to dig through their archives. It's a randomized jumble. But there I found several more photos, shown below. These show the same vehicle. No real data as yet, just the images (which were filed incorrectly... you go looking for them, you won't find them. I found them purely by accident). But it *sure* looks like somethign meant to fullfill the same role as the SR-71. Could it have been a little-mentioned competitor to the A-11 and Kingfish? I can't say, but it doesn;t seem unreasonable.

[added individual pics - Overscan]


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No dimensional data is as yet available, but it certainly appears to be a sizable beast. Given the somewhat bulbous nature of the fuselage... it *might* be a Bell equivalent of Suntan.
Oh, I remember this stuff from one old Scott's battle with conspiracy idioits at ATS forum)
Scott, what is drop-shaped object in a box? Stand detail?
I think these quotes are interesting:

The primary objective of this study is to conduct analytical investigations and design studies of a weapon system which adapts the MX-2276 concept to satisfy or exceed the criteria presented by Development Requirements, System No. 118P.

A weapon system to satisfy the military requirements of System No. 118P has been investigated. The system consists of a rocket boosted airplane which achieves its range from a hypersonic glide. Preliminary analyses indicate that such a weapon system is a feasible means of attaining, and in some instances exceeding the desired military requirements. The weapon system is an adaptation of the MX-2276 basic concept.

BAC was awarded an extension of AF contract 33(616)-2419 (Supplemental Agreement 2 (56-284)) to determine the applicability of the MX-2276 concept with respect to Systems Requirement 118P. Both analytical investigations and design studies were to be made.

A. Military Requirements.,
The military requirements for a piloted special reconnaissance weapon system for use in tactical and strategic reconnaissance operations as outlined in Development Requirements System No. 118P are listed below.

1. Operational Features
a. Capabilities of daylight photography, high order ferret, and high resolution radar reconnaissance are required
b. Maximum survival in the air by high flight altitudes and low detectability is required.
c. A high degree of -weapon system reliability is required
d. Capability of take-off, penetration and recovery under poor weather conditions is required
e. Operational availability in the 1960-1965 time period is required.

2. Performance Objectives
a. Basic mission combat zone altitude is l00,000 feet, with 150,000 feet desired.
b. Basic mission radius is 1500 nautical miles, with 2000 nautical miles desired. An alternate permissible mission is one having a
total range of 3000 nautical miles, with 4000 nautical miles desired.22765
c. Penetration speed will be the maximum possible. However, altitude and radius are of greater importance.

These make it clear that 118P was a requirement for a manned high altitude/high speed reconnaissance aircraft for the Air Force. Studies were made of adapting the existing MX-2276 design in order to fill the requirement; it seems likely therefore the 118P model depicted above was a separate study towards meeting 118P, and not necessarily connected at all to MX-2276.

Date of this report is 1 Dec 1955.

Looking at Miller and Goodall's SR-71 Aerofax for Lockheed Suntan stuff, this ties in timelinewise with the Air Force requirement the Rex engine and Lockheed's CL-325 was aimed at. Lockheed Skunk Works completed the CL-325-1and CL-325-2 study in January 1956.

Their belief that the proposed aircraft would be a high-altitude, long range subsonic design had been mistaken; the Air Force contract called for a supersonic aircraft... with range of secondary importance"
You could make the huge assumption that the Bell 118P design used 4 of the Rex III engines.

Characteristics of CL-325-1 Hydrogen-Fueled Airplane


Length, m: 46.73
Wing span, m: 24.35
Height, m: 8.71
Wing area, sq. m: 209
Wing aspect ratio 2.5

Mass, kg
Take-off 20,731
Landing 11,486
Empty 13,352
Payload 680
Liquid hydrogen 6,553

Number: 2
Type: Rex III
Thrust, each engine, take-off and climb, N 20,016
Rated thrust, each engine, at 30 500m, N 16,680

Take-off distance, m 1,402
Rate of climb at sea-level, m/s 8.9
Equivalent air speed during climb, m/s 79
Cruise Mach number 2.25
Radius (to target), km: 2,797
Climb and descent distance, km: 556
Landing distance, m 640
Stall speed at landing, m/s 37


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Note that the CL-325 design radius is just a few km longer than the 1500 nm requirement of 118P.

here is anther liquid hydrogen bombers and aircraft;two bombers for Circa 1955,
one was supersonic and the other was subsonic,also the CL-400 with LH2.



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Bell WS-118P proposal model -- this time, it's out of the suitcase.


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here is anther drawings to liquid hydrogen-fueled bomber,and a supersonic fighter
version,that's new.



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