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16 January 2008
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On the subject of US flying bomb projects, from Splendid Vision, Unswerving Purpose:Developing Air Power For The United States Air Force During The First Century Of Powered Flight, I learned about another flying bomb project, Project Brass Ring.

I did a Google search and, well, here you go:

From 'Boeing's B-47 Stratojet', Alwyn T.Lloyd, pp 206-7 :-


Early testing of hydrogen bombs began in 1949. Knowledge of the capabilities of the delivery systems extant during that period indicated that it would be extremely difficult for a manned bomber to deliver such a weapon and make a successful exit from the target area. It would be a number of years before a missile capable of delivering such weapons would be developed. Under Project BRASS RING, thoughts turned to an unmanned bomber, with the logical choice being the B-47.

Two terminal flight scenarios were conceived. The first envisioned the aircraft being flown by a crew who would bailout over friendly territory and allow the B-47 to continue on to the target. This thinking obviously came from 'Project APHRODITE' in which B-17s and B-24s loaded with explosive were launched at german targets in France. The wartime project was only marginally successful, however. The second idea was to control the B-47 "bomb" with a second, manned B-47 controller aircraft.

A decision in early 1950 called for one B-47A to be converted into a director aircraft with the designation DB-47A. In addition, two B-47Bs would be converted into MB-47 delivery systems. This was called Project BRASS RING.

The MB-47 was to have a highly sophisticated navigation and flight control system. While Boeing developed the requirements, North American Aviation was awarded a contract to develop the equipment.
[My note; does this have anything to do with the F-86 'missile' here :-


or the B-45 'missile' on OBB's blog?]

Design requirements were for the navigation system to be fully automatic, non-jammable, and have precise accuracy. Unfortunately, the North American project had continual developmental problems, and after the expenditure of $850,000, it was cancelled in mid-1952. The Air Force turned next to Sperry Gyroscope, and this system was ultimately worked after an expenditure of some $2.3 million.

With the remote flight control and stabilization equipment installed, the MB-47 made its first flight on 7 May 1952. By 30 June 1952 both the MB-47 and its DB-47 A director had conducted several test flights with rewarding results. However, forecast costs for the program rose from $4.9 million to $10.3 million in 1952.

Fortunately, while the MB-47 development program struggled, it was learned that the B-36 would be perfectly capable of dropping a thermonuclear weapon with an appropriate parachute retarding system. The advantages of BRASS RING were further eroded by the acquisition of operating bases in England, Spain, and Morocco. Despite efforts by WADC to continue the program, the Air Staff terminated Project BRASS RING on 1 April 1953.-


The idea would not go away, however. In August 1966 the Air Force investigated Project WEARY WILLIE II (the name derived from the WEARY WILLIE missions during World War II as part of Project APHRODITE). This project involved using an unmanned QB-47 drone to attack hard targets. In preliminary trials under Project SOD BUSTER, an off-the-shelf television camera and zoom lens were installed in the nose of a QB-47 and used to transmit video to a DF-100F drone director whose back-seater was flying the Stratojet. The project evaluated the distances achievable between the drone and director aircraft, and also the accuracies that could be expected during an attack. The perceived uses of this combination were against well-defended targets in North Vietnam, such as the Thanh Hoa Bridge.

It was found that the QB-47 could acquire a target with the television camera at distances of approximately 10 miles, and that the director aircraft could follow about 15 miles behind, although distances as great as 50 miles were demonstrated.

The Air Force anticipated filling some of the B-47 fuel cells with the same slurry-type explosive used in mining operations. Approximately 35,000 pounds of the slurry could be carried without unduly compromising the range of the B-47. Sandia National Laboratory would provide a fusing system derived from the nuclear program. The estimated cost of the television and telemetry systems was $150,000, and QB-47s could be modified from retired aircraft for $514,000 each. Assuming a single QB-47 could destroy a target such as the Thanh Hoa Bridge, it would be much more cost effective than attacking the bridge with F-105s. The Air Force estimated that to ensure a 0.85-probability of killing the bridge, a total of 140 2,0000 pound bombs would need to be dropped. This would require 73 F -105 sorties, resulting in the loss of three Thunderchiefs and their pilots. The total cost for the mission (excluding the human cost) would be $9,610,280, versus $664,000 for a single QB-47.

Despite the seemingly good economics, the program was not pursued further and no QB-47s were used against North Vietnam. "


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