I had a recent post of some shots from the USAF museum at Edwards AFB. It reminded me of my first visit to Edwards in 1990. On that trip I saw both the USAF side of things and the NASA side. The NASA hangars were great and there were lots of amazing types being used for testing purposes. I didn’t see everything I was hoping for there but it was still fantastic. One thing that really excited me was the storage lot. There were some interesting airframes parked up there. An F-8 Crusader that had been used for supercritical wing testing was there. I think that has since been taken care of and is now restored. The fly by wire testbed was also there.
There was also a weird hybrid airframe. I think it was called RSRA which stood for rotor systems research aircraft. This was a hybrid of rotor and fixed wing technologies. One of them was modified for the X-Wing program which was canceled before it could fly. Not sure which one I saw but I think it was the unmodified one. These things could have A-10/S-3 engines fitted to them for higher speed research work. Oh, to have seen one in action. This lot would have been definitely worth some time looking around if it had been possible.
The early versions of jets are often repurposed throughout their life. They serve a role for testing but they are not configured like production jets and to make them so is too expensive to be worthwhile. Besides, they are instrumented to some extent so they can be useful for carrying out alternate tests. As a result, they often get used for trials, research tasks or development of alternate concepts. The early F-16s did a lot of this sort of work and ended up in some odd programs like the AFTI effort. Sitting outside at the Frontiers of Flight museum is one of these test aircraft. It spent its life with General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) at Fort Worth and, once it was done with, it found a new home at the museum. Compared to the average F-16, this jet will have had a lot of interesting experiences!
Talon Hate is a program that the Air Force is running involving an infrared sensor mounted in the front of a centerline fuel tank. It is mounted on an F-15 from the operational test unit at Nellis AFB. The first time I saw it, I was walking along the flight line at Nellis. We were shooting with the California ANG unit that was the next space along the line. As we walked past the Talon Hate jet, we were under strict instructions not to photograph it. I was right there but nothing I could do.
During my visit to Red Flag 16-4, the Talon Hate jet flew a couple of times. It flew with a second F-15 each time and sometimes with other jets. The pod is clearly visible on the jet but the other modifications are less conspicuous. There is a satellite communications antenna mounted on the back on the jet. When it turns for final, you can see the antenna mount. I don’t know what the outcome of the program will be but it is cool to see the venerable F-15 still trying out new stuff.
Spotting surfers along the Pacific coastline is not too tricky. Anywhere with beach access is likely to have someone who has gone in to the water with their board. However, an unmanned surfboard is not a common occurrence. As we were motoring across Monterey Bay, we came across this board. It is an unmanned research platform with a number of instruments to monitor the bay. Apparently it is powered and can cruise itself around the bay and radio back its readings to the researchers on land. A curious looking thing!
There weren’t just sailing ships along the harbor front. A couple of submarines were also there. One was an old Russian sub while the other was far smaller but was a research submarine. The Russian sub is a Foxtrot class diesel-electric sub and it is moored a further out on a pier away from the shore. The USS Dolphin was a test and research sub for the US Navy and was involved in much deep diving research and test programs to support the fleet subs. She has a very simple hull shape compared to operational subs. She was only retired in the last ten years and was the longest serving sub in the Navy.
Hiller Aviation Museum has another aircraft I find interesting. This is the AD-1 Oblique Wing research aircraft from NASA. I have crossed paths with this machine before. I have seen it at Hiller before but it was also still at Edwards when I paid a visit to the NASA facility there in 1990. The oblique wing concept is an interesting one. Swing wing aircraft aim to combine he low speed and high speed characteristics required into one plane by having multiple wing sweep angles. The oblique wing approach aims to simplify this by having a single wing that pivots. The sweep angle is the same but eh CG is unaffected and the pivot mechanism much simpler.
Forward swept wings are fine so, while the oblique wing looks odd, it should be practical. It will have some interesting aeroelastic issues to be dealt with but, it should be possible to engineer. Whether it will then deliver the benefits has never been tested. The AD-1 was a low speed research aircraft only but it flew many times over the years it was in service. Now it hangs from the roof of the museum.