TR-3 My Impression

The Artist

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This acrylic painting was developed from the information and 3-view line drawing included in an Aviation Week article back around 1990. This is an old painting but it seems the most appropriate of my current work for this forum. With all the 3-views and bits of information available on this forum, I'm sure to be trying more work like this in the future.

While I've not been keeping up on the TR-3 lore, I do understand that people expect it to be something different now.

Now I expect I'll go into looking and commenting mode for a while.

Mike
 

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Ian33

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Beautiful painting. I was wondering if you have the pages from that magazine? as if I remember rightl, here was three varied designs in theatre all being evaluated for service suitability.

The one I remember had saw tooth intakes, wider placed engines and a cranked wing.
 

T-50

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hello Mike I must really say its a beautiful painting! Ill hope that you not getting problems with the CIA!
I'm just kidding,its a very realistic painting ill know the pictures you mentioning very good.
The TR-3 is believed a recon plane like the Aurora but I'm not sure,but it cant fly speeds above mach 5
keep the good working!
cheers T-50
 

The Artist

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Thank you to everyone who commented on the painting.


Ian33 said:
Beautiful painting. I was wondering if you have the pages from that magazine? as if I remember rightl, here was three varied designs in theatre all being evaluated for service suitability.

The one I remember had saw tooth intakes, wider placed engines and a cranked wing.

I'm not sure if I still have that article on file. If I do it's tucked away in my scrap files.

shockonlip said:
Are those F-117's down low?

The aircraft down below are F-117s - at least, an attempt to free-hand them into the scene.

T-50 said:
hello Mike I must really say its a beautiful painting! Ill hope that you not getting problems with the CIA!
I'm just kidding,its a very realistic painting ill know the pictures you mentioning very good.
The TR-3 is believed a recon plane like the Aurora but I'm not sure,but it cant fly speeds above mach 5
keep the good working!
cheers T-50

The article that inspired this painting suggested that the TR-3 orbited high overhead and illuminated the targets for the F-117s to hit. That's why I decided to add the F-117s. The article speculated that these aircraft would operate at night but I used artistic license to show them in the daylight. That article may have suggested the thing could perform a recon role, but I don't remember it saying anything about the thing being supersonic.

Mike
 

Rickshaw

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Interesting how broadly similar to the A-12 it looks...
 

The Artist

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Well, I stand corrected and I'm not sure I should feel as good about this one.

I found the article in my scrap-file and I saw that it did not include a 3-view drawing. The article - Triangular Recon Aircraft May Be Supporting F-117A by William B. Scott, Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 10, 1991, Pgs. 20 & 21 -did contain a shaded line drawing which I show here in a low-res scan. I used this drawing and the information within the article to produce the crude three-view I used for the descriptive geometry. (those are my pencil lines extending from the aircraft.)

I don't think I had looked at this article since shortly after I did the painting. Looking at this drawing with a more educated eye I can see how I did not understand what was going on with the intakes. Looking at it now I can see the sawtooth intakes Ian33 mentioned. Still, there are things I like about this one.

The article speculated the TR-3A to be about 42 ft long, stand about 14 ft tall and have a span of 60 - 65 ft.

Okay, you can go back to what you were doing.
Mike
 

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quellish

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The Artist said:
Well, I stand corrected and I'm not sure I should feel as good about this one.

I found the article in my scrap-file and I saw that it did not include a 3-view drawing. The article - Triangular Recon Aircraft May Be Supporting F-117A by William B. Scott, Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 10, 1991, Pgs. 20 & 21 -did contain a shaded line drawing which I show here in a low-res scan. I used this drawing and the information within the article to produce the crude three-view I used for the descriptive geometry. (those are my pencil lines extending from the aircraft.)

I don't think I had looked at this article since shortly after I did the painting. Looking at this drawing with a more educated eye I can see how I did not understand what was going on with the intakes. Looking at it now I can see the sawtooth intakes Ian33 mentioned. Still, there are things I like about this one.

The article speculated the TR-3A to be about 42 ft long, stand about 14 ft tall and have a span of 60 - 65 ft.

Okay, you can go back to what you were doing.
Mike

Actually that graphic is derived from a drawing of the Tactical High Altitude Penetrator concept, often attributed to Northrop, but appearing in AF documents as only an AFRL concept. I do have a scan of the original that's derived from if that would help. It does not show any more external detail than this.
THAP was actually a SENIOR TREND like attack aircraft carrying a single LGB (this is clear in the original). The design itself does seem to be a descendant of Teledyne Ryan's work more than anything from Northrop.

