CONVAIR F-102 Delta Dagger Interceptor Aircraft
The CONVAIR F-102 Delta Dagger was an interim delta-wing interceptor design fielded by the USAF until the arrival of the more capable CONVAIR F-106 Delta Dart series.
Authored By Dan Alex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The CONVAIR F-102 "Delta Dagger" was a product of the ensuing Cold War years following the close of World War 2 in which jet technology and aerodynamics advanced to all new tiers. As such, development of evermore powerful and streamlined aircraft ensued giving rise to one of the more exciting periods of military aviation. One of the primary threats to both Western Europe and United States interests remained the long range, nuclear-capable bombers of the Soviet Union to which "interceptors" were developed in response. The interceptor was built on the concept of pure speed and engaged aerial targets with missiles at range using complex computer fire control systems (FCS). The F-102 served as a deterrent for such enemies during its early tenure while eventually evolving to a limited ground attack mount by the time of the Vietnam War. Used by less than a handful of nations worldwide, the F-102 served just over 20 years before being formally retired from service. While sharing a undeniable appearance to the upcoming F-106 "Delta Dart", the F-102 was more of an interim interceptor design until the original project goals were fulfilled in the F-106.
In August of 1945, the United States Army Air Force, just beginning to wind down war time operations of World War 2, was high on the idea of jet-propelled aircraft and put forth a requirement for an interceptor aircraft with supersonic capabilities. Jet propulsion was in its infancy during the war while many technological hurdles were eventually overcome - including the arrival of the first operational jet fighter - the German Messerschmitt Me 262. The USAF required a maximum speed of 700 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 50,000 feet - these two qualities would ensure a Soviet bomber counter. CONVAIR eventually turned to the works of German engineer Alexander Lippisch who championed the use of the "delta-wing" area design when concerning high-speed flight. Convair was born in 1943 from the merger of CONsolidated Aircraft and Vultee AIRcraft (hence the "CONVAIR" naming). CONVAIR was eventually acquired by General Dynamics and lost to aviation history.
CONVAIR put work into a delta-wing inspired development of their own known under the designation of "XF-92A" for the USAF. The concept incorporated extremely swept leading wing edges with straight trailing edges while eliminating the horizontal tailplanes found in traditional aircraft designs. First flight of the experimental airframe occurred on April 1st, 1948. Power was derived from a single Allison J33-A-29 series turbojet engine of 7,500lbs thrust, providing speeds of 718 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 50,750 feet. The fuselage was well-streamlined but rather stocky in shape, capped by a triangular vertical tail fin and accompanying triangular main wing assemblies aft of a framed cockpit enclosure. The engine was aspirated through the open nose enclosure. However, pilots did not revere the type due to its inherently violent flight tendencies and underperforming qualities. The USAF eventually completed the research project with a formal cancellation.
In October of 1948, the USAF delivered a new set of requirements for an interceptor built around the highly advanced MX-1179 electronic fire control system (FCS) to manage the proposed onboard radar and missile weaponry. The aircraft would have to feature Mach 2-capable speeds and be production-ready by 1954 with the hope of stocking the USAF inventory with a highly-capable interceptor and Soviet bomber deterrent. The project advanced along two fronts - Hughes was selected to produce the critical FCS while CONVAIR eventually won the rights to develop the airframe. Utilizing the knowledge gained during development of the XF-92, CONVAIR put forth their new XF-102 prototype which was of similar form.