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Hughes XR-11 / XF-11

United States (1946)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Hughes XR-11 / XF-11 Long-Range Photographic Reconnaissance Aircraft Prototype.

 Entry last updated on 5/11/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Hughes XR-11 / XF-11  
Picture of Hughes XR-11 / XF-11 Long-Range Photographic Reconnaissance Aircraft Prototype
Picture of Hughes XR-11 / XF-11 Long-Range Photographic Reconnaissance Aircraft Prototype

The Hughes XF-11 reconnaissance-minded platform only saw two prototypes completed - the first crashing into the suburb of Beverly Hills with Howard Hughes at the controls.

Though only achieving prototype form, the XF-11 was one of the darling designs of famed American aviator Howard Hughes. Looking very much like an oversized Lockheed P-38, the twin-boom XF-11 was designed to fulfill a United States military requirement for a long-range photographic reconnaissance fighter. The project progressed with great potential until a disastrous crash of Prototype 1 in the suburbs of Beverly Hills (nearly taking the life of Hughes himself) effectively caused the cancellation of the entire project. The XF-11 would face off with Republic's offering of the XF-12 "Rainbow" only to see neither design chosen at project's end.

The XF-11 was of a traditional twin-boom design, popularized in other forms such as the Northrop P-61 Black Widow and the aforementioned Lockheed P-38 Lightning. The first of two prototypes featured contra-rotating propeller systems on each engine, offering up a great deal of power and performance potential at the cost of increased maintenance and production times. The X-11 featured a powered tricycle landing gear system which proved successful in other designs during the Second world War. The fuselage was constructed of all metal with a two-man crew - the pilot and a radio operator - in a center-fuselage nacelle with complete cabin pressurization for high-altitude capability. Pratt & Whitney brand engines were selected to power the design and these powerplants would turn two four-bladed propeller systems with variable pitch settings. With the Beverly Hills crash blamed on engine failure, the second XF-11 prototype was engineered with traditional non-contra-rotating propeller blade systems.

By all respects, the XF-11 performed admirably well considering the dramatic series of setbacks to the project. Stability and control at high speeds was especially noteworthy though exception was made to the low-altitude stability and performance the system encouraged. A complicated aircraft to fly when compared to others of this type, the XF-11 was nonetheless a capable design in most respects.

Pitted against the Republic XF-12, the XF-11 was deemed as too costly to maintain and produce along with the complications inherent in the system's design. Even with the XF-12 having an edge, the United States Air Force ultimately went with the Boeing produced RB-50 reconnaissance aircraft, citing its respectable range and reconnaissance capabilities equal to that of either XF offering with a lesser price tag.
Any available statistics for the Hughes XR-11 / XF-11 Long-Range Photographic Reconnaissance Aircraft Prototype 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).
Hughes XR-11 / XF-11 Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United States
Year: 1946
Type: Long-Range Photographic Reconnaissance Aircraft Prototype
Manufacturer(s): Hughes Aircraft - USA
Production: 2
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 2
Length: 65.42 ft (19.94 m)
Width: 101.35 ft (30.89 m)
Height: 23.16 ft (7.06 m)
Empty Weight: 37,038 lb (16,800 kg)
MTOW: 58,202 lb (26,400 kg)

Installed Power
2 x Pratt & Whitney R-4360-31 radial piston engines developing 3,000 horsepower each.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 447 mph (720 kph; 389 kts)
Maximum Range: 4,971 mi (8,000 km; 4,320 nm)
Service Ceiling: 44,012 ft (13,415 m; 8.34 mi)


Operators List
United States (cancelled)

Series Model Variants
• XF-11 - Original Series Designation; 2 examples produced with the first offering featuring contra-rotating blades and the second with traditional propeller blade assemblies.
• XR-11 - Later Designation

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