General Dynamics / McDonnell Douglas Avenger II
1991
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General Dynamics / McDonnell Douglas Avenger II

General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas appropriated the name of an earlier Grumman product for their proposed stealth replacement for the A-6 Intruder all-weather attack bomber. Sadly, the Avenger II was not destined to be a classic like the wartime TBF. Intended to use more sophisticated stealth techniques than the USAF's F-117A Nighthawk, the A-12 was a trapezoidal shape with smooth, rather than faceted, surfaces for scattering radar beams. It would have carried more weapons than the F-117 and had an air-to-air capability. Developed largely in secrecy and without proper oversight, the cost rose to a reported $100 million per aircraft. The Avenger II was cancelled by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in January 1991, just before the Gulf War and a few months before the prototype's expected first flight. Four senior naval officers were forced into retirement over the fiasco. The Navy eventually wound up with the Super Hornet, in many ways a less capable aircraft than the Intruder, which was retired in 1996 without an immediate replacement. The Navy sued the contractors and the contractors sued back for more. The issue has been in and out of the courts ever since.

Few images of the A-12 other than artists' impressions and mock-up photos ever emerged, and more than $2 billion was spent for little tangible result.


Specification 
 CREW2
 ENGINE2 x 5900kg General Electric F412-400 turbofan engines
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan21.41 m70 ft 3 in
    Length11.35 m37 ft 3 in
    Height3.44 m11 ft 3 in
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed933 km/h580 mph

Comments
Klaatu83, 07.11.2014

"more than $2 billion was spent for little tangible result" to develop an aircraft that would, if it ever went into production, have cost "$100 million per aircraft". General Dynamics and McDonnell-Douglas ought to stay out of the Naval aircraft business, for which they clearly have no aptitude whatsoever. It's pretty obvious that the management at General Dynamics and McDonnell-Douglas had absolutely no intention whatsoever of developing a combat plane for the Navy, merely in appropriating as much of the taxpayers' money as they could legally get away with. They Navy ought to stick with Grumman, where they actually know something about building carrier-based aircraft.

Greg, 21.11.2010

I worked on this aircraft for 2 years as a stress analyst until it was cancelled, and I can tell you right now, we were a lot more than 'just a few months' away from first flight, probably closer to 18-24 months.

Mickey Rigney, 07.10.2010

I was one of the first General Dynamic Tech Reps on the A-12. We were 50/50 with McDonald Douglas on the aircraft, if it had been 60/40 or better it may have been a different history for this aircraft. It was a classified program and this caused the cost to increase also. Would have been a great aircraft for the Navy, with a lot of variations for the future to replace a lot of their fleet aircraft. We called it the "Flying Dorito" because of it's unique shape. Weight was always a problem during the design, due to changes that the customer wanted and I think the major problem for cancellation of the program. Hard to think "what might have been" if this had gone into production. Still have one of the bumper stickers that said "A-12's Forever"!!!

BobW, 30.09.2010

The Air Force up until the Raptor flew the F-15 eagle, a very, very capable aircraft in ALL 3 roles, air superiority, precision attack and bombing. The F-111 wasn't really designed as a fighter for the USAF, but a tactical airctaft except for the FB-111 which had nuclear capability. The F-111B of which only a few were built for the US Navy for testing as a carrier-based fighter aircraft capable of carrying the AQWG-9 Phoenix missile system was scrapped because it was too big and heavy for carrier operations. The Grumman F-14 Tomcat took on that role. The A-10 was designed as a Russian tank killer. That was it's sole purpose in life. The GAU-8, 30mm cannon ion he nose does that job perfectly. Ask Sudam and his boys.

Steve, 30.09.2009

Troy, Lester, The F-111 was a VERY bad airplane. To slow and heavy to be a fighter; to little bomb capacity to be an effective bomber. The same guy who designed the F-111 designed the f-16 AFTER he learned Energy-Maneuver analysis from John Boyd. The F-16, after the first engineering pass, was the best air-to-air fighter in the world. The air force, who had the F-16 shoved down their throat by congress, because the SAC dominated USAF wnated a flying battleship, "missionized" the F-16 to the FB role, reducing its ability in the air-to-air role. The USAF has a very poor track record in seeking mission specific aircraft. They should seek aircraft specificaaly designed for each of their 3 roles: domination of the skies (fighters) close air support (assault vehicles like the A-10, which they also had to be forced to acquire) and bombing. They keep trying to get an aircraft which does all three, and the results are aircraft which can easily be bested in any of their roles.

Leo Rudnicki, 03.06.2009

And so M-D and Boeing merge and the new company is renamed "Boeing" General Dynamics is now called Lockheed. I wonder who won the litigation? They didn't know "Dick". What Oz needs is a squadron of TSR-2 for strike and Arrows for Air Defence.

Lester, 07.09.2008

Well Troy, it seems that your rant brought out a bit of the illiterate side of people. It would be nice if military equipment were designed and purchased using functionality as a deciding factor, rather than being decided in smoke-filled rooms with politicians rubbing each other's backs. But I wouldn't count on that happening in our lifetimes.

nick, 19.08.2008

you ur an tawt the us and your Australia will work 2 geth
er

nick, 19.08.2008

shat up

Troy, 16.06.2008

Bureaucratic bulls**t!! Capable aircraft don't mean s**t if some one isn't going to make money off them!! Australia's RAAF is living with the same thing. Replacing the incredible F-111 with the lacklustre Super Hornet!! An aircraft that can't do half the things that the F-111 can, despite it's age!! Boeing should stick with airliners!! Unfortunately, they seem to own every other manufacturer now too!! Storng-arming Australia into buying the Super Hornet might save their profit margin, but what about our defence capability!! Okay, it's not entirely Boeing's doing, Australia did have some idiot politicians in power at the time who let it happen, but we had the choice of the Dassault Rafale, SAAB Grippen, Eurofighter Typhoon and now we also have the option of the F-22 Raptor, but this decision was made wholly and solely on Boeing's continuing contribution to Australia's aeronautical industry-if you don't buy our s**t, we're out of here!!! Never mind about Australia's military air supremacy in the South-East Asian region!! Which just happens to be as strategically important to the US and UK as it is to Australia. Wouldn't you think that it would be in all the allies interests (Australia, USA, UK etc.) to keep the RAAF as capable as possible? Apparently, money is all that matters and while us, the lay-persons, bear the brunt of any future conflict, the powers that be of Boeing and the Government will be sitting sweetly in their bunkers sipping champagne. Wake up world, wake up Australia, Wake up America-if we're to fight together, let's have the tools to fight together!! That's it, I'm done on my little rant, but anyone who might read this, just think about it!! PLEASE!!! When it comes to war, do we want to win or run away with billions of dollars regardless of the victors?

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FACTS AND FIGURES

The use of composite materials did not bring the expected weight savings and it is thought the A-12 was 30% over its desired weight by the time it was cancelled.

The radar would have been a sophisticated Inverse Synthetic Aperture system, but development problems with this contributed to the huge cost overruns.

The shape of the A-12 was more akin to that of the B-2 than the F-117. It did lead to the nickname of 'Flying Dorito', however.



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