Republic XF-103 kit?

Does anyone know of a kit of the ill-fated, Republic Aviation XF-103? Republic named their aircraft with a "thunder" in them -- hence the
Thunderbolt, Thunderjet, and Thunderchief -- at RAC (Republic Aircraft Corporation, but we employees called it "Revolting Aggravation Corporation) the XF-103 was known as the "Thunder-Blunder." Aptly named. Worst aircraft that never flew in the Century series. Monumental goof all around, which is why it was kept secret so long. Now almost 50 years later, having worked on this outrageous aircraft, I would love to build a model of it -- any kits out there?
Boris
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Vacuform kit from K.R. Models.
Cast resin kit from Math.
Both 1/72, very rare and hard to find.
Good luck,
Tom
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Collect-aire has a 1/48 resin kit of this. Hub

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Don`t know if this helps at all- http://www.collectaire.com/modelpages/xf103/xf103.html
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Sure does. Looks correct. Of course, the blurb talks about "heat-seared titanium finish..." Striclty artists imagination. Never even got even close to that far. The only thing that was built was a full-sized mockup. Very impressive, but hardly flyable. The only thing that got singed on that sucker was the American public. Alexander Kartvelli was a great designer (P-35, P47, F84, F105) -- but when he got to the Thunder-Blunder he was pushing 80 and (from the looks of it) senility. The aircraft was intended to be a Mach-3 +, high-altitude interceptor. Conceived at a time when the threat was from very high altitude subsonic bombers. The blunder was armed only with missiles -- no gun. Its shape was determined by streamlining concepts that preceded an understanding of the area rule. Stricly bullet shaped. There was no cockpit -- only a periscope -- but that was in the days when some AF types were thinking of doing away with pilots altogether. Ejection would have been downwards, past the humongous inlet -- roughly the size of a garage door. We had cartoons circulating around showing the XF103 being used to clean the runway -- so huge that inlet was. The most amazing thing about this mother was the power plant. It started out in the flight regime as a more-or-less conventional turbojet engine with afterburner. At a critical speed and altitude, huge doors in the internal ductwork before and after the turboject moved so as to bypass the air around the turbo, converting the afterburner into a pure ramjet. While that was going on, a good dozen hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic, and other systems had to shifted from high-pressure turbine bleed air to low pressure bleed air -- not to mention all the while trying to prevent the internal shock wave from buzzing around and destroying the aircraft. Some of the guys circulated a classified cartoon showing the first test flight of the "Blunder" -- with Republic's chief test pilot chained in to the cockpit and Kartvelli keeping him there by brandishing a vicious looking pistol in each hand. It was mercifully killed in time, but after a $billion or so in 1957 dollars. But DoD and Republic proclaimed the "titanium technology research project" a resounding success. Massive layoffs followed the contract cancellation -- I was lucky and found a home on the F105 project. An aircraft of which all of us former "Republicans" were justifiably proud.
Boris
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Boris Beizer Ph.D. Seminars and Consulting
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Thanks, Boris for an interesting and amusing look at this enigma.
Bill Banaszak, MFE
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Boris- great anecdote! Always nice to hear from a survivor!
--
Jim Atkins
Twentynine Palms CA USA
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Anigrand Models has announced a 1/72 resin one for about early-mid next year. Along with an XF-108 & XF-109 as well.
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Boris, you should write a book...... Keep us posted!
RobG (the Aussie one)

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I have , actually -- twelve of them -- but not about the Thunder-Blunder. I was too low down in the food chain to have a lot juicy information -- just the stuff that circulated at mach 4+ around the engineering department. Enough for a story (see below) but too thin for a book. Also, I've never been quite sure about when the secrecy was lifted -- if ever. Embarrassing stuff like that is often kept secret until all participants are long dead -- maybe my next correspondance will be from Levenworth.
Keep us posted!

Okay -- here's the entire story of the ill-fated mother-f. From what I see of the pics of the model (thanks guys for the URL -- have to make that my next project). it is pretty accurate.