THAP aside, at the time TR-3 was postulated to exist there were certainly triangular aircraft flying around. Sneaky Pete probably flew (though most likely earlier than 1990), and had a very similar shape. A subscale Tier 3/QUARTZ may have flown, and the name was likely the source of the "TR-3" designation AvWeek reported (though Tier 3 did not look much like THAP). There were other things that may have been flying with a similar planform at the time.

A REALLY good QUARTZ rendering or painting would be a good project. There's a lot of source material now that Lockheed and Boeing are showing off their NGB and SensorCraft concepts, which are all just QUARTZ/Tier 3 mutations. Remove the canopy, change the inlets, and voila!
 

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Thanks for this information, quellish. I'll look into that but before I try any art from it, I'm itchin' to try something with either the Republic TFX or the Martin Model 316. Either would look good in natural metal, but we could also have seen either of them in SEA Camouflage . . .
 

Stargazer2006

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Funny, I also did something a few years ago using the THAP illustration as a basis. Here it is, a mere interpolation of the artwork as a finished aircraft:

thap1.gif


I also add the original artwork as an attachment for reference.

Here is the article I wrote at the time for a planned website but never published. It was a compilation of stuff collected from various sources, probably not all reliable, but it makes for interesting reading... ;)

NORTHROP THAP demonstrator
(Tactical High Altitude Penetrator)


Status: proof-of-concept vehicle, probably under contract from USAF
Powerplant: One or two turbofan powerplants of unknown make
Alleged first flight: 1981, from the Groom Lake facility


In 1976, the Air Force began RCS and wind-tunnel tests of the Northrop proposal. Late in 1978, Northrop supposedly won a contract to build and flight-test a prototype technology demonstrator based on its THAP (Tactical High Altitude Penetrator) design. The first flight of the experimental prototype is claimed to have taken place in mid-1981 at about the same time that flight testing began on the first full-scale development Lockheed F-117 prototype derived from the XST. The piloted THAP demonstrator was allegedly about the size of a fighter-bomber, such as the F-18, and had a maximum takeoff weight of 55,000 to 60,000 pounds and a wingspan of 56 feet. In marked contrast to the XST and the F-117, the Northrop THAP is claimed to have rejected the use of two-dimensional faceting and instead adopted a rounded manta-ray shape (or triangular spanloader concept) with extensive use of RAM. The aircraft supposedly more closely resembled the Northrop XST submission or even a flying wing than the Lockheed "Hopeless Diamond" concept. After a successful flight-test program, Northrop is claimed to have received a follow-on contract in 1981 for the development and manufacture of 30 operational versions of its stealthy reconnaissance aircraft prototype.

The reported TR-3A stealthy tactical reconnaissance aircraft has traditionally been thought to be a development of Northrop's THAP studies conducted in the late 1970s. These studies envisioned a twin-engined subsonic stealth spanloader. Interestingly, the design did not feature a pure recon aircraft, but instead was also armed with a single Paveway II laser guided bomb. Since Northrop constructed several electrically insulated wind tunnels in the late 1970s, it has been estimated that the company's invention to use electrostatic forces to control the airflow over a wing had been applied to the THAP. Northrop reportedly received an Air Force contract to build 20-30 airframes under the name Tactical Survivable Aircraft (TSA) in 1983.

The single-pilot THAP design concept was a spanloader airframe design. The original design reportedly relied heavily on radar-absorbing material (RAM) — as well as blended, curved surfaces — to reduce its radar cross section. This would contrast with the faceted surfaces of the F-117A and would probably result in a heavier aircraft than today's stealth fighter. The long-range reconnaissance mission, however, is more forgiving of extra weight than the combat mission.

Northrop's greater experience in directly related design and technology areas may have been the key to its victory in the competition. As one published account notes, developing the ATB bomber entailed significant technological risks relating to the aircraft's "complex curvatures, exotic materials, and other stealth methods." (Scott, 1991a, pp. 7-8.) Unknown to Lockheed in 1981, Northrop may have already been flying its prototype THAP spanloader for many months at the time it won the ATB competition. Clearly, Northrop would have accumulated significantly more experience than Lockheed in designing and developing the large curved and rounded flying-wing stealth designs necessary for long-range heavy bombers, if THAP actually existed. Indeed, Rich recounts that, when Lockheed's chief executive officer complained about the ATB decision to Vernon Orr, Secretary of the Air Force, he shot back that "not only was Northrop better than you, they were much better than you."

Press accounts assert that this led to an even larger aircraft called the TR-3A, which allegedly has a wingspan of 63 feet; a length of 42 feet; a maximum weight of 62,000 pounds; and a range in excess of 3,500 miles. Reports of the THAP being an operational aircraft as the TR-3A are numerous, but must be treated with suspicion.
 

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