Boeing Skyfox Advanced Jet Trainer Proposal
The Boeing Skyfox was a promising - though failed - initiative designed to update the 1950s-era Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainers to a more modern standard.
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The Boeing Skyfox was a modification program intended to modernized the large fleet of existing Lockheed T-33 "Shooting Star" jet-powered trainers which saw widespread service and sales during the Cold War. The T-33 was developed as a two-seat trainer aircraft from the single-seat P-80/F-80 "Shooting Star" fighter originating during World War 2. The F-80 saw combat action in the Korean War while the T-33 served to bring about whole new generations of jet pilots into the fold. With its World War 2 origins, it was only a matter of time before the system faced its technological limitations (T-33s, though largely retired from service today, were still being operationally used as recently as 2005). The T-33 was produced in over 6,500 examples by Lockheed with a further 656 examples produced by Canadair in Canada (as the CT-133 "Silver Star" with its Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine) and several hundred were manufactured under license by Kawasaki of Japan.
With the T-33 in quantitative use, Skyfox Corporation (founded as Flight Concepts, Incorporated in 1982) was established by former Lockheed engineers. A design initiative came about to drastically modify these older aircraft to a more modern appearance with completely reworked internals while offering much improved performance capabilities and lower operating costs. The program proved promising enough that The Boeing Company acquired Skyfox Corporation in 1986 to begin offering the modification kit to a larger market. However, few potential buyers emerged and stiff competition was being offered by cheaper propeller-driven alternatives. The program eventually fell to naught with only a single prototype being completed in 1982 - this being a converted former Canadian CT-133 "Silver Star" variant. First flight of the Skyfox prototype occurred on August 23rd, 1983. The program was shelved in whole by 1997.
The Skyfox program would have seen a complete redesign of the exterior surfaces of the T-33 to the point that the original aircraft was barely recognizable under its new guise. A new, more pointed nose cone was developed while the single-piece cockpit canopy took on more of a "tear drop" shape. The wings remained straight appendages and low-mounted along the fuselage sides but they were given additional surface area at the wing roots while the wingtip droptanks were optional. While the original T-33 made use of a single turbojet engine buried in the fuselage and aspirated by a pair of side-mounted air intakes, the Skyfox kit installed two external engine nacelles at the rear sides of the fuselage just aft of center. The original intakes were faired over and contoured with the aircraft's general shape while this internal volume was replaced by fuel tanks. This forced the horizontal tailplanes to be raised from the fuselage to the vertical tail fin itself in a "T" style arrangement. The undercarriage remained a traditional tricycle configuration and fully retractable with steering added to the nose wheel as well as power braking for improved ground control. Additional upgrade packages were to be offered to the Skyfox line that would have improved the avionics suite and electronics.