McAir/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II (Flying Dorito)

Experimental aircraft including -but not limited to- X-planes, from the Bell X-1 to the Su-47
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Unread post13 Jun 2013, 23:17

aaam wrote:Granted the above post is over 4 years old, but since the topic as come back up I have some info that might be of interest. Attached is one of the few pics I've been able to find of the Northrop Grumman proposal for the ATA. This is from an out of print book on the A-12 program. Notice the resemblance to the Northrop Grumman LRB of a few years back proposal as well as the X-47B

Because of the court case, we've learned a lot about what happened. It wasn't so much that GD-MDD (McAir had eaten Douglas by this time) were blameless, they did some hinkey stuff and their (apparently) forced marriage for this project was not going well, but there was a bunch of strange gov't stuff going on as well. For one thing, the Northrop Grumman team took a look at the price the gov't wanted to pay for R&D and production and essentially said,, "You can't build this plane for that". Plus on a program as risky on this they were unwilling to make reliability guarantees to the extent USN was demanding before R&D even started. Finally, DoD wanted a firm fixed-price development contract, and those things always go bad on new technologies, plus Grumman had previously been badly burned when they agreed to a lower price to develop their F-14 and accept such a contract. Navy refused to make any changes, so the team submitted a bid that they knew would be labeled as non-compliant, because they refused to bid firm fixed price for development. It's worthy of note that although Lockheed joined all kinds of teams for A/FX, they wanted no part of the ATA program

Their bid was rejected, but GD-MDD were never told the other team walked away and so were willing to negotiate for a lower price, since they still thought they were competing against another team. This is what galoot was talking aobut

Anotherr big factor was that GD-MDD clearly stated that their bid was predicated on being allowed access to exiting stealth data so that they wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. In the court cases it came out that USAF controlled access. USAF was never that thrilled about buying ATA ("Why not just buy more B-2s"?), and so for some reason the GD-MDD team never quite seemed to have people that would pass muster to access the data. Eventually, they just decided to start from scratch, which drove costs through the roof.

Although these weren't the only causes of what went down (there was a bit of lying by both contractor and Navy folks, they were important. One humorous aspect of the court cases was int he 2000s the remnants of the team were still saying they would have been able to meet the requirements (for one thing, they were not required to meet the weight goals until the 24th aircraft). They said that in order to prove this, they needed to be able to present to the court documents and reports that were classified. The Gov't's response to this was basically"No, you can't present those documents in court, even one that would have the appropriate clearances. But don't worry, trust us; we looked at them and we're right and you're wrong". The courts rejected this argument, saying the Gov't was perfectly within its rights to say no one could see those documents, but then it couldn't also claim those same documents proved their case.

And the story goes on and on and on

I don't think that was the final version NG submitted. The pictures I've seen have a wing form basically identical to the one they used for the X-47B, able to fold up into a asymmetric diamond shape.
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Unread post13 Jun 2013, 23:25

Ignore history only at the cost (literally in this case) of repeating it's mistakes. Reviewing the A-12 at this time makes sense.

That's basically what the X-47B is.
AT any rate, the A-12 would have had a range and internal payload advantage over the F-35, but would not have had the AtA ability or situational awareness, and would not have been as versatile.
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Unread post14 Jun 2013, 03:08

count_to_10 wrote:I don't think that was the final version NG submitted. The pictures I've seen have a wing form basically identical to the one they used for the X-47B, able to fold up into a asymmetric diamond shape.


I just said that was one of the few pics I had, It was the only clear wind tunnel one I had. There were no doubt later drawings, but probably something closer to the final wasn't built because they walked away from the competition. My understanding is that their version also folded up more compactly than the GD-MDD design.
Last edited by aaam on 14 Jun 2013, 03:33, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post14 Jun 2013, 03:15

count_to_10 wrote:
Ignore history only at the cost (literally in this case) of repeating it's mistakes. Reviewing the A-12 at this time makes sense.

That's basically what the X-47B is.
AT any rate, the A-12 would have had a range and internal payload advantage over the F-35, but would not have had the AtA ability or situational awareness, and would not have been as versatile.


The A-12 was very much an "inside the Beltway" project, not a lot of Fleet input was used, although it did envision the use of AIM-120 (and maybe AIM-9). The later A/FX solicited Fleet input and was less stealthy but much more versatile.

Keep something in mind when comparing with the F-35. F-35 has more advanced technology, but it started later. Either of these would have already been in service for 20 years before we'll see F-35Cs deployed.
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Unread post15 Jun 2013, 00:46

count_to_10 wrote:
Reviewing the A-12 at this time makes sense.
That's basically what the X-47B is.
AT any rate, the A-12 would have had a range and internal payload advantage over the F-35, but would not have had the AtA ability or situational awareness, and would not have been as versatile.
Wikipedia gives it shorter range than any version of F-35 and only about 57% of C's, with a payload equivalent to only the internal payload of an A or C. It shows about equivalent payload for X-47B but much longer range.

