With only a hatful of fuel giving a 30 minute combat duration and steel skids rather than wheels in case of emergency landing, this was Dr Strangelove’s fighter for the nuclear apocalypse.
Intended to be launched from carrier B36s via a deployable ‘trapeze bar’ and retrieved the same way this little plane required a steely resolve from the pilot. Not to mention needing to keep a very close eye on the fuel gauge, unless you wanted to walk home to Alaska, or wished to practice your colloquial Russian in downtown Moscow…
In the end though it was the difficulty of retrieving the fighter due to the effects of turbulence and air flow cushioning, plus it’s lacklustre performance as a combat aircraft that nailed the coffin lid shut on this particular concept. Eventually air to air refuelling came along and solved the problem of fighter escorts on long missions.
Of course, today we have increasingly smaller and more agile drones and RPV’s so the concept of an ‘aircraft carrier of the skies’ may be coming back into vogue again, I wonder what the guys at DARPA are working on. 🙂