Navy, Air Force Jet Speed Could Melt Paint
A recent report has detailed how the U.S. Navy's F-4 Phantom II jet had the ability to travel so fast that it could melt its own paint away.
According to military news platform We Are the Mighty, the jet was nicknamed “the flying brick” because of its appearance and had so much power that it could “lob a massive amount of ordnance” at targets and burn away its own paint.
The U.S. Army Air Forces and the Air Force reportedly began developing jets with the P-59 Airacomet and P-80 Shooting Star. The early models reportedly contained jet engines but performed poorly otherwise. The report states that jet fighters hit their stride with the F-86 Sabre, used in the Korean War and early Cold War.
However, Navy development reportedly took place more slowly. For most of the Korean War, it still used the F9F Panther, a second-generation jet fighter with mostly straight wings. It reportedly performed well in fights against the outdated North Korean Air Force, but the emergence of the F9F Cougar, which has swept wings, further improved the situation for the Navy.
The Navy still reportedly needed a stronger fleet defender that was fast, could carry a large payload and could outperform enemy jets at altitude. The F8U Corsair won the next contract, though the McDonnell company reportedly dug in deep to turn their failed entry for the 1953 selection into a winner for the Navy.
Additionally, there were concerns about the F3H at the time, a plane that it purchased a few of in 1952 but then later replaced it with the Vought F8U. McDonnell reportedly switched the engine, upgraded the angles, made the aircraft larger and re-thought the weapons.
The Navy had reportedly showed interest, though it told the company that it wanted a ground-attack plane before coming back and instead requesting a “long range interceptor.”
Designers then reportedly thought of the weapon load-out and other details once again, giving the plane radar and space for four Sparrow III air-to-air missiles.
Designers reportedly considered calling it the F4 "Satan" due to the stress of building it, though settled on F-4 Phantom II. With more tweaks and improvements, the resulting two-seat fighter could reportedly reach Mach 2 in level flight, carry eight tons of ordnance and climb to altitude faster than anything it would face.
According to most pilots, the results were not pretty, though they were still willing to climb in and experience the acceleration because of the two turbojet engines.
Flying Brick Details
British naval pilot Jonathan Whaley reportedly took the Phantom for a ride after hearing that the Phantom couldn't cross Mach 2.
Whaley reportedly had the crew remove all the jet’s external pylons, stalls and anything else that may slow it down. He then reportedly took it up to altitude, threw on full afterburner and slowly descended as he flew forward as fast as he could. The acceleration and top speed impressed him all the way down to 500 feet above sea level.
According to the report, Whaley sped all the way down to 500 feet above sea level.
The report states that after his flight, Whaley had flown so fast that he burned off his own paint.
"So we came storming right down to sea-level supersonic at about 500 feet, eventually, and brought it back," Whaley stated. "Climbed out, said, 'Aircraft is fully serviceable, thanks very much. You can take it away.' Got a phone call from the engineer saying, 'What the F have you been doing to this aeroplane?' So I said, 'Why?" and he said, 'Come and have a look at it.' And I came back, and the thing had got so hot all the paint on the leading edge of the wings had all burnt off and the aircraft needed a total respray."
The F-4 Phantom II reportedly then went on to have a long and storied career, with over 5,000 jets serving in militaries across the globe, including the U.S. Navy and Air Force.
More Aviation News
In August, the Australian Government announced that it had plans to create its first dedicated coating facility to produce the F-35A jet’s special radar-absorbing paint.
According to the reports, the new plans are under a contract that will cost 100 million Australian dollars ($64 million). The facility will reportedly apply the specialized paint to maintain the stealth capabilities of Australia's F-35A Lightning II aircraft fleet.
The new facility is planned to be built at the Royal Australian Air Force Base in Williamtown, New South Wales.
The Australian Government said in a statement that the work is “vital for Australia's air combat capability.” Additionally, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, this is the first time the so-called “secret” paint will be applied in Australia.
The new paint is meant to aid in evading detection and incorporate features including embedded sensors, internal carriage of weapons and fuel, reduced engine signature and aligned edges.
BAE Systems Australia will reportedly be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the jets. Currently only Australian F-35As have undergone maintenance by BAE at Newcastle Airport.
The new coating facility will reportedly support the maintenance of other F-35A fleets operating in the Indo-Pacific, turning Newcastle Airport into a future regional hub. In addition to its primary functions, the facility will reportedly cater to the upkeep of F-35As used in the Indo-Pacific region.
Reports say that the chemical makeup of the paint is a closely guarded secret. However, according to Air and Space Forces Magazine, it acts to “help reflect radar energy from some directions while absorbing, attenuating, or altering it in others to reduce the aircraft’s radar return.”
The new facility is expected to begin construction around mid-2024, following the finalization of its design this year. In collaboration with BAE Systems Australia, the coating facility will reportedly be constructed to support the upkeep and enhancement of Australia's 72-strong F-35 aircraft fleet.