Whatever its range and payload were, there was a serious problem with it, though: they gave it the wrong name. If you've got something whose wings are blended in to its face like that, meant to operate at sea, it's obviously supposed to be called "manta" or "stingray" (the latter of which would also have had parity with "Hornet").

I wonder how much the Air Force's next bomber (which has a really light payload for a "bomber", more like a fighter, but all internal) would need to be altered to work on a carrier.
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Unread post15 Jun 2013, 01:29

delvo wrote:
count_to_10 wrote:
Reviewing the A-12 at this time makes sense.
That's basically what the X-47B is.
AT any rate, the A-12 would have had a range and internal payload advantage over the F-35, but would not have had the AtA ability or situational awareness, and would not have been as versatile.
Wikipedia gives it shorter range than any version of F-35 and only about 57% of C's, with a payload equivalent to only the internal payload of an A or C. It shows about equivalent payload for X-47B but much longer range.

Whatever its range and payload were, there was a serious problem with it, though: they gave it the wrong name. If you've got something whose wings are blended in to its face like that, meant to operate at sea, it's obviously supposed to be called "manta" or "stingray" (the latter of which would also have had parity with "Hornet").

I wonder how much the Air Force's next bomber (which has a really light payload for a "bomber", more like a fighter, but all internal) would need to be altered to work on a carrier.

Shorter range than the F-35?
General characteristics

Crew: None aboard (semi-autonomous operation)
Length: 38.2 ft (11.63 m)
Wingspan: 62.1 ft extended/30.9 ft folded[31] (18.92 m/9.41 m)
Height: 10.4 ft (3.10 m)
Empty weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 44,567 lb (20,215 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan

Performance

Maximum speed: Subsonic
Cruise speed: Mach 0.9+ (high subsonic)[32][33]
Range: 2,100+ NM (3,889+ km)
Service ceiling: 40,000 ft (12,190 m)

Armament

2 weapon bays, providing for up to 4,500 lb (2,000 kg) of ordnance;

So, wiki doesn't give it a bigger internal bay, but it is just a demonstrator.
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Unread post16 Jun 2013, 22:29

aaam wrote:Anotherr big factor was that GD-MDD clearly stated that their bid was predicated on being allowed access to exiting stealth data so that they wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. In the court cases it came out that USAF controlled access. USAF was never that thrilled about buying ATA ("Why not just buy more B-2s"?), and so for some reason the GD-MDD team never quite seemed to have people that would pass muster to access the data. Eventually, they just decided to start from scratch, which drove costs through the roof.


Not quite that simple. USAF controlled access, but the actual details of the technology are in most cases proprietary and the Gov't cannot share without the company's permission. I also have no doubt that if NG or Lockheed ever agreed to share their technology there would be a huge fee involved such that I doubt there would have been any significant cost savings.
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Unread post16 Jun 2013, 23:35

Roscoe wrote:
aaam wrote:Anotherr big factor was that GD-MDD clearly stated that their bid was predicated on being allowed access to exiting stealth data so that they wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. In the court cases it came out that USAF controlled access. USAF was never that thrilled about buying ATA ("Why not just buy more B-2s"?), and so for some reason the GD-MDD team never quite seemed to have people that would pass muster to access the data. Eventually, they just decided to start from scratch, which drove costs through the roof.


Not quite that simple. USAF controlled access, but the actual details of the technology are in most cases proprietary and the Gov't cannot share without the company's permission. I also have no doubt that if NG or Lockheed ever agreed to share their technology there would be a huge fee involved such that I doubt there would have been any significant cost savings.


You're right, it's not that simple, nothing is. The "proprietary" issue was what appeared int the press for a number of years, until the case went to court and more information surfaced.

A little background: When the gov't funds the development of something, including a design, it, not the contractor, owns it. Or, the government can buy the rights within the program. Let me cite two examples: The original plan for the F-14D before Cheney killed the program was new construction plus rebuilds of F-14As and Bs. Although Grumman developed the F-14D as well as the methodology for the rebuild, the gov't owned all that and in fact announced that it was going to compete the rebuild program. More recently, GE offered to finsh development of the F136 engine on their own dime, and it included many advanced technologies. Gov't said, "Nope, it's all ours, including those engines sitting on your test stands and production lines. Don't touch them".

Depending on how some thngs are funded, the manufacturing techniques, if not funded by the program, may indeed be proprietary. But, the actual stealth data belongs to the government. How Northrop or Lockheed (actually not an issue because Lockheed didn't want to have anything to do with the ATA) might build a stealth plane may be proprietary, but stealth technology belongs to the gov't. it was this underlying tedhnology and data that the GD-MDD team said they'd need to deliver their plane at the agreed upon cost. For the record, given GD's lack of experience and the armed camp relationship between the two teams, I don't think they'd have pulld it off if they had gotten it. However, since there seemed to be some mysterious reason why the companies' people couldn't pass muster to have access to that underlying data, we'll never know.

That's why the companies won some of their court cases and whyt the gov't had to run around and find judges who would overrule other judges to push the ball the other way.

