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Spey Engined Super/Super Strike Phantoms

Delta Force

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I'm wondering if a second generation Phantom (a Super Phantom) could have been procured for the USN instead of the Hornet, as posters on another forum have suggested that Spey Phantoms could have been developed into something at the very least comparable to the Hornet. The Phantom already had a payload superior to the Hornet, and it was suggested that the Spey could be developed to provide 25,000 lbf. Additionally, a conformal fuel tank capable of carrying missiles and chaff in forward/rear bays were developed for the aircraft under a USN contract sometime in the 1970s, which could have freed up the wing pylons ordinarily used by drop tanks. More modern avionics could have been equipped, and a Strike Phantom could have been developed with a targeting pod and reinforced airframe for strike operations, a role in which many Phantoms were retired to as they aged out of the interception role. Additionally, the design could be revised with improved pilot, WSO, and ground crew ergonomics in mind, as well as maintainability and reliability. Some of the pilot and WSO controls and gauges were placed in awkward locations, and I've heard that the Spey engines on the Buccaneer and British Spey Phantoms took a day to replace. Since the design is being revised anyways (the Phantom/Super Phantom relationship likely being akin to that of the Hornet and Super Hornet) fly by wire systems and perhaps even canards could be equipped to improve performance.
 

alertken

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Turkey and Israel would do remarkable things with the Sledgehammer...because they had the platform and the in-house capability to add to it. But go back to 1965, Vietnam causing floods of Now! kit, which we are all surprised to find brings out virtues in F-4s, pain in F-105, later F-111A. DoD did not know what they had in F-4 until it stood up and said, Hey, lookee here! Instead they assumed that a 1953-designed platform would not be the best basis for >1965 kit, especially the galloping techno of (to be digital) avionics. So, they contract McDonnell for USAF (to be) F-15 and do not wish to dilute that effort by total re-jig of the in-production type. Nor did USN care to forego shiny new: they succeeded 7/68, in displacing Grumman F-111B for Grumman F-14A: your Q should really be: why did not USN encourage a Super-Toom instead?

Well, they secured shiny new because pols were willing to pay for it.

(Remember Hornet began as Northrop's contender for the light, cheap (=expendable) agile, dash-type, son-of-F-5E, won, largely, by F-16.)
 

Delta Force

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I was thinking more of having the second generation Super Phantoms take over the strike role of the A-4, F-105, and other aircraft around the same time as the new fighter/interceptors (F-14 and F-15) take over the role of the Phantom.
 

pathology_doc

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I read somewhere that the Spey Phantoms are the slowest and heaviest with the highest drag, even though they have the greatest net thrust and bring-back capability for unexpended ordnance. Is it really the ideal Phantom platform for modification to a dedicated strike role? (Also, are you planning to give up the AAMs as part of that, thus gaining 2000lb of extra payload at a stroke, or are they going to be retained in a self-defence capacity?)
 

JFC Fuller

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Spey Phantoms were faster down low, had better range and a shorter take off run. They did however have worse altitude performance. However, as the RAF Phantoms were intended originally as tactical fighters for the non-UK RAF air forces rather than as interceptors this was arguably a good thing. The Spey engine for the Phantom had some pretty severe early development problems though.
 

Delta Force

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The Spey is more suitable than the J79 for lower altitude operations and short field performance. It also has more room for improvement and can put out tremendous thrust: around 15,000 lbf dry (as seen with the Allison TF41 used on the A-7D), and 25,000 lbf afterburning (as planned on the Spey Mk. 205). I can't find the loaded weight for the F-4K, but I have found that the the F-4K had an empty weight of 31,000 pounds compared to 30,330 for the F-4E. The F-4K likely had a loaded weight of around 42,000 pounds based on the 41,500 pound loaded weight of the F-4E. That gives a potential loaded thrust to weight ratio of 1.19 for a Spey Super Phantom, better than seen on the F-15 Eagle and excellent for a strike aircraft.

I'm simply using that as a point of comparison. The Super Phantom would be procured as a multirole aircraft for the USN instead of the Hornet, and it would be offered for sale to foreign nations unable to win approval for more advanced aircraft such as the F-14, F-15, and F-111. The markets that were willing and able to purchase the F-15 were quite limited compared to potential F-4 operators. Providing the improvements on a refreshed design would reduce cannibalization of future sales.
 

F-14D

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Although the Phantom was unquestionably Phabulous, here would be little value to the USN in developing a Super Phantom using Spey. Although its higher thrust did benefit the F-4 down low, the increased drag at medium and high altitudes negated the gains and the J79 Phantoms actually outperformed the Spey ones in those situations. Plus, you're adding a whole new engine not used anywhere else in the US to the supportability and logistics chain. Just adding thrust without updating other systems, improving maintainability (there was a reason that one of its nicknames was "The Beast")and making aerodynamic and fuselage changes to take advantage of the thrust would mean you'd end up with simply a noisier Phantom. Making those changes would be very expensive. Not to be overlooked is the reality that some members of Congress would use work on a Super Phantom as a rationale for killing the far superior F-14. USAF faces a similar situation; they didn't want too much more development going into the F-4 lest that be used as an excuse to kill the F-15. As an alternative to the Congressionally imposed Hornet, a better and probably cheaper choice would have been to continue with the F-14 into the original F-14B & C series (If they could have gotten the F401 to work) and move forward with the A-7X, the latter aircraft discussed elsewhere in this forum.

As far as exports go, of the aircraft listed there was no export interest, except for a country with Australia's needs, for the F-111. It wasn't that other nations couldn't afford the F-14, it's that except for Iran (where we wanted the Shah's cash to overcome a funding shortfall early in the Tomcat program), we wouldn't allow any other nation to buy the F-14. In any case, it would become an issue of cost vs. benefit for vastly reworking the F-4. A princely sum would be needed to produce a true Super Phantom and who would fund that? And of course Dassault was out there with a whole family of modern Mirages which might be cheaper to buy and operate than a vastly updated Phantom.

