Rockwell XFV-12 VTOL Carrier-based Fighter Prototype
The Rockwell International XFV-12 VTOL system never materialized past the prototype stage.
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The Rockwell XFV-12 aircraft was a proposed design attempting to fulfill a United States Navy (USN) requirement for a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) supersonic fighter. Though a promising concept, the XFV-12 was tested in extremely limited circumstances and proved to be a failure by the early 1980's. The XFV-12 was later dropped by the United States Navy due to rising developmental costs with its official cancellation ordered in 1981. The program only ever produced a sole prototype with a second under construction at the time of termination.
Externally, the XFV-12 was certainly a futuristic-looking fighter aircraft. To speed up development and keep costs in check, the nose section of a Douglas A-4 "Skyhawk" carried-based, multi-role fighter was used along with the intake work of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 "Phantom II" multi-role fighter. This surprisingly produced a mated design whose parts made up a sound whole. One of the most characteristic design elements became the wing planform which featured a distinct rear-set mainplane assembly coupled to all-moving forward canards. The large wing area was utilized fully for the "thrust augmented" concept to which thrust could be delivered through various openings found throughout the wings and canard foreplanes.
Power was served through a single Pratt & Whitney F401-PW-400 afterburning turbofan engine. Development estimates considered the installation to provide the aircraft with enough direct lift power but the complicated internal workings of extensive ductwork eliminated much of the thrust power resulting in less-than-expected performance. Proposed armament was to consist of a single 20mm internal Gatling-style cannon for close-in work as well as a mix of air-to-air missiles - primarily the AIM-7 "Sparrow" medium-range missile and the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" short-range missile. Because of the nature of the VTOL internal working, armament hardpoints were themselves restricted to a few placements and none could be fitted under the wings - so all missiles were mounted under the fuselage mass. Such a move limited the tactical value of the XFV-12 as a carried-based fighter despite the unique VTOL capability.
With project complexity and cost overruns beginning to take their toll, the XFV-12 was cancelled by the USN. The British Hawker Siddeley remained the VTOL champion of the skies and was even adopted by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in a rare move by an American service branch taking on a foreign frontline aircraft. While a capable attack platform with some fighter qualities, the Harrier remained a subsonic design. The VTOL mantle is expected to be taken by the upcoming Lockheed F-35 "Lightning II" VTOL variant still in development. The product represents a stealthy, 5th Generation Fighter form with advanced, inherent strike capabilities.
The hulk of the XFV-12 may someday still emerge as a preserved museum showpiece.