Republic Aviation was my first job after graduating (1956) with a degree in Physics from CCNY. I had a wife and newborn child to support and the $2800 a year I earned as an electronics tech at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center wasn't going to hack it. Aircraft had been my passion from an early age (avid model builder). I had learned a lot of aerodynamics on my own and thermodynamics had been my best physics subject. So it was not surprizing that I was offered a job at Republic in the thermodynamics department. The thermo department in the aircraft business is to inlets and engines what the aero department is to the airframe. For supersonic aircraft, the inlet becomes as important as the engine and together they are as important as the airframe. There was (is) a lot of high-falutin aero-thermodynamics involved in design of inlets. In a supersonic aircraft most of the air compression comes from the inlet, not the compressor stages -- so much so, that you would dearly love to get rid of the compressor and run the engine as a ramjet. In theory, it is far more efficient. However, there are some "small" problems. The first of which is that it is really difficult to keep a match burning in a supersonic airstream. You have to get the internal air flow down to subsonic speeds. This can be done by using a converging/diverging inlet. Contrary to behavior at subsonic speeds, supersonic air passing through a converging nozzle slows down (subsonic air speeds up as you all know) and as it slows, the pressure is increased. The ideal, perfect, inlet would slow the air down to mach 1 at the narrowest point, from which it would go to a diverging nozzle to slow down even more -- and raise the pressure even higher -- so that by the time you got to the flame holders, you had really slow air at high pressure. That's the ideal, but nasty things like external and internal turbulence, maneuver-induced instabilities, and a lot of other stuff means that you can't have that ideal mach 1 transition. So you have a transition, via a shock wave, at a slightly higher speed -- say mach 1.4 or so. The shock wave itself acts as compressor -- the air flow is supersonic on one side and subsonic on the other. Unfortunately, this configuration has a nasty tendency to instability. The shock wave can bounce back and forth -- oscillate -- in the inlet at frequencies ranging from about 2 hz to 20 hz -- in so doing, it can move back and forth inches -- and even feet. Now think of what happens when you have a barrier (the shock wave) with 2psi pressure on one side, and 40 or 50 psi on the other side ( a fraction of an inch away) and that barrier is oscillating at 10 hertz though a foot or more? The inlet, and the aircraft, is destroyed in seconds. Not nice. This is avoided and controlled by having variable geometry inlets. Because the geometry must change for every speed and altitude. The inlet isn't just a pipe -- it is a dynamic thing that changes its shape all the time. What I described above is called an "internal shock" or "fully started" inlet. They are the most efficient, most difficult to design, and most prone to inlet buzz. Note that the typical plug configuration of early Soviet supersonic aircraft inlet strongly suggests that they opted for the much simpler, external-shock or partially started inlets. By contrast, most American aircraft use a fully-started, internal shock inlet. The above long lesson on internal aero-thermodynamics is probably more than most of you guys wanted to know. But it is important to understand it in order to understand the issues that led to the XF103 and its timely demise. If you go to the web page (www.collectaire.com/modelpages/xf103/xf103.html) you can see what is an obviously internal shock inlet. What is not visible in the picture (and very unlikely to be correct in the model) is the rather complicated arrangments of plugs, doors, throats, and stuff that makes the inlet work. Republic liked to build big aircraft. From the P35, to