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Bell D-188 (XF3L / XF-109)

United States (1961)
Picture of Bell D-188 (XF3L / XF-109) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Supersonic Multirole Aircraft Proposal

Interest in the Bell D-188 on the part of the USN and USAF ultimately waned by 1961, leaving just a mockup completed.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Bell D-188 (XF3L / XF-109) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Supersonic Multirole Aircraft Proposal.  Entry last updated on 6/14/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

In January of 1954, Bell engineers finally saw the fruits of their labor concerning the Model 65 aircraft - a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) research system combining the fuselage of a Schweizer glider with the wings of a Cessna 170. The undercarriage skids were borrowed from a Bell 47 helicopter. To this was added a pair of Fairchild J44 turbojets delivering 1,000lb thrust each and installed under the shoulder-mounted mainplanes. The engines were given the capability to be tilted along an axis - from vertical (for landing / take-off actions) to horizontal (for level flight). The Model 65 was used up until 1955 by which point the focus of Bell engineers fell to other, more pressing, projects.

Despite the end of the Model 65, the completed work proved valuable in another company initiative - the Bell "D-118". This design was born to fulfill a request by the United States Navy (USN) and United States Air Force (USAF) for a shared supersonic multirole aircraft design with inherent VTOL capabilities. It was intended to offer the performance seen in the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" (Mach 2+ straight line speeds) with a broader mission set built-in. The VTOL quality allowed the aircraft to be stationed nearly anywhere in the world and not require the use of a full-length, prepared runway from which to operate from. This could potentially provide American warplanners with a distinct tactical advantage over anything the Soviet Union held in service at the time. The branches envisioned a singular platform able to carry out such combat sorties as air defense, fleet defense, interception of high-level bombers, general fighter duties, and fighter-bomber runs.

The design had an overall conventional configuration for the most part - the sole pilot was seated in a cockpit at the nose of the fuselage behind a sharply-pointed nosecone, straight wing appendages were shoulder-mounted at the fuselage sides, and the tail unit relied on a traditional single-finned arrangement with the horizontal planes set low along the aft fuselage sides. The tail planes were all swept rearwards for aerodynamic efficiency while the mainplanes tapered from the wingroots to the wingtips to which pivoting "pods" were mounted. These gave the aircraft the necessary lifting / hovering capability as well as added thrust in forward flight. Dimensions of the aircraft included a span of 23.8 feet, a length of 62 feet, and a height of 12.8 feet.

Proposed armament was 2 or 4 x 20mm internal cannons with support for 108 x 2.75" (70mm) aerial rockets (held in an internal, retractable weapons bay) and up to 4,000lb of ordnance in the form of early-generation Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) or conventional drop stores carried across eight total underwing hardpoints.

Internally, the aircraft was to have a rather complex arrangement due to its VTOL nature - carrying no fewer than eight turbojets. Six were General Electric J85-GE-5 series engines (2,600lb thrust each) and two were General Electric J-85-GE-19 types. Two turbojets were fitted to each swiveling wing pod with the remaining units installed within the fuselage; two mounted aft of the cockpit (to help balance vertical lift thrust) and two arranged horizontally (for forward thrust) and exhausting through a basic set of exhaust ports at the rear of the fuselage.

The original product designation became "Model 2000" and Bell marked the USN model as the D-188 and the USAF model as the D-188A (there would be slight differences between each service model to fulfill special naval requirements). In formal service, the models were set to carry the respective designations of "XF3L-1" and "XF-109" though these were never officially assigned.

Between 1959 and 1960, USN authorities had moved away from the Bell venture as mounting delays with the engine sets continued and the project budget grew as a result. This left the USAF as the sole interested service so a mockup was completed and finally unveiled for the first time in early December of 1960. However, the USAF followed the USN lead in early-1961 by terminating their interest in the complex and expensive Model 2000. Thus ended the D-188 VTOL supersonic fighter initiative for Bell and true VTOL fighter flight was not realized until the introduction of the British "Harrier" fighter-bomber during the late-1960s.

Some performance figures were estimated for the unique Bell D-188: a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, an operational range out to 2,300 miles, and a combat radius of 1,350 miles. Its service ceiling was 60,000 feet. Empty weight was listed at 13,800lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 24,000lb.

Any available statistics for the Bell D-188 (XF3L / XF-109) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Supersonic Multirole Aircraft Proposal are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 1600mph
Lo: 800mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (1,519mph).

    Graph average of 1200 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Bell D-188A (XF-109)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
Pie graph section
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Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
0
0


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1961
Type: Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Supersonic Multirole Aircraft Proposal
Manufacturer(s): Bell Aircraft Corporation - USA
Production: 0
Status: Cancelled
Global Operators:
United States (cancelled)
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Bell D-188A (XF-109) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
62.01 ft


Meters
18.9 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
23.79 ft


Meters
7.25 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
12.80 ft


Meters
3.9 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
13,801 lb


Kilograms
6,260 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
23,920 lb


Kilograms
10,850 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
6 x General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines (for vertical and horizontal flight) with 2 x General Electric J85-GE-19 turbojet engines (for horizontal flight).

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
1,519 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
2,445 kph


Knots
1,320 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
2,423 mi


Kilometers
3,900 km


Nautical Miles
2,106 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
59,055 ft


Meters
18,000 m


Miles
11.18 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (8):

PROPOSED:
2 OR 4 x 20mm internal cannons
108 x 70mm aerial rockets held in an internal bay

Up to 4,000lb of ordnance (missiles or bombs) held across eight total underwing hardpoints.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• D-188 - Bell company model designator for USN form
• D-188A - Bell company model designator for USAF form
• Model 2000 - Base developmental model designation
• XF3L-1 - Assumed USN developmental designation; not officially assigned.
• XF-109 - Assumed USAF developmental designation; not officially assigned.