Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Aircraft profile

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The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger was an US interceptor aircraft built as part of the backbone of the United States Air Force's air defenses in the late 1950s.

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger flight: Convair YF-102 (S/N 53-1782) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger flight: Convair YF-102 (S/N 53-1782) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The primary mission of the F-102 was to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. It was the world's first supersonic all-weather jet interceptor and the USAF's first operational delta-wing aircraft. The F-102 made its initial flight on Oct. 24, 1953, and became operational with the Air Defense Command in 1956. At the peak of deployment in the late 1950s, F-102s equipped more than 25 ADC squadrons. Convair built 1,000 F-102s, 875 of which were F-102As. The USAF also bought 111 TF-102s as combat trainers with side-by-side seating.

In a wartime situation, after electronic equipment on board the F-102 had located the enemy aircraft, the F-102's radar would guide it into position for attack. At the proper moment, the electronic fire control system would automatically fire the F-102's air-to-air rockets and missiles.

Specifications:

Span: 38 ft. 1 in.

Length: 68 ft. 4 in. (including boom)

Height: 21 ft. 2 in.

Weight: 31,559 lbs. maximum

Armament: 24 unguided 2.75-inch rockets and six guided missiles

Engine: One Pratt & Whitney J57 of 16,000 lbs. thrust with afterburner

Cost: $1,184,000

Performance:

Maximum speed: 810 mph

Cruising speed: 600 mph

Range: 1,000 miles

Service ceiling: 55,000 ft.

Source: US Air Force

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 55-3372) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 55-3372) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Detailed background:

Source: wikipedia.org

The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger was an US interceptor aircraft built as part of the backbone of the United States Air Force's 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 supplemented by F-101 Voodoos, replaced by F-106 Delta Darts and later by 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.

Design and development

The F-102 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.

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102 A Delta Dagger. Overhead view, in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102 A Delta Dagger. Overhead view, in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The YF-102 made its first flight on 24 October 1953, but was lost to an accident nine days later. The second aircraft flew on 11 January 1954, confirming a dismal performance: Approximately 812 mph, while supersonic, it was far below the requirements. The problem was solved by the use of the area rule, which entailed narrowing the aircraft down in the mid-section, moving the cockpit and intakes back further, blending the outer contours of the intake duct, lengthening the nose and adding two fairings on either side of the engine nozzle, resulting in the new "'YF-102A design'". The new design was more than twice as fast as the non-area ruled design. The "'YF-102A'", however was not exactly the same as the production F-102A design in that its nose was considerably longer than the "'F-102A.'"

Somewhere along the way, the Wright J-67 was cancelled, and the J-40 was replaced with a Pratt & Whitney J-57.

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 x 2.75 in FFAR rockets (for a total of 24). The F-102 was later upgraded to allow the carriage of a GAR-11 Nuclear Falcon missiles in the center bay. The larger size of this weapon required redesigned center bay doors with no rocket tubes. Plans were considered to fit the MB-1 Genie nuclear rocket to the design, but it was never adopted.

Because of the changes that had to be made in redesigning the aircraft with the area rule in mind, the ambitious plan to produce the production aircraft on the prototype tooling had to be abandoned; two-thirds of the 60,000+ pieces of tooling had to be scrapped or heavily modified.

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Photo courtesy of John Rossino, Lockheed Martin Code One)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Photo courtesy of John Rossino, Lockheed Martin Code One)

To train F-102A pilots, the TF-102A trainer was developed, with 111 eventually manufactured. The aircraft was fitted with a side-by-side cockpit to facilitate ease of pilot training. This required a redesign of the cockpit and nose incorporating a set of vortex generators on the top of the cockpit to prevent flow separation under certain circumstances, and repositioning of the intake ducts. Despite the many changes, the aircraft was combat-capable, although this variant was predictably slower, only reaching subsonic speeds in level flight.

The F-102's direct successor was the related F-106 Delta Dart, which was originally designated YF-102B. The design underwent so many aerodynamic changes including a larger J-75 turbojet and a variable-geometry inlet design that it essentially became an entirely new plane.

Operational history

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. The F-102's official name, "Delta Dagger" was never used in common parlance, with the aircraft being universally known as the "Deuce." The TF-102 was known as the "Tub" because of its wide fuselage.

During the time the F-102A was in service, several new wing designs were used to experiment with the application of increased conical camber to the wings. Ultimately, a design was selected that actually increased elevon area, reduced takeoff speed, improved the supersonic L/D ratio and increased the plane's ceiling to 56,000 feet. A modification was required to the gears due to the wing redesign.

The USAF Air Defense Command had F-102 Delta Daggers in service in 1960 and the type continued to serve in large numbers with both Air Force and Air National Guard units well into the 1970s. George W. Bush, later President of the United States, flew the F-102 as part of his Air National Guard service in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Vietnam service

The F-102 served in Vietnam, flying fighter patrols and serving as bomber escorts. A total of 15 aircraft were lost in Vietnam: one to air-to-air combat, several to ground fire and the remainder to accidents.