the P47, to F105 (the F84 wasn't all that huge) RAC thunderships were big -- they carried a big ordance load. Always hated by the airforce brass and loved by the pilots who usually came home in them. The "Thud" (F105 Thunderchief) was probably the best of the lot -- and the culmination of Republic's fighter-bomber evolution. As an interesting side note, Alexandr Kartvelli's aircraft looked like the man. He wasn't that tall, but he was kind of squat and burly looking. Had a voice to match. They say that people's pets tend to look like their owners -- well, I think aircraft tend to look a lot like their designers. Sikorski was thin and elegant like his aircraft. Hughes had a refined elegance (Spruce-Goose aside) that mirrored his best racers...and the Wright brothers -- reedy thin and supple. By the way, you should note that many American aviation pioneers have Russian names -- Severski, Piaseki, Sikorski, Kartvelli -- a few others that I can't remember. All of them classmates from the 1912 (?) graduating class of the St. Petersburg School of Aeronautics. Left Russia for better opportunities in the West after the revolution. Back to Thunder-Blunder. As I said in the earlier post, it was conceived at a time when the most viable nuclear threat was subsonic, high-altitude, intercontinental, manned bombers. Our entry into that arena was the B-36. To counter the massive (non-existant) Soviet bomber threat, we needed a high-altitude interceptor. Didn't have to fight defensive aircraft because no fighters could fly so far (mid-air refueling was still being perfected) -- so no air superiority issues. Big ugly bomber is bound to be bristling with nasty machine guns and cannons -- so don't get in so close -- stand off and lob a missile at them. Ground based missiles didn't have either the range or accuracy -- needed a missile carrier to get them up there. No defensive armament needed on the missile carrier if it is so fast that it can outrun bullets. The idea, now that I think of it, must have been inspired by the ME-263 rocket interceptor -- but writ large -- very large. I said Mach 3+ because the target speed was classified and probably still is. However, this was before area ruling was discovered and the only way to achieve even modest supersonic speeds was through brute force -- lots and lots of thrust. I don't remember the exact dimensions, but what emerged was about 65-70 feet long (excluding the nose pitot tube) with about a 40 or 45 foot wingspan. Little, thin, triangular wings -- practically flat plates with barely enough room inside to put the aeleron and flap actuators. All to be fabricated out of that wonder metal -- titanium. It was light, it was strong, it didn't weaken (much) under extreme temperatures -- and it was expensive to buy, and very difficult and expensive to fabricate. I saved a hunk of that titanium. It is a small square about 4" on a side. I've used it for almost 45 years to dress my grindstone wheels -- barely a sign of wear. Machining had to be done in an inert atmosphere, welding was an adventure, as was heat-treating and almost every other aspect of fabrication. These fabrication problems alone would have warranted calling the whole thing a research project -- but here's what else they were trying to achieve:
1. The interceptor missile that was to be used wasn't perfected yet. 2. No one had ever built an operational (as contrasted to a research prototype) ramjet. 3. Inlet aero-thermodynamics entailed a lot of witchcraft and guesswork. 4. We didn't really undersand inlet buzz and prevention/correction methods were brute-force at best. 5. Operational supersonic aircraft flight had just begun -- still a lot of R&D involved. 6. Turbojet engines were puny by comparison to today's. 7. Transistors were still experimental -- aircraft avionics relied on vaccuum tubes and electrical relays. Controls were based on analog, not digital computers. And this was going to require some really fancy control systems to safely manage the transition.
