Monday, January 19, 2015

Strangely-shaped Aircraft: XC-142, X-3 and the Caspian Sea Monster

Presenting 3 more strangely-shaped aircraft, including the huge LTV XC-124 tilt-wing, an extremely sleek and cool-looking aircraft and a Russian ground effect vehicle popularly referred to as the "Caspian Sea Monster".

LTV XC-142

The LTV XC-142 tilt-wing experimental aircraft was built, like the Vertol VZ-2, to test a short take-off and landing aircraft that could carry huge cargo and travel long distances. The helicopter-plane was initially designed for aircraft carriers, but the Navy quit after some time, concerned by the downdraft of the 4 huge propellers. Like the VZ-2, it was quite successful, with made hours flown by nearly 40 military and civilian pilots. 5 prototypes were designed, and after the Navy backed out, the Air Force asked for a production model. However, the LTV corporation could not produce the model along with all the upgrades the Air Force demanded, and the whole project was cancelled. Today, of the 5 prototypes, only 1 survives, and it is currently at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Above): The LTV XC-142 hovering a few metres over the ground.

Douglas X-3 Stiletto

Douglas X-3 NASA E-17348.jpgArguably the sleekest plane of its time, and maybe of all time, the Stiletto was an extremely sleek experimental plane which was designed to test cutting edge technologies of that time (around the 1950s), like sustained Mach 2 flight. The plane's goals were quite ambitious: it was supposed to take off and land under it own power and also fly at high altitudes at Mach 2+ speeds. However, this plane was not quite an outright success. It was extremely underpowered, and could barely make it past Mach 1 in level flight. It had an extremely high take off speed of 432 km/h and was quite unstable during flight. The fastest the X-3 ever flew was Mach 1.2 in a dive at 30 degrees angle. There were plans made to outfit the Stiletto with rocket engines, but the plan was dropped and the plane never got anywhere. Only one prototype was every built, and it is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. A sad end to an extremely cool looking aircraft. The picture above shows the Stiletto in flight.

The Caspian Sea Monster

Image result for ekranoplanThe "Caspian Sea Monster" was actually a Soviet ekranoplan, or ground-effect vehicle (a plane which flies just a few metres above the ground) which was developed for the Russian Navy. Ground-effect vehicles (GEVs) are not planes, ships, seaplanes or any such vehicles; they are a separate technology altogether. The MD-160 was the only prototype of the Lun Ekranoplan every built, and it was in service for about a decade. The plane was intended for anti-surface operations, and was equipped with Mosquito missiles and advanced guidance systems. The plane was retired in the 1990s and it is lying unused in a naval station in Russia. Another one was initially planned as a field hospital which could bring aid to any coastal location or lake rapidly anywhere in the world, but the funding ended before completion and the project was scrapped. (Above left): The impressive array of 4 engines on either side of the hull is probably what earned it the title "Caspian Sea Monster". The plane also had three protrusions on top of the fuselage (not shown) and a huge tail, which may have also contributed to its name.

If you want to see more strangely-shaped planes, follow any of the links below:

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