Even if ihad been solely a cae of proprietary data, the fact remains that team clearly stated that their bid requied acess to the data. The gov't should have not accepted their bid, or when it became apaprent tha the information wouldn't be provided, terminated the contract for the convenienc eof the government (and paid penalties).

Ironically, if the gov't had waited another year, or so and it became apparent that the A-12 wouldn't met specs, even at its higher cost, the gov't could have terminated for default and got all the taxpayers' money back. By terminating when they did, the gov't couldn't prove that GDD/MD wouldn't have been able to perform, they clam they would have. And that is the basis for why it's been going 'round and 'round all these years.

Such are the wonders of Gov't Procurement.
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Unread post16 Jun 2013, 23:52

I see no value in beating a long dead horse, however this account is about the most accurate that I have read.
http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArch ... 1navy.aspx
I have the complete set of transcripts from the hearings (had some time on my hands as I was laid off when the program crashed). There was enough fault and incompetence and hubris to go around for everyone involved.
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Unread post17 Jun 2013, 00:13

fiskerwad wrote:I see no value in beating a long dead horse, however this account is about the most accurate that I have read.
http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArch ... 1navy.aspx
I have the complete set of transcripts from the hearings (had some time on my hands as I was laid off when the program crashed). There was enough fault and incompetence and hubris to go around for everyone involved.
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Well, this whole topic is about a long dead horse. Everyone agrees that ther's blame everywhere.

The article is pretty reasonable, but remember that at the time it was written the clearance issues and the extend of the acrimony between GD and MDD weren't yet known. The former,especially. It wouldn't have surfced in the hearings. It wasn't until the court cases "flowered" in [then] future years that that stuff became known, so there's none of it in the article.

And heck, the court cases are still going on, so as Miracle Max said about Wesley in The Princess Bride, "He's mostly dead, which means slightly alive".
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Unread post17 Jun 2013, 14:02

aaam wrote:
fiskerwad wrote:I see no value in beating a long dead horse, however this account is about the most accurate that I have read.
http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArch ... 1navy.aspx
I have the complete set of transcripts from the hearings (had some time on my hands as I was laid off when the program crashed). There was enough fault and incompetence and hubris to go around for everyone involved.
fisk


Well, this whole topic is about a long dead horse. Everyone agrees that ther's blame everywhere.

The article is pretty reasonable, but remember that at the time it was written the clearance issues and the extend of the acrimony between GD and MDD weren't yet known. The former,especially. It wouldn't have surfced in the hearings. It wasn't until the court cases "flowered" in [then] future years that that stuff became known, so there's none of it in the article.

And heck, the court cases are still going on, so as Miracle Max said about Wesley in The Princess Bride, "He's mostly dead, which means slightly alive".


I don't have Princess Bride on my must-see list but I'll take your word on that.

Your comment, "the clearance issues and the extend of the acrimony between GD and MDD weren't yet known", is true for those on the outside. From the inside looking out, we had a somewhat better view. I'm done.
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Unread post14 Apr 2014, 16:11

It might actually be dead now, maybe, but we still have the autopsy to look forward to...

Princess Bride does seem to apply fairly well here...

It seems that we "...fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia..."

but I think I stick with the rest of the Miracle Max dialog... "Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What's that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change."

And that's about what the government got:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/24/boeing-generaldynamics-settlement-idUSL2N0KX2M720140124

So what does 200 million get the governement? Maybe a 3/4 of a flight of hornets, or a couple of growlers, or maybe a tanker.

Or better yet, Boeing can donate a couple BBJ's and GD can send over 3 or 4 Gulfstreams to shuttle around Admirals and Congressmen and their families to "meetings" or campaign luncheons in Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.
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Unread post15 Apr 2014, 18:57

Salute!

Interesting link, Sorry.

I quit worrying about the A-12 when our parent company and its parent company ( N-G bidders) lost the contract to the GD-McAir grope.

Interestingly, the only notional bird design I saw was similar to a mini-B-2. My special access clearance was delayed for two years or more, but I could still work on the stores management system and the cockpit displays. Some folks actually got to see the proposed jet mockup, but not me.

Years later, the LO technology resulted in more "conventional" designs like what we see in the Raptor and F-35 variants.

Some old versions of the debacle assert that the N-G grope knew that the plane would cost "x" and then decided when hearing bitches from the Navy to just stay put. They did, and GD-McAir won the development contract. The $$$$ increased dramatically and USN decided to wait and get more Hornets and such.

I was glad to have been hired to work on that jet, and my experience in attack jets that had high-tech systems was good for me, and my company. Didn't hurt that I was a recent Viper pilot with a "secret" clearance courtesy of my previous contract with Northrop the year before. There were very few of us back in 1985.

Funny, but the F-20/F-18 lawsuit between McAir and Northrop involved the same companies. When the USN found out it was being billed for all the legal expenses ( I was being paid $100 an hour), they took action. End of the lawsuit.

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