But these problems were minor compared to the engine problem and the weight problem. First the weight problem. You may not think or know this, but weight is really important in a military aircraft. You have an aircraft whose dry weight is say, 50,000 pounds, and you knock of five or six pounds, you'll get a nice bonus for that accomplishment. I remember one day at Republic that one of the engineers had figured out a way to knock off about 100 pounds from the F105 (55,000 pound aircraft) by redesign of the bomb release/ejection mechanism: They carried him on their shoulders around the entire engineering floor while we all cheered (this was before Republic had won the flyoff against the North American F107). Well, cramming in all the required electronic wizardry, the controls, and fabrication difficulties meant that the XF-103 continued to gain weight, week-by-week, pound-by-pound. That weight gain meant additional fuel and more weight. It might have been partially compensated for by an increase in thrust -- but that was where the real trouble was. At the time, there were only a few jet engine manufacturers in the West: G.E. was probably number one, Rolls-Royce, Westinghouse, SNECMA (French), Fairchild, Pratt& Whitney, and last and least, Wright-Aeronautical. They were late getting into the jet engine business -- after all, when you have only to slug it out with Pratt & Whitney for the reciprocating engine market and you are number 2 in that business, you don't have time to fool around with those new-fangled thingies. They had made a few operational engines but they sure weren't the leaders like G.E. So when DoD came up with the revolutionary idea of turbo/ram engine, Wright jumped in, ass first, and said they could and would do it. I don't remember the exact engine name -- I think it was called TJ-67-W-9/XRJ57-W-3 or something like that. Note that Republic cannot be given all the blame. In military aircraft design, DoD usually specifies the engine and tells the airframe manufacturer to build an aircraft around it. In any event, the engine development and aircraft development are usually separate and the aircraft manufacturer can be on wrong end of the stick with the engine manufacturer. The best example of this is the Mustang-- it was a dog as long as it doomed to piddling around with the puny designated Allison(?) engine-- it became a world-beater only after it was retrofitted with the Rolls-Royce Merlin. That was a success story -- the XF103 was the opposite side of that engine/aircraft coin. Week-by-week, the weight grew and week-by-week, the predicted thrust declined. 50 pounds lost turbo thrust this week, 30 pounds lost ramjet thrust next week, 3% fuel consumption increase the following week, etc. etc. Sometime in 1957, I think it was, the project was renamed from F-103 to XF-103 -- as if to tag it into the X series aircraft made it acceptable. Security went up. Despite the fact that three-views had appeared in Aviation week, despite the fact that the full-sized mockup had been in open view in an unsecured hangar for months. I got caught in that security clamp down-- a sort of Laurel and Hardy comedy act. I was showing a new employee, who knew his math and physics, but squat about aircraft, I was showing him around the cockpit of the mockup. Now this cockpit was up three flights of stairs, some 30 feet off the ground -- and almost half of that distance was aken up that by gaping maw of a barn-door sized inlet. Anyhow, I'm sitting in the mockup's cockpit and explaining the throttle, the afterburner detent, the transition controls, joy stick, rudder pedals, turn-and-bank, other instrumentation, etc. We had been there about two hours -- when all of a sudden, from below, came the fog-horn bullroarer sound of the company security chief. "What the ---- are you doing up there? Don't you know it is classified SECRET? you'll spend a time in jail I can tell you!" -- and other dire threats. While we had been up there, the elves had come and surrounded the entire mockup with curtains and signs that said "OFF LIMITS"-- No one had bothered to look up to see that we were there -- and had been there before the curtains had come down and off limit signs put up. As it turned out, my blessed boss saved the day. He pointed out that the curtains had not been there before and that the entire mockup had been in plain view for months -- including to the guy who sold greasy sandwiches from a stand next to the left wheel -- and that both of us had the proper clearances (they had come through the day before) and authorization to be there. He sort of apologized and let us off with a stiff warning to be careful in the future -- these were the days of the McCarthy insanity and if there were Soviet agents in every government department, it figured that there had be some in a company run by a Russian (Kartvelli) and that a junior engineer named "Boris" was sure to be suspicious. Actually, my title was "senior engineer", but they were free with titles at Republic and gave them out in lieu of raises -as far as the food chain went, I was still a pretty junior engineer. By then, the project was no longer an attempt to build a supersonic interceptor -- because the ICMB threat was looming on the horizon and the entire bomber-interceptor thing began to look sillier and sillier. It had graduated to a "titanium fabrication research project." There was some buzz around of renaming it the "X103" as contrasted to "XF-103." The former being an NASA (then NACA) experimental aircraft designation, whilst the "F" made it clear that this was an AF boondoggle -- but NACA would have none of it -- they had their own supersonic embarrassments to get over. The thrust kept going down, the weight kept creeping up, as did the take off run, the landing run, and the number of jato rockets that would be needed for lift off. And with each passing week, those of us on the 103 project kept sharpening our resumes, looking for ins to the F105 project (still shaky, but a lot healthier) and opening channels to our colleagues down the road at Grumman for possible jobs. Meanwhile, the classified cartoons of the XF103 kept coming out and getting nastier and nastier. Our laison with the engine manufacturer became ever more formal, more difficult, more frustrating, and less informative, despite the fact that very close cooperation for such an aircraft was more important than for any previously conceived aircraft. The culmination came in the following conversation -- I wasn't there (much too low on the totem pole for that) but it was widely reported, orally, by people who had witnessed it.
