- Delta Dagger, Convair

F-102 Delta Dagger

This delta-wing interceptor was amongst the first to be designed as part of a 'weapons system' and to employ the area rule -- the latter refinement necessitated a total redesign after the first pre-series aircraft had failed to attain Mach 1. The effort paid off, and the F-102 became the main home-defence interceptor of the USAAF. It was considered an interim type, and replaced soon by the derived F-106.

Type: F-102A Delta Dagger
Country: USA
Function: fighter
Year: 1956
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 7800 kg P&W J57-P-23
Wing Span: 11.67m
Length: 20.84m
Height: 6.46m
Wing Area: 61.45 m2
Empty Weight: ? kg
Max.Weight: 14288 kg
Max. Speed: 1328 km/h
Ceiling: 16500 m
Max. Range: 2173 km
Armament: 6 air-to-air missiles, 24 unguided rockets

The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger fighter aircraft was part of the backbone of the United States air defenses in the late 1950s. Entering service in 1956, its main purpose was to intercept invading Soviet bomber fleets. The aircraft's development was long and troubled, and by the early 1960s it was being replaced by F-101 Voodoos and F-4 Phantom IIs. Many of the F-102s were transferred to United States Air National Guard duty by the mid- to late-1960s, and the plane left service altogether in 1976.

The plane was developed from the XF-92A delta wing research aircraft of the late 1940s. The Air Force took a new approach in putting out the request for proposals for an operational interceptor, considering both the aircraft and armament together in what became known as a "weapon system." The RFP for Project MX-1554 went out 18 June 1950, and in January 1951 six manufacturers responded, of which Convair, Lockheed, and Republic were chosen to proceed with design. Three of these projects were too expensive, and in November, only Convair was allowed to continue with its Model 8-80, an interim project using the less-powerful Westinghouse J40 turbojet in lieu of the Wright J67, which was still in development.

The YF-102A made its first flight on 24 October 1953, but was lost in an accident nine days later. The second aircraft flew on 11 January 1954, confirming a dismal performance, far below the requirements. The problem was solved by the use of the area-ruled fuselage, and the modified aircraft, Model 8-90, first flew on 19 December 1954, achieving a speed of Mach 1.22 and an altitude of 53,000 ft (16,200 m).

The production F-102A had the Hughes MG-3 fire control system, later upgraded in service to the MG-10. It had a three-segment internal weapons bay under the fuselage for air-to-air missiles. Initial armament was three pairs of GAR-1 Falcon missiles, a mix of infrared and semi-active radar homing. The doors of the two forward bays each had tubes for 12 2.75 in (70 mm) FFAR rockets (for a total of 24). The F-102 was later upgraded to allow the carriage of two GAR-9 Nuclear Falcon missiles in the center bay. The larger size of these weapons required redesigned center bay doors with no rocket tubes. Plans were considered to fit the MB-1 Genie nuclear rocket, but this weapon was never adopted.

The first operational service of the F-102A was with the 327th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at George Air Force Base, in April 1956, and eventually a total of 889 were built. 111 TF-102A two-seat side-by-side trainers were also produced. In 1973 six aircraft were converted to target drones, simulating MiG-21s.

The operational Delta Dagger still fell short of its goals, but the planned F-102B improvements eventually became a new aircraft, the F-106 Delta Dart. The F-102's official popular name, "Delta Dagger," was never used in common parlance, the aircraft being universally known as the "Deuce." The TF-102 was known as the "Tub" because of its wide fuselage.

YF-102A prototype
F-102A 889 built
TF-102A two-seat trainer, 111 built
QF-102A two piloted target drones (converted from F-102A)
PQM-102A 200+ unpiloted target drones (converted from F-102A)

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