Boeing partnered with Pratt for a Super Phantom powered by two PW1120s (which would have been a much better choice than the Spey), but abandoned it early in the program when they saw what it would cost and how small the market would be. Similarly, Israel built and flew a prototype of their Super Phantom 2000 using the PW1120 but abandoned it because of the cost, a withdrawl of support by MDD and the fact that they could buy F15s and -16s which gave them more bang for the buck.
 

Delta Force

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F-14D said:
Although the Phantom was unquestionably Phabulous, here would be little value to the USN in developing a Super Phantom using Spey. Although its higher thrust did benefit the F-4 down low, the increased drag at medium and high altitudes negated the gains and the J79 Phantoms actually outperformed the Spey ones in those situations. Plus, you're adding a whole new engine not used anywhere else in the US to the supportability and logistics chain.
The A-7D used the Allison TF41, an Americanized Spey. Are you thinking more along the lines of a Strike Phantom procurement leading to no A-7D?

Just adding thrust without updating other systems, improving maintainability (there was a reason that one of its nicknames was "The Beast")and making aerodynamic and fuselage changes to take advantage of the thrust would mean you'd end up with simply a noisier Phantom. Making those changes would be very expensive.
I was thinking the F-4K design could be used as the basis for the design. Also, modernizing an existing design tends to be cheaper and quicker to develop than a fresh sheet design, and allows some existing machinery and competencies to be reused. I don't know how difficult it would be to improve maintainability, but I think cockpit ergonomics might not be as difficult to improve. McDonnell Douglas could use research developed for the F-15 program to assist in that effort.

Not to be overlooked is the reality that some members of Congress would use work on a Super Phantom as a rationale for killing the far superior F-14.
I suppose that could be a risk. After all, the Phantom started as a fighter/interceptor and only later was moved into more strike oriented roles as newer fighter/interceptors entered service. I don't know if the Phantom could be modified to use the AWG-9/Phoenix combination though, although I think the F-4L would was proposed as a Spey powered AWG-9/Phoenix missile variant.

USAF faces a similar situation; they didn't want too much more development going into the F-4 lest that be used as an excuse to kill the F-15.
The F-15 is far more maneuverable than the F-4, although perhaps the USAF could push for an improved F-15 baseline design featuring canards and 2D thrust vectoring. The Super/Strike Phantom could lead to a better Eagle.

As an alternative to the Congressionally imposed Hornet, a better and probably cheaper choice would have been to continue with the F-14 into the original F-14B & C series (If they could have gotten the F401 to work) and move forward with the A-7X, the latter aircraft discussed elsewhere in this forum.
Reading up on the F-14, it looks like the program was derailed for about twenty years. The F-14D sounds like what the F-14B/C were supposed to be sometime in the 1970s. I didn't know that the TF30 was only supposed to be an interim engine, but it explains why something that posed so many headaches during the F-111 program was selected for the F-14. It was only intended as an early/pre-production engine.

The A-7X is quite interesting too, but I haven't been able to find much about its avionics fit and how it would have performed in aerial combat.

As far as exports go, of the aircraft listed there was no export interest, except for a country with Australia's needs, for the F-111.
It's rumored that the Shah inquired about purchasing the F-111 sometime in the late 1960s/early 1970s, but was told to ask again later due to the problems the program was having. Of course, there was also the British order to replace the cancelled TSR-2 that was itself canceled.

It wasn't that other nations couldn't afford the F-14, it's that except for Iran (where we wanted the Shah's cash to overcome a funding shortfall early in the Tomcat program), we wouldn't allow any other nation to buy the F-14.
Canada, Germany, and Japan gave the F-14 serious consideration in the 1970s. The United Kingdom probably could have purchased the F-14 as well, although the Panavia Tornado was a vital program for the British aerospace industry.

In any case, it would become an issue of cost vs. benefit for vastly reworking the F-4. A princely sum would be needed to produce a true Super Phantom and who would fund that? And of course Dassault was out there with a whole family of modern Mirages which might be cheaper to buy and operate than a vastly updated Phantom.

Boeing partnered with Pratt for a Super Phantom powered by two PW1120s (which would have been a much better choice than the Spey), but abandoned it early in the program when they saw what it would cost and how small the market would be. Similarly, Israel built and flew a prototype of their Super Phantom 2000 using the PW1120 but abandoned it because of the cost, a withdrawl of support by MDD and the fact that they could buy F15s and -16s which gave them more bang for the buck.
That's why I was thinking more late 1960s/early 1970s for the program. While the historical Super Phantom proposals were interesting, the airframes were beginning to show their age by the time the 1980s proposals were made, and they would have been more along the lines of interim options.

The last American F-4 was produced in 1979 though, so it's more unusual that there was essentially a design freeze on the Phantom during a period of rapid development in avionics, engines, and other technologies. McDonnell Douglas might have been able to sale new aircraft and/or upgrade packages if it had developed them as an official manufacturer upgrade in the 1970s.
 

pathology_doc

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F-14D said:
...a whole family of modern Mirages which might be cheaper to buy and operate than a vastly updated Phantom.

...Similarly, Israel built and flew a prototype of their Super Phantom 2000 using the PW1120 but abandoned it because of the cost, a withdrawal of support by MDD and the fact that they could buy F15s and -16s which gave them more bang for the buck.

Seems like they tried to do with the Phantom what they'd done turning the Mirage into the Kfir, but found it was a different kettle of fish given the factors you'd mentioned. I always wondered what happened to the Super Phantom.
 
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