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F-102 — too slow at first

1 September 2014

F-102 — too slow at first

47° 07′ 55″ N / 122° 28′ 59″ W

F-102 — photo by Joseph May

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger at the McChord Air Museum and Heritage Hill Air Park — photo by Joseph May

This Convair F-12 Delta Dagger sits in the Heritage Hill Air Park which is part of the McChord Air Museum. Designed in the during the Cold War during and era when missiles were thought to have made guns into relics the Delta Dagger was built for speed. Armed with missiles as well as rockets the original design was a failure — thought  its delta wing and sharply faceted canopy gave the F-102 a sleek look it was in fact slow. Fortunately for Convair Richard Whitcomb had been studying wave drag when he experienced an epiphany one day, after much research. He realized that the entire aircraft had to be considered as a whole when considering high subsonic and transonic air flow and this led to one of the 20th Century’s greatest aerodynamic breakthroughs — Area Rule. Essentially this meant to look at the fuselage and wing’s overall cross-sectional area as a whole and relate that value to the theoretical optimum design known as the Sears-Haack body. Where the value is too high then thin it out and when too low then thicken it.

Convair reduced some of the fuselage cross-sectional area which gave the F-102 its paradigm setting “coke bottle” fuselage shape. Area Rule became a design constraint for any aircraft made to fly at transonic speeds or higher — including airliners such as the B-747 and A380.

F-102 — photo by Joseph May

The F-102’s sharp triangular vertical fin pairs well with its delta wing — photo by Joseph May

F-102 — photo by Joseph May

F-102 Delta Dagger in profile — photo by Joseph May

F-102 — photo by Joseph May

One characteristic the F-102 was the lack of  forward visibility for the pilot — photo by Joseph May

F-102 — photo by Joseph May

A better view of the canopy shows the distinctive flat triangular panels serve more for streamlining than for clarity — photo by Joseph May

F-102 — photo by Joseph May

F-102’s used active radar as well as passive infrared technology to guide their intercepts, here the IR tracker is shown in its employed position — photo by Joseph May

F-102 — photo by Joseph May

F-102’s rear view — photo by Joseph May

Note: more has been written about the F-102 as well as the McChord Air Museum — the search window will take you there 🙂

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 1 September 2014 01:23

    It sure appears that every plane in that museum (that I’ve seen thus far) is beautiful prepared and maintained. Isn’t the name DELTA DAGGER a GREAT name for a fighter plane!!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      1 September 2014 10:00

      Your are right…every aircraft there looks as if it rolled off the factory floor five minutes ago. “Delta Dagger” sure is an exciting name but I think “Delta Dart” falls a little flat 😉

  2. Bruce Kay permalink
    2 September 2014 17:52

    Great Memories. . . Area Rule. . . I remember the Whitcomb area rule, also called the transonic area rule was nicknamed “Wasp Waist”. The Sears–Haack body is a related concept. Check the differences and history out in Wikipedia.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      6 September 2014 16:05

      His development came in the nick of time for Convair as well as the F-102, didn’t it. There must have been a lot of tension relief 😉

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