In our second article in a series on the Bell D188A (a.k.a. XF-109 / XF3L) supersonic VTOL fighter, we present a brochure dating from July 1957, in which the design has evolved from the five-jet configuration presented previously into a six-jet aircraft, though the general overall layout is similar to the earlier study.
In the opening summary, Bell describes the D188A as a small, light-weight supersonic VTOL interceptor based entirely upon the use of engines and equipment then in development. It utilized thrust-rotation, thrust-diversion,
and reaction control principles proven on the Bell Aircraft VTOL Air Test Vehicle and the USAF X-14 aircraft.
Ten years of Bell Aircraft experience with supersonic airplanes, represented by the USAF X-1 (first supersonic airplane), the X-1A (Mach 2.5) and the X-2 (Mach 3.2), were utilized to advantage in the design of this supersonic VTOL fighter.
Bell claimed that the airplane could take-off and land manually, without artificial stabilization or special techniques, in a natural, horizontal attitude. It was completely independent of catapults or RATO, arresting mechanisms, aerial landing cables, wind direction, and fleet course. This independence permitted simultaneous take-offs and landings of a number of aircraft at any time, thereby allowing practical realization of the concept of the deck-launched interceptor.
In level flight, the airplane had available a ratio of rated thrust to weight approximately twice that of contemporary interceptors. This afforded exceptional climbing, turning, and accelerating rates.
Inherent also was an STO capability with large overloads, permitting the airplane to be used in a variety of other missions. This, coupled with the ability to take-off and land at conventional airfields without prior preparation, made it possible to ferry or deploy the aircraft readily.
The use of engines and equipment then in development insured that the initial VTOL interceptor weapon system could be fully operational in the 1962 time period; expansion into advanced all-weather interceptors and attack aircraft before 1965 was supposedly assured by normal development improvements.
Bell considered the D188A to be within the existing state-of-the-art, with its realization in the above time period depending primarily on timely implementation of the VTOL weapon system program.
To view the brochure in detail, please click through the image gallery above.
All images from NARA Archives II, College Park, MD, RG 72
Report No. D188A-945-200, “Navy VTOL Fighter Program,” Bell Aircraft Corporation, July 1957, in the files of the National Archives II at College Park, MD, RG 72