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A Scorpion and a Genie

19 August 2011

A Scorpion and a Genie

30º 27′  57″ N / 86º 33′ 37″ W

The F-89 Scorpion was designed and made by Northrop to meet the USAF requirement for an all weather interceptor to replace the P-61 Black Widow (also a Northrop product). Introduced into service concurrently with the Lockheed F-94 Starfire, another all weather interceptor design, to meet the new strategic threat from the nuclear capable USSR — it was the Cold War.

The Scorpion had a crew of two — pilot and radar officer — who sat atop twin afterburning turbojet engines. The F-89 was adequate, if not spectacular but it had two claims to fame. The first was the Northrop’s introduction of what they termed the “deceleron” but is now called a split aileron. The second was that it could be armed with a nuclear interception rockets mounted under wing pylons — the Douglas AIR-2 Genie. These were the days of heavy bomber formations and no reliable missile guidance systems for fighter aircraft so the USAF, for a time, had a nuclear capability to shoot down bombers. The only live fire and nuclear detonation of such a missile took place in July 1957 as part of Operation Plumbbob with a Scorpion and a Genie.

This F-89J  Scorpion with one Genie rocket is displayed at the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum* near Niceville FL.

Northrop F-89J Scorpion at the USAF Armament Museum — photo by Joseph May

Each of the J-model Scorpion’s broad wings had a fuel tank at the wing tip and a pylon mid wing to mount a Genie rocket — photo by Joseph May

The high mounting of the horizontal stabilizer was needed to prevent interference from the jet exhaust on the horizontal control surfaces — photo by Joseph May

The two person crew sat in tandem directly above the engines — photo by Joseph May

Mid wing mounting of the F-89’s wings — photo by Joseph May

Douglas AIR-2 Genie, a unguided rocket designed to carry a nuclear warhead — photo by Joseph May

The Genie’s rocket exhaust and fins — photo by Joseph May

* a post of the museum, and others about its aircraft, can be found by entering the name into the search window (which will take you the blog’s WordPress site) and selecting ENTER.

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