The Javelin, the Kingfish & what's wrong with the Typhoon: warplane thoughts

Because we're only every one bottle of Malbec away from an opinion

What was the father of the modern fighter? You could present a reasonable case for the Gloster Javelin, with its large radar, four-missile armament and delta wing. In fact we happen to be sharing an interview with a Javelin pilot this week on Hush-Kit, in which we learnt that the ‘Tripe Triangle’ probably wasn’t as bad as we always thought it to be. Then again, you could argue a case for the F-4 being the father of the modern fighter, but that would be too obvious. And anyway, outside of the Jaguar and Mitsubishi F-1’s rear fuselage shape its general configuration was a design cul-de-sac.

How about the Skyknight? Well, it was a pioneering ‘missileer’ (more so than the actual F6D ) but aerodynamically it was old hat before its first flight. My money is on something that did not fly and wasn’t even intended to be a fighter: Convair’s spectacular Kingfish. A boat-like fuselage, ‘pork chop’ intakes à la F-22, supercruise and accusations that sacrificed too much performance for stealth… now that sounds like a modern fighter. Not bad for 1959. It’s not too sad it lost the competition to replace the U-2 (now is it the band or the aeroplane that lacks the hyphen?) as the winner became the SR-71 Blackbird, which along with the bicycle, Concorde and Supernoodles is the zenith of human achievement.

Spain to buy more Typhoons?

Well I’m happy about that. Europe’s faith in the Typhoon is probably good news in the long term but I can’t help thinking they need to add something to Typhoon to visually differentiate newer models - what do they have now? Fuselage lugs for speculative conformal fuel tanks on newer models. Terrible. Now I like that the Heinz ketchup bottle (the glass one) remains unchanged and I like that Lyle’s syrup is still decorated with a decomposing lion-full of bees, but the Typhoon was never quite a design classic in the same way so change would be welcome.

Don’t get me wrong, from certain angles (especially from above and to the front) it can look very fast and, dare I say it, even noble. But it is no Rafale in aesthetics. I mean the Rafale is so fit that it even looks good with that refuelling probe, which resembles a broken section of kit sprue or the sting of a rather weedy robot scorpion, and it still looks handsome with two horrible bloated frankfurter tanks under the wings which on anything else would look like clown shoes. But Typhoon looks too plasticky and also looks a bit like a Mirage 2000 that’s been pimped up by a 19-year-old boy in the suburbs (or maybe in Theydon Bois). Actually, no. That would look amazing. It is more like a Mirage 2000 that has been too cautiously bastardised for a 90s anime (though admittedly it’s not bright red and piloted by a schoolgirl). The answer? Well if Eurofighter GmbH is listening I would propose the following: twin tails, a new intake, 25% more power and the mandatory adoption of either Swedish splinter or RAF Vulcan snow camouflage. Oh, and me and the boy in Theydon Bois (pronounced thae-don bwa or theydon boyz as you wish) both think it should have a metallic paint job.

New European trainer

Airbus is considering a new training jet (or rather a system including an aeroplane) for Spain with eyes on the rest of Europe. The AFJT, which pronounced in Spanish is quite like aHAVVVVVVEFYATTTT (the middle of the word being a very bronchial affair). Clearly Airbus putting a J in the middle of an aircraft name for Spain is an act of war. If it happens, the aircraft will be an agile little machine with secondary aggressor, light fighter or attack capabilities. Speculative jet trainers have a very high rate of cancellation (second only to COIN aircraft as a type) and the timing is awful, but the civil side of Airbus is doing well at the moment and this confidence is spilling into the more troubled military side, so it could happen. It would face stiff competition from Leonardo’s M346 and the US-Swedish T-7 though.

I keep thinking I should do a top 10 cancelled jet trainers, then I remember how much work it would involve and how no one would read it. Would you? If you have a favourite cancelled jet trainer please do mention it in the comments section below. One of my favourites was the EADS Mako, what do we bet the new aircraft will carry some of this project’s DNA?

The Australian CA-31, at the bottom of this page, was also wonderful.

Bed calls. Sending my love to the aeroplane fans wherever you may be. Fly safe.

—Hush-Kit