Lead engineer: "We've got another 75 pound drop in take-off thrust. But I think Wright's shading the truth. It will probably be worse than that." Weights and Balance engineer:" Not to mention another 53 pounds take-off weight increase this week." Kartvelli:"What does that do to our take-off run?" Lead Engineer: "We can manage that with more Jatos -- now that we're going to jettison the package and stuff after use." Weights & Balance:" We've just got to lose 300 pounds. It has to be done!" Structures Engineer:" Can't be done. There isn't 300 pounds to lose in the entire 60,000 pound aircraft." Kartvelli: "What's the projected landing run?" Aero: "10,500 feet -- but we've got four miles of paved runway at Edwards." Kartvelli: "What's the landing run without the drag chute?" Aero: "Ten miles --maybe twenty if you want to use the tires and brakes again." Kartvelli: "What does the drag chute weigh?" Structures:"312 pounds." Kartvelli: "How miles of salt flats beyond the runway." Flight Test:" Almost 40 miles." Kartvelli: "Take out the drag chute!"
The following week I was slated to make a high-level presentation, first to our upper management, then to a joint Wright-Republic meeting, and then to the Air Force. The subject was to explain the "logic" of the transition, the discovered points of contradiction that had to be resolved, and the kind of control system that would be needed to make it work -- if it was at all possible from a controls point of view (never mind from the point of view of aerodynamics, thermodynamics, or sanity). I had been preparing this presentation for several weeks --It was Friday when my boss told me that I would not have to come in for the dry-run that Saturday - that told me the whole story. That was the bad news. The good news was that I had earned a berth on the F105 project. I have never seen a project terminated so quickly. That monday, the pink slips went out. It took only one week to get the project wrapped up. Photography teams came in to every department. They went through your desk and files and pulled out every sheet of paper having to do with the 103 -- including your laundry ticket and the grocery shopping list if it happened to be on your desk. Every sheet numbered, stamped, photographed for micro-filming, and then shredded and burned. By the end of the week not a scrap of evidence remained. The mockup was gone. The files were gone. The drawings were gone. The fabrication jigs were gone, as were some 8,000 of our fellow engineers and craftsmen -- all of whom had spent the entire week assisting in the closing down. Republic collected many millions -- or was it hundreds of millions? Billions? of dollars in cancellation fees. The only truly legitimate part of that was the two weeks severance pay that the engineers got and the one week that the workers got. So what happened to the XF103? You remember the final scene in "Raiders of the Lost Arc?" The scene were the crated arc is deposited in some huge government warehouse among millions of similar, myserious, indistinguishable crates. I just know that someplace, beneath some mountain or in an abandoned salt mine -- there are thousands of file cabinets filled with decaying micro-film, tons of oddly shaped pieces of titanium -- and in a huge crate, or more likely, surrounded by dark blue velvet curtains bearing the legend "RESTRICTED AREA -- SECRET- NO UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS"-- behind the velvet curtains is the XF103 mockup.
Boris Beizer
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Boris Beizer Ph.D. Seminars and Consulting
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On Fri, 17 Oct 2003 14:47:15 +0000, Boris Beizer wrote:

I have this cool old Aurora kit, called "Orbital Interceptor". It definitely looks HEAVILY inspired by the F-103.
--

Greg Heilers
SlackWare Linux user
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What pic of the XF-103 are you comparing the Orbital Interceptor to? That kit is actually a re-pop of Aurora's Russian Nuclear Powered Bomber & is actually based on the Myasischev M-52. I don't see the heavy influence.
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