Initially, F-102 detachments began to be sent to bases in Southeast Asia in 1962, when radar contacts that were detected by ground radars were thought to possibly be North Vietnamese Il-28 "Beagle" bombers, which was considered a very credible threat during that time period. F-102s were sent to Thailand and other nearby countries to intercept these aircraft if they indeed threatened South Vietnam at any time.

Later on, B-52 strikes, codenamed ARC LIGHT, were escorted by F-102s based in the theater. It was during one of these missions that an F-102 was shot down by a North Vietnamese MiG-21 using an AA-2 Atoll heat-seeking missile. The MiGs approached undetected, and one of the F-102s was shot down. The other F-102 pilot managed to shoot off some AIM-4s at the fleeing MiG-21s, but no hits were recorded. This was the only air-to-air loss for the F-102 during the Vietnam War.

The F-102 became fairly heavily used in the air-to-ground role. The interceptor was equipped with 24 x 2.75-in FFARs in the fuselage bay doors, and these weapons were used to good effect against various types of North Vietnamese targets. Additionally, heat-seeking Falcon missiles used in conjunction with the F-102's nose-mounted IRST (Infrared Search & Track) were employed on night time harassment raids along the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Operations with both the F-102A and TF-102A two-seater (which was used in a Forward Air Control role because its two seats and 2.75-in. rockets offered good versatility for the mission) in Vietnam until 1968 when all F-102 aircraft were sent back to the United States.

Later use

In 1973, six aircraft were converted to target drones as QF-102A and later PQM-102 series, simulating MiG-21s. This began a program where hundreds of F-102s were converted for use as target drones for F-4 and F-106 aircraft as well as later F-15 aircraft and testing of the US Army's Patriot missile system.

Some F-102As were configured to accommodate a single AIM-26 Super Falcon in each side bay in lieu of the conventional 2 x AIM-4 Falcons.

The F-102 and TF-102 were exported overseas to both Turkey and Greece, with those aircraft seeing combat missions during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. There have been claims of air combat between Greek F-5s and Turkish F-102s. The Greeks claimed to have shot down two F-102s , while the Turks claim to have shot down an F-5; however, both sides deny losses. The F-102 was finally retired from both of those air forces in 1979. The F-102 left US service in 1976, while the last PQM-102 drone was expended in 1986. No F-102s remain in flyable condition today although many can be seen at museums.

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Formation takeoff of Convair TF-102A (S/N 56-2332) of the 317th FIS, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and an F-102A on May 17, 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Formation takeoff of Convair TF-102A (S/N 56-2332) of the 317th FIS, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and an F-102A on May 17, 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Variants

* YF-102 - The first prototypes: Performance was unsatisfactory; drag was twice as high as it should have been due to interference-effects. Maximum Speed: 812 miles per hour

* YF-102A - Area-ruled prototypes: New design featured a fuselage that was narrow in the mid-section, with aerodynamic fairings added on either side of the engine-nozzle to conform to the area-rule. Additionally, cockpit and intakes were moved further aft, the nose lengthened, and the outer contours of inlets were blended with the forward fuselage.

* F-102A - Production Model: Single-seat all-weather interceptor fighter aircraft. Nose shorter than original F-102A, but featuring more powerful J-57 turbojet. 889 built.

* TF-102A - Two-seat training version, 111 built

* F-102B - The original designation of the F-106A

* F-102C - Two converted A's with improved structural design and avionics as YF-102C, with new J57-P-47 engine for a tactical attack role; AF canceled project.

* QF-102A - Two piloted target drones, (converted from the F-102A).

* PQM-102A - 200+ unpiloted target drones, (converted from F-102A).

* PQM-102B - Unpiloted target drones.

Specifications (F-102A)

Data from The Great Book of Fighters

General characteristics

* Crew: 1

* Length: 68 ft 4 in (20.83 m)

* Wingspan: 38 ft 1 in (11.61 m)

* Height: 21 ft 2 in (6.45 m)

* Wing area: 695 ft² (64.57 m²)

* Airfoil: NACA 0004-65 mod root and tip

* Empty weight: 19,350 lb (8,777 kg)

* Loaded weight: 24,500 lb (11,100 kg)

* Max takeoff weight: 31,500 lb (14,300 kg)

* Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney J57-P-25 afterburning turbojet

o Dry thrust: 11,700 lbf (52.0 kN)

o Thrust with afterburner: 17,200 lbf (76.5 kN)

* Internal fuel capacity: 1,085 US gal (4,107 l)

* External fuel capacity: 2x 215 US gal (815 l) drop tanks

Performance

* Maximum speed: Mach 1.25 (825 mph, 1,304 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)

* Range: 1,350 mi (1,170 nm, 2,175 km)

* Service ceiling 53,400 ft (16,300 m)

* Rate of climb: 13,000 ft/min (66 m/s)

* Wing loading: 35 lb/ft² (172 kg/m²)

* Thrust/weight: 0.70

Armament

* Rockets: 24× 2.75 in (70 mm) unguided rockets in missile bay doors

* Missiles:

o 6× AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles or

o 3× AIM-4 Falcon

o 1× AIM-26 Falcon with conventional or nuclear warhead

Avionics

* MG-10 fire control system

More photos:

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: This F-102A (S/N 56-1416) flies formation with a Soviet "Bear" long-range bomber off the coast of Iceland in July 1970. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: This F-102A (S/N 56-1416) flies formation with a Soviet "Bear" long-range bomber off the coast of Iceland in July 1970. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A Delta Dagger at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A Delta Dagger at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: A Convair F-102 Delta Dagger of Florida Air National Guard. USAF photo.Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: A Convair F-102 Delta Dagger of Florida Air National Guard. USAF photo.

