Test 281: Boeing Close Air Support Aircraft

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Test 281 was conducted during 1/8/1973 to 2/6/1973 on the Boeing Lightweight Fighter configuration. The USAF Lightweight Fighter (LWF) Program was initiated in the 1960s by a group of officers (led by Colonel John Boyd) and defense analysts (led by Pierre Sprey) known as the "Fighter Mafia". The group assembled at Langley to work on the LFAX, FX, VFX, F-14 and F-15 programs were often thought of as being part of this group and Colonel Boyd and Pierre Sprey visited Langley often for consultations. Colonel Boyd's Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) Theory indicated that excessive weight would have severe adverse effects on maneuverability of fighter aircraft. Boyd advocated for a design with high thrust-to-weight and a gross weight of less than 20,000 lb (about half of the F-15). The LWF program eventually led to the development of the General Dynamics YF-16 (later the F-16) and Northrop YF-17 (later the F-18).

In January 1972, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was released by the USAF for an Advanced Day Fighter (ADF). Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Northrop, and Vought submitted proposals. Vought's and Lockheed's proposals would be eliminated in March 1972. Though the Boeing Model 908-909 was initially most favored, it was very similar in technology and appearance to the cheaper General Dynamics Model 401-16B. Secretary of the Air Force Robert Seamons chose to select the General Dynamics and Northrop entries. The General Dynamics YF-16 first flew on February 1974 and the Northrop YF-17 first flew on June 9 1974.

It is interesting that the 1973 test entry in the 16'TT Test Log Book is labeled "Boeing Close Air Support Aircraft" since the original LWF design did not even include bomb racks; some of the photographs taken at time are clearly marked Lightweight Fighter. Yet from the photographs, it is also obvious that external stores were tested on the configuration. In April 1974, the Secretary of Defense announced that the LWF program would be redirected to a multirole fighter design (more of a fighter-bomber) and the LWF program was redesignated the Air Combat Fighter (ACF) program. It is possible that Boeing had advance warning (since the current test was conducted in early 1973) of this shift in policy and hoped to re-enter the competition. However, this would not be as the USAF announced in January 1975 that the YF-16 was the winner of the ACