Fighter design contest evaluation and winners revealed

Supercutlass

To celebrate the launch of our 2018 calendar we asked you to design a fighter aircraft. I was overwhelmed by the quality, ingenuity and imagination that went into the submissions. It was hard to narrow the entrants down, but we eventually decided on the following aircraft. 

The brief was extremely demanding and had to be solved using only technology available in 1960. The aircraft must have a range of at least 400 nautical miles. It must have a maximum speed over Mach 1.6. It should have a short take-off and landing performance. It should carry at least one cannon and four air-to-air missiles. The type should have a good dogfighting performance.

 

To judge the winner we put together an elite team of judges, they are: 

Jim Smith

Jim Smith had significant technical roles in the development of the UK’s leading military aviation programmes from ASRAAM and Nimrod, to the JSF and Eurofighter Typhoon. He was also Britain’s technical liaison to the British Embassy in Washington, covering several projects including the Advanced Tactical Fighter contest. His latest book is available here.

Tim Robinson

Editor in Chief of Aerospace – the flagship magazine of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Years of reporting from air shows, hoovering aviation news and digging into the deepest recesses of aeronautical history have left Tim with an aerofoil where his brain once was.

Thomas Newdick

Aviation writer and Editor of Air Forces Monthly. Author of many aviation titles including Aircraft of the Cold War 1945-1991. Thomas has a particular interest in Russian aviation and allegedly has a collection of Su-11 parts at a secret location in Suffolk.

Stephen Mosley

Artist and aeronautical engineer. 

How the scoring system works

Each judge awards a gold, silver and bronze medal worth 3,2 and 1 point respectively. (On making his final decision Jim Smith has also rated the aircraft numerically on aesthetics and effectiveness.)

 

 


 

Yotsubishi Heavy Industries F-2 Simple Supersonic Fighter (SSF) by Hiroki Honda

”YOTSUBISHI F-2” for HUSH-KIT Competition (1) (1) (1)

JS: “The concept attempts to deliver a low-cost, low tech super-sonic fighter. Some aspects of the concept are really interesting, such as the re-use of an engine … but there are serious flaws everywhere.

(Regarding the use of 50s technology –an F-100, first flight 1953, would meet all of the airframe requirements comfortably, particularly if fitted with Rocket Assisted Take-Off or RATO)

Here are some issues:

  • Use of second-hand bomber engine – engines at the time had shorter lives than today. A better choice would be a J79 or an Avon.
  • Small size – there is no way you could get the fuel required into the airframe
  • Tailwheel configuration – the engine appears to have an afterburner, which, if used for take-off would destroy the runway and the tailwheel
  • Armament – Missile installation would have very high transonic and supersonic drag
  • Armament – I don’t believe you could fit 4 30mm cannon in the space provided
  • Tailplane – The essentially unswept design is likely to experience significant shock waves, increasing drag, and impairing high-speed stability and control.

Effectiveness: 1

Best feature: RATO

Worst feature – see list above.

Aesthetics: 1″

SM: “Yotsubishi F2 – interesting but neither slender nor following the area rule and with a large proportion of parasitic drag, also another where I suspect the fuel tankage would be marginal.””YOTSUBISHI F-2” for HUSH-KIT Competition (4) (3).jpg

Novotny LiN8 by Lukas Novotny

1960s_jet (1) (2)

SM:“So nearly a top 3 aircraft for me but the canopy is a little too bulbous and overall it seems to lack a little pizzazz (there is an aesthetics element to the competition after all). Perhaps a victim of looking altogether believable as a product of the era?”

JS: “This concept is a very conventional design solution to the requirements.

My reaction at first sight was that the concept looks more like a strike aircraft than a M 1.6 fighter. Thinking about why this is, I would point to the rather low set cockpit, and the very rounded radome design, which does look unsuited to high speed flight.

Another aspect which gives some concern is the mid-mounted wimg. Structurally, this looks implausible, attached as it is on the outside of the intakes with no real evidence of a strong carry-through structure to sustain the loads. I suggest that a high wing position, like a cross between a Mirage F1 and an Alpha Jet would allow a carry through structure across the top of the fuselage.

The intakes in the top view don’t appear to have the shock cones of the side view (which may not be needed), and I am unclear why they are forward swept in plan. There is also no real evidence of leading edge devices – as drawn, the gun and pylons would prevent use of a leading-edge slat or flap. That said, the wing area appears generous.

The aircraft looks large enough to meet the range requirement, but it might also be more costly than single-engine solutions.

Effectiveness: 6

Best features: Largely low risk design. Big enough, carrying the required weapons load.

Worst features: Wing position makes a credible structural solution difficult; a high wing would be better. Radome too rounded; while good for the radar, this would cause too much supersonic drag. Tailplane might need a few degrees more sweep. Looks more like a strike aircraft than a fighter.

Aesthetics: 5.”

Soko J-100 Zmaj ‘Dragon’ (2 points) by Nick Gully

ZMAJ1.png

zmaj7.png

TN: J-100 Zmaj. Because the only thing better than a missile-with-a-man-in-it is a Yugoslavian missile-with-a-man-in-it. And it would have come out of a cave

Thomas Newdick nomination for silver (2 points)

SM: The Soko J-100 is one that I found it difficult to reject because of the amusing “back story” and its unashamed batshit craziness. However all that lift at the back with so little at the front finally persuaded me.

JS: “I’m sorry to say the Soko Zmaj is just horrible.

A highly directionally and pitch unstable design is just what you want in a missile. Particularly a modern missile with active guidance and control system allowing you to pull perhaps 40g at the target.

It is not credible to fly a manned aircraft with this configuration in 1960.

The downward pointing canards would require a very tall and heavy main gear. There appear to be no high-lift devices, which makes the STO requirement hard to meet. The external gun pod would have a large drag penalty, especially at supersonic speeds. With no attention paid to area ruling, wave drag is likely to be significant. Engine installation and radome are likely to be OK, being typical of some contemporary design practice.

Effectiveness: 1

Best  points: Intake/Radome

Worst points: Lateral/directional instability; gun pod drag; wave drag, undercarriage, STO performance.

Aesthetics: 2″

SM: “The Soko J-100 is one that I found it difficult to reject because of the amusing “back story” and its unashamed batshit craziness. However all that lift at the back with so little at the front finally persuaded me.”

Horzel F Mk 1 by Jonas Stallmeister

unnamed (1)

JS: “This looks like the Folland Midge version of the specified fighter. My concern is that the design appears to be simply too small to meet the payload range requirements. In addition, I do not believe the relatively close coupled butterfly tail arrangement could provide the directional stability required. This might be made worse by the ‘lots of wing anhedral’, which will reduce lateral/directional stability, and places the wing tips very close to the ground. I suspect a cross-wing landing might quickly become challenging. I like the innovative approach, and the use of the variable incidence wing.”

Effectiveness: 3

Best points: Variable incidence wing.

Worst points: Too small. Lateral/directional stability. Both low speed handling and high speed directional stability likely to be inadequate.

Aesthetics: 4″

SM: “Jonas Horzel’s F Mk1 looks like a robust little aircraft and has the right “feel” with a hint of Baroudeur SE5000 but seems more focussed on rapid response from unmade runways rather than 400 nm and Mach 1.6. Where would they put the fuel?”

_____

Mosely Supersonic Biplane (2 points) by Stephen Mosely 

Hushkit Fighter S Mosley (1) (1).jpg

TR: “Looking perhaps like what might happen if the Kingston design team at Hawker Siddeley had taken LSD, a supersonic biplane fighter is definitely innovative. The two-crew cockpit, ventral gun pack and overwing AAMs (as seen on the BAC Lightning) and intakes scream a 1960s design and give it some credibility. For the actual idea of a staggered-wing supersonic biplane, the aerodynamic jury is still out. It has been proposed (along with hypersonic concepts) with the idea that the dual wings might cancel out supersonic shockwaves. However, if it was that a high speed biplane was found to be viable, a bigger challenge in my mind might be the tailless design and lack of vertical surfaces. Add to that the claimed agility from the biplane configuration, and it may be that a complex FBW system would be needed to control this beast. There is also the issue of weight – doubling those already large wings would make for a very heavy fighter.”

Tim Robinson nomination for silver (2 points)

JS: “This appears to have a number of problems. The biplane arrangement, which may well enable a light, stiff, structure comes at the penalty of seriously compromise aerodynamics. The close spacing of the wings means that they cannot operate efficiently. At low speed the interference effects will reduce lift curve slope, requiring a higher incidence or higher speed approach. In the manoeuvring case the vortices shed by the lower wing will reduce the lift available from the upper. At high speed, the wave drag looks likely to be huge. I’d be astonished if this configuration could meet the Mach requirement – I’d be quite surprised if it was supersonic. The configuration results in very little fin area, and would be very likely to be directionally unstable. Adding a WSO is likely to add capability, but comes at the cost of a larger and more expensive aircraft.

Effectiveness: 2

Best features: Fuselage packaging and intake design both look OK. Wing design likely to be structurally efficient.

Worst features: Configuration is ill-conceived. The aerodynamic aim of STO from the biplane configuration may not be achieved; Wave drag; directional stability and control; and handling in high and low-speed manoeuvring are all areas of concern.

Aesthetics: 4″

SM: “Mosley Supersonic Biplane – clearly the best but it is for my fellow judges to come to this inescapable conclusion on their own.” (Note: Stephen designed this aircraft and was not allowed to nominate it)

2nd place (joint) STOL canard fighter (4 points) by Vikram Puttanna 

HushKitCompVikramPuttanna (1) (1)

JS: “An interesting design, which looks to have made a good stab at many of the requirements. The basic layout should be OK to meet the Mach requirement, and the combination of thrust reverser plus hook, extending nose undercarriage, flaps and slats should allow STO requirements to be met.

I’m a bit concerned about whether the range requirements can be met, bearing in mind that the under-fuselage fuel tank would probably need to be dropped to gain Mach number for combat effectiveness.

I also think the fin should be further aft, and possibly reduced in height, taking advantage of the longer arm gained by moving it aft. This would reduce fin weight. I am a bit sceptical about managing the flight control issues of a 3-surface design in the 1960 timeframe.

Finally, given the intent to arm with the beam-riding AIM-7 missile, I think a larger radar would be required. The weapon needs to be supported all the way into the target, and the bigger radar would need a longer fuselage nose, and possibly some raising of the cockpit so that the radar could be accommodated with the under-fuselage intake. I do not see what benefit is given by the intake design, and I suggest that an F-16-like solution would be better.

Effectiveness: 6

Best features: Approach to STO requirement.

Worst features: Is it big enough? Weapons installation looks draggy. Sgould the fin be further aft and a bit smaller? Needs a bigger radar to support AIM-7. Id the 1960 fcs technology up for a 3-surface design?

Aesthetics: 6

Both Aesthetics and effectiveness figures could be improved with suggested changes.”

JS awards bronze medal (1 point)

SM :”Vikram Puttanna’s STOL concept doesn’t, for me, sit comfortably with the central request for a 60s fighter. True there is nothing to point at as not being available to the 60s designer but the overall aesthetic belongs more to a “stillborn of the 90’s” competition.”

TN: “Vikram’s STOL canard fighter. Because the Ye-8 was a great ‘what if?’ that deserved to do much better. It suffered problems with its powerplant and its radar-armament would have been limited in original form. This concept addresses those shortcoming and throws in STOL for good measure.” Thomas Newdick nomination for 1st place (3 points)

 2nd place (joint) LTV F8U1 Super Cutlass (4 points) by Rik H 

Supercutlass

An F8U1 is here pictured circa 1961 over Eureka, CA, on a training flight from Naval Air Station Alameda.

The aerodynamically radical F7U Cutlass‘ time in service to the USN was short but disastrous. By the early 50s the execs in the Chance Vought boardroom, smarting at the cost of tooling up for Cutlass production contracts that never materialized, turned their attention to the Navy’s new requirement for a supersonic air superiority fighter. Their engineers had already begun wind tunnel tests on a design of more conventional layout, whose only eccentricity was an unusual variable-incidence wing, when the whole company was unexpectedly snapped up by eccentric Texan entrepreneur James Ling in early 1954.
Woldemar Voigt, the German aircraft designer who had contributed to the Cutlass‘ design, saw an opportunity. He’d ironed the kinks out of the tailless concept, he thought, and with a new wing shape and J79 engines on tap, he was sure he could build a Mach 2 Cutlass for the fast-dawning Space Age. Cannily, he sought out Ling’s approval directly, bypassing the LTV managerial structure entirely. He was surprised to find Ling even more receptive than he’d hoped for. The Texan immediately agreed to move forward with Voigt’s proposal, but he insisted that a canard be added to Voigt’s blueprints for the “Super Cutlass“. Voigt later speculated that Ling had somehow caught a glimpse of some highly classified WS-110A drawings.
Meanwhile, under the resentful eyes of the LTV managers, the German busied himself and his team with the development of the Cutlass mark 2, a much larger and more modern fighter than its ancestor, with radar, afterburning engines, and static, trapezoidal canards dutifully bolted on. Voigt eventually realized that an all-moving canard would significantly improve the new aircraft’s manoeuvrability, but unfortunately, LTV’s C-suite took bureaucratic revenge by quashing his request for another revision of the design.

The “Cutlass 2″ flight test program showed that the new plane shared none of the Cutlass‘ woes. The new fighter had somewhat staid handling, but it was easy to fly, far more forgiving than its predecessor, and fast – topping out at Mach 1.8, clean, in full afterburner. With the new Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, and a 20mm revolver cannon in each wing root, the type was a formidable machine by late 50s standards.

Voigt’s pet project won the Navy’s contract – perhaps less on its merits than thanks to Ling’s tireless wining and dining of certain Bureau of Naval Weapons officials – and was designated the F8U1 Crusader, but carrier crews instantly saw the family resemblance and the aircraft was universally known as the “Super Cutty”. Maintenance crews groused about its mediocre maintainability, with relatively minor procedures sometimes requiring that an engine be pulled, but unlike James Ling, none of them had the ear of BuWeps.

Redesignated the F-8 in 1962, the Super Cutty was in front-line service when the USN was deployed to coastal waters off the unfortunate nation of Vietnam. The crude guidance systems and general unreliability of guided missiles at the time often forced USAF and USN aircrews into close-range dogfights with VPAF Mig-17s and 21s, where the slow-turning F-8 would often come out the worse for wear.  Angry pilots complained to their commanders and the US Navy and Ling-Temco-Vought finally decided to add control surfaces to the canards in 1966, finally adding the all-moving canard in 1971.

JS: “This a great looking design – but will it work? The original Cutlass was a bit of a disappointment. Based on WWII Arado research, it had a short service live, and was replaced by the Crusader. The thick wing and low power meant its maximum speed was just over 600 kt, despite having afterburning. It also had significant handling issues and a poor safety record.

With thinner wings and bigger engines, this concept should meet the Mach requirement. My concerns are around the canard, the engine intakes, landing performance and radar. I also think that this large aircraft would be expensive.

The thin wing will need a decent high lift system – the drawing shows slats, but these are a very small chord, reducing their effectiveness. There are inboard flaps, which will help, but the pitching moment from these will need to be balanced out by the canard. Positioned where it is, this is likely to adversely affect the flow into the intakes – a go around in this design could prove really challenging. There may also be adverse effects from the canard in manoeuvre.

The intakes themselves look too large in area, possibly causing intake spill drag, and unnecessarily complex. The shock-cone intake is more suited to M ~2.0 designs like the Starfighter and Mirage, and a reduced size pitot intake would do.

I think the radome looks a bid small in diameter and rather slender. The radar performance will strongly depend on the radar aperture; too small and the radar range will be limited. A finely tapered radome looks good, but would increase losses; a less slender design, e.g F-4-like, is likely to be better.

I am also a bit concerned about the maturity of the canard approach at this time.

Other than these concerns the design looks attractive and at least plausible.

Effectiveness: 6

Best points: Efforts have been made to address the specification I would expect the aircraft to meet or exceed payload range, speed and armament requirements.

Worst points: Too big and expensive; intakes too big, too complex and subject to interference from the canard. Approach and landing performance might be an issue. Possibly immature technology.

Aesthetics: 9″

JS awards silver (2 points)

TR: “For the 1960s timeframe chosen, the idea of a ‘Super Cutlass’ to transform a horrendously bad fighter into a decent one fits nicely into historical precedent. Super Sabre, Crusader, Phantom, Tomcat (and even up until the Super Hornet), the idea of an radical upgrade and ‘one bigger’ of a known fighter makes sense. The Super Cutlass, here with more powerful (and reliable) engines, radar-guided AAMs and canards would seem to fit that bill. Making it bigger, however might introduce new challenges for deck ops, as the wing folds will have to be outboard of the vertical fins. The canards/foreplanes while aiding manoeuvrability, also introduce a possible drawback for carrier ops – that of downward view. While a Super Cutlass is certainly plausible, one must also ask whether with the original aircraft being so terrible that the US Navy would have immediately thrown anyone suggesting a Mark II version of this aerial disaster out of the office, pronto.”  Tim Robinson nomination for Bronze (1 point)

SM: “Supercutlass – this was immediately a favourite with its good looks and well balanced proportions. I also liked the idea of taking an early design that managed to avoid attaining any semblance of proficiency and extrapolating it out to a notional improved second generation. By taking this approach it also avoids awkwardly trying to make sure that the aircraft doesn’t look unlike anything about at the time, because it clearly does!

The centre of lift looks to be about in the right place with enough size in the engines to make M1.6 believable and enough structure to carry the fuel to feed them. Down sides, and the reason for third place only, are due to the canard. For a start the canard was an unusual arrangement back in the day and aircraft that had them were usually looked on as “freak” designs. The Viggen was a trail blazer in the 70’s, existing only as artist impressions in my reference book, and this configuration really came to the fore (if you will forgive) in the 80’s. Also, I wonder if the shock waves it would set up at transonic speeds and above would disrupt the airflow into the intakes? A high angle of incidence may also cause problems with this. A good try but I think a little too flawed.” Stephen Mosley nomination for Bronze (1 point)

1st place (joint) Fourt Hirondellen 60 (6 points) by Olivier Fourt

FullSizeRender (1) (1)

SM “I was expecting my favourite to “jump out at me” but the opposite ended up being true. It was only through the process of eliminating the other finalists that this one ended up as the “last man standing.” Perhaps the wings are set a little too far forward but overall the layout works visually with everything in credible proportion. The design has a late 60s feel and the “overslung” engine fairing sets it apart from existing aircraft – the closest I can think of is the Douglas Skyhawk but aesthetically that’s still notably different. With everything having a dramatic sweep it looks good too, for some reason I can imagine it with a polished skin and Armee de l’air roundel on its flank.  In my opinion it ticks the most boxes from a head and heart point of view and is therefore my winner.”

SM Gold nomination (3 points) 

JS: “Comparatively credible conventional design. Slats and flaps fitted as a nod to the STO requirement. Intakes look unnecessarily complex for M=1.6, but shoulder position on the fuselage could mean they need the large boundary layer ramps provided. From a fuselage packing point of view, I suspect a bit more space between radome and cockpit would be useful for avionics provision. Suggest a lower aspect ratio broader and shorter fin would be preferable, saving a bit of weight. Weapons carriage looks conventional; there is space for a centre-line external fuel tank should one be required. No real show stoppers.

Effectiveness: 7

Best features: Credible conventional design, likely to meet requirements if wing loading not too high.

Worst features: Possibly need more space in forward fuselage. Arguably might get away with simpler intakes.  Might benefit from a lower aspect ratio, shorter tail fin.

Aesthetics: 5″

JS: Gold nomination (3 points)

———

1st place (joint) Harpia FAB-60 (6 points) by Bernardo Senna 

1960fighter_Bernardo_Senna (1) (2)

Thomas Newdick: “Harpia FAB-60. While it looks a little conservative compared to some of the other designs, a Latin American Marut would have been a boon to the Brazilian Air Force in the 1960s, and would have been an excellent basis for further combat aircraft development.”

Newdick Bronze medal (1 point)

JS: “Basic configuration looks OK.

Main issue for me is the intakes. Positioned where they are, it’s hard to see how sufficient space in the cockpit could be provided. The nose should be a bit longer, and the intakes further aft. The intakes also look small for a twin-engine solution and perhaps overly complex for the Mach number required. The missiles all appear to be IR guided – I would be doubtful of a radar sitting behind the big pitot probe. Installation of missiles above, tanks below, and more missiles on fuselage side looks draggy.

Effectiveness: 6

Best features: Reasonably credible configuration.  Fin looks large enough, unlike several others.

Worst features: Intake position and packaging in that area; high aspect ratio wing might be heavy; stores and fuel tank drag (?); need to reposition pitot probe.

Aesthetics: 5

Both Aesthetics and effectiveness figures could be improved with suggested changes.”

TR: “With design cues from other aircraft of the era, the FAB-60 somehow feels exactly like the kind of aircraft you’d suddenly spot in a rare photo archive and begin frantically googling to know more. Scalloped intakes and MiG-19 engine exhausts give it a pleasing distinctive look, while the overwing AAM pylons might also function as wing fences – a staple of 1960s designs. I like the idea of a Tank/Focke lineage married with UK engines and avionics. Overall, this seems an extremely believable design. The only drawback I can possibly see is that the fighter, designed for Brazil’s defence needs at austere front-line airfields, sits quite high off the ground and has a narrow track undercarriage. Heavy handed taxiing by students may claim a few airframes, despite the ‘reinforced wingtips’.”

Tim Robinson awards Gold medal (3 points)

SM: “Harpia  FAB-60 – this really stood out as, for me, being by far the best realised illustration.  Again the proportions all sit easily and believably on the page. Everything about it speaks of an early 60s generation fighter from the elongated bubble canopy, to the high set swept wing (conveniently avoiding running the spars through the engines) and finished off by a conventional tail layout. This was such a strong contender I was even able to overlook the colonial spelling of “defence.” However it seems a little too much of a combination of existing designs, a (quite possibly unconscious) amalgam of aircraft that could actually be seen in the skies. The forward set scalloped intakes of a Saab Lansen perhaps coupled to what is possibly the canopy of a Supermarine Scimitar? Then again the intakes and anhedral of the wing might owe something to the Harrier with a touch of Yak-25 to the wing plan and a tailpipe treatment not totally dissimilar to the Hal Marut? A worthy finalist but lacking the standout individuality that would make it the winner for me.”

SM awards silver medal (2 points) 

Harpia FAB-60. While it looks a little conservative compared to some of the other designs, a Latin American Marut would have been a boon to the Brazilian Air Force in the 1960s, and would have been an excellent basis for further combat aircraft development.

 Prizes

As all these entrants were so talented I will be sending a Hush-Kit 2018 calendar top each of you! Well done.

Help Hush-Kit to carry on by donating here. Without donations we cannot carry on. 

 ______________________________________________________________
Jim Smith scoring system in detail 

Summary outcomes

Name

Effectiveness

Aesthetics

Comments and issues

Rank

Harpia FAB-60

6

5

Intakes, Packaging

4=

Hirondellen 60

7

5

No real show stoppers

1

Supersonic biplane

2

4

Not a practical solution

Horzel F Mk 1

3

4

Too small

STOL canard

6

7

Technical feasibility, packaging

2

Super Cutlass

6

9

Canard/intake interaction. Cost?

2

Soko Zmaj

1

2

Not a practical solution

Yotsubishi F-2

1

1

Not a practical solution

Novotny LiN 8

6

6

Wing carry-through

4=

The answer depends on what you are looking for, and, of course, on what the other judges think. In the assessment above, I leant towards effectiveness, with a nod to aesthetics in lifting the Super Cutlass to a higher position.

If I were using Effectiveness, then Risk, then other factors (cost, aesthetics), my order would have been:

1: Hirondellen

2: Harpia

3: Novotny

4: Super Cutlass

5: STOL canard

Hirondellen could have used the graphic skills of the Super Cutlass designer.

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