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Two USAF Convair F-102A Delta Dagger interceptors of the 509th Fighter Interceptor Squadron over Vietnam in November 1966. USAF photo.Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Two USAF Convair F-102A Delta Dagger interceptors of the 509th Fighter Interceptor Squadron over Vietnam in November 1966. USAF photo.

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Photo courtesy of John Rossino, Lockheed Martin Code One)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Photo courtesy of John Rossino, Lockheed Martin Code One)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A Delta Dagger in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (U.S. Air Force photo by Ben Strasser)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: DAYTON, Ohio -- Convair F-102A Delta Dagger in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (U.S. Air Force photo by Ben Strasser)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102 A Delta Dagger. Overhead view, in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102 A Delta Dagger. Overhead view, in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: F-100A (S/N 53-1663), F-101 (S/N 53-2430), F-102 and F-104 (S/N 53-7786) on the ramp. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: F-100A (S/N 53-1663), F-101 (S/N 53-2430), F-102 and F-104 (S/N 53-7786) on the ramp. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 55-1350) intercepting a Soviet "Bear" bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 55-1350) intercepting a Soviet "Bear" bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Two F-102As (S/N 56-1067 and 56-1018) of the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, take off. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Two F-102As (S/N 56-1067 and 56-1018) of the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, take off. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair YF-102 (S/N 53-1781) landing with drag chute. Note the drag chute is deployed while the aircraft is still airborne. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair YF-102 (S/N 53-1781) landing with drag chute. Note the drag chute is deployed while the aircraft is still airborne. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair YF-102 (S/N 52-7994) on Rogers Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair YF-102 (S/N 52-7994) on Rogers Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: The first Convair YF-102 built (S/N 52-7994). (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: The first Convair YF-102 built (S/N 52-7994). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: YF-102 (S/N 52-7994) at the Convair assembly plant on Oct. 2, 1953, the date of completion for the first airframe. April 1, 1952, was the start date of the detail design, and May 1, 1953, was the date of design completion. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: YF-102 (S/N 52-7994) at the Convair assembly plant on Oct. 2, 1953, the date of completion for the first airframe. April 1, 1952, was the start date of the detail design, and May 1, 1953, was the date of design completion. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger flight: Convair YF-102 (S/N 53-1782) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger flight: Convair YF-102 (S/N 53-1782) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 55-3372) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 55-3372) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Three F-102As of the 327th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, George Air Force Base, Calif., take off. the first aircraft is S/N 54-1400. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Three F-102As of the 327th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, George Air Force Base, Calif., take off. the first aircraft is S/N 54-1400. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 53-1809) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A (S/N 53-1809) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A-75-LO (S/N 56-1279) of the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, lands with a drag chute in May 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A-75-LO (S/N 56-1279) of the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, lands with a drag chute in May 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Formation of two F-102As (S/N 56-1212 and 56-1138). (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Formation of two F-102As (S/N 56-1212 and 56-1138). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Formation takeoff of Convair TF-102A (S/N 56-2332) of the 317th FIS, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and an F-102A on May 17, 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Formation takeoff of Convair TF-102A (S/N 56-2332) of the 317th FIS, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and an F-102A on May 17, 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A cockpit flight simulator mock-up. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A cockpit flight simulator mock-up. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A of the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Keflavik Air Force Base, Iceland, takes off. (U.S. Air Force photo)Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: Convair F-102A of the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Keflavik Air Force Base, Iceland, takes off. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: 1950's -- The primary mission of the F-102 "Delta Dagger" was to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. It was the world's first supersonic all-weather jet interceptor and the USAF's first operational delta-wing aircraft. The F-102 made its initial flight on Oct. 24, 1953 and became operational with the Air Defense Command in 1956. At the peak of deployment in the late 1950's, F-102s equipped more than 25 ADC squadrons. Convair built 1,000 F-102s, 875 of which were F-102As.Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: 1950's -- The primary mission of the F-102 "Delta Dagger" was to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. It was the world's first supersonic all-weather jet interceptor and the USAF's first operational delta-wing aircraft. The F-102 made its initial flight on Oct. 24, 1953 and became operational with the Air Defense Command in 1956. At the peak of deployment in the late 1950's, F-102s equipped more than 25 ADC squadrons. Convair built 1,000 F-102s, 875 of which were F-102As.

More photos: Convair F-102 Delta Dagger photo gallery

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