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Blackburn B.90

Variable-Sweep Wing Jet Fighter Proposal

United Kingdom | 1952

"The Blackburn B.90 fighter was proposed during the 1950s for the Royal Air Force - intended to feature variable-sweep wings."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/17/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
By the 1950s, the turbojet engine was firmly entrenched as the aviation powerplant of the future. In response, a myriad of companies, both in the East and West, undertook various aircraft projects to satisfy a plethora of requirements by their respective air services. In Britain, where the turbojet was brought to life by engineer Frank Whittle, the various World War 2 defense powerhouses jumped at the chance to fulfill Royal Air Force (RAF) requirements of the period - with the Soviet Union being the enemy of the day. One such requirement - a design that would eventually lead the country's aero-industry down the path to the "swing-wing" PANAVIA "Tornado" attacker of the 1970s - became the "B.90" project aircraft proposed by Blackburn Aircraft.

The P.90 was drawn up as single-seat, twin-engine fighter featuring an all-swept-wing arrangement (swept edges showcased at both mainplanes and tail surfaces). Like other fighters of the 1950s, it utilized a classic turbojet configuration in that the nose section was cut-off to act as the intake in aspirating the turbojet installations within. The aircraft was to be powered by two turbojet engines - these seated in an "over-under" configuration within the fuselage - to achieve the desired high-speed performance. The concept of stacking the engines meant that the fighter had to be given a deeper-than-usual fuselage though it remained quite slim from the top-down profile.

The other unique quality of this aircraft was in the proposed use of a variable-sweep wing mainplanes in which these members could be extended outwards or swept back against the fuselage sides to adapt the aircraft to various flight envelopes (low-and-slow, high-and-fast). The mainplanes were seated at midships while being mid-mounted.

The cockpit was positioned at front in the usual way with the intake ductwork to pass under the cockpit floor. The pilot would sit under a framed canopy offering adequate vision around the aircraft. Over the rear of the airframe was positioned the sole vertical tail unit running from near-midships at the fuselage dorsal spine and extended out over the engine exhaust ports at the rear. A retractable wheeled undercarriage is assumed for ground-running but not formally detailed in the available Blackburn plans.

As drawn up, the B.90 was given an overall length of 61 feet with an extended wingspan of 65 feet. With wings tucked in, the value became 35.2 feet. Weight was to reach 34,600lb when loaded with fuel and ammunition.

Armament was to become a pair of 30mm ADEN automatic cannons, these recessed in the walls of the forward fuselage ahead and installed below the cockpit floor line. The firepower inherent in this arrangement was enough to bring down any aircraft being flown by the enemy.

To power the fighter, Blackburn engineers focused on a pair of Armstrong Siddeley "Sapphire" Sa.4 turbojet types outputting 9,760lb of dry thrust each. This could be enhanced to 12,000lb of thrust each with reheat (afterburner) engaged. The Sapphire was a logical choice, the powerplant used to drive the Gloster "Javelin" and Hawker "Hunter" fighters as well as the Handley Page "Victor" nuclear-capable bomber. The axial-flow engine was produced, under-license, in the United States by Curtiss-Wright as the famous "J65".

Estimated performance specs included a maximum speed of 895 miles-per-hour, capable of reaching Mach 1.35 in straight-level flight, at around 45,000 feet of altitude. Due to the speeds and altitudes at play the fighter would have been completed with pressurization and an ejection seat.

All told, the proposed B.90 was a sleek offering for its time, despite its deep appearance, as it showcased a balanced collection of smooth and sharp lines.

In any event, the B.90 was not furthered beyond its proposed paper form and eventually fell to aviation history. Many other swing-wing design proposals eventually followed it, these provided by the various defense players of the period, and ultimately British industry, in conjunction with several European partners, could hang their hat on the work that would produce the excellent Tornado strike platform to come in 1979.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Blackburn B.90 Variable-Sweep Wing Jet Fighter Proposal.
2 x Armstrong Siddeley "Sapphire" Sa.4 afterburning turbojet engines developing 9,760lb of dry thrust each and 12,000lb of thrust each with reheat.
556 mph
895 kph | 483 kts
Max Speed
44,997 ft
13,715 m | 9 miles
Service Ceiling
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Blackburn B.90 Variable-Sweep Wing Jet Fighter Proposal.
61.1 ft
18.62 m
O/A Length
65.1 ft
(19.84 m)
O/A Width
34,613 lb
(15,700 kg)
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Blackburn B.90 Variable-Sweep Wing Jet Fighter Proposal .
2 x 30mm Aden internal automatic cannons in forward fuselage sides (one gun per side). Unknown ammunition stock.
Notable series variants as part of the Blackburn B.90 family line.
B.90 - Base Project Designation.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Blackburn B.90. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 0 Units

Contractor(s): Blackburn Aircraft - UK
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (556mph).

Graph Average of 563 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Blackburn B.90
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Blackburn B.90 Variable-Sweep Wing Jet Fighter Proposal appears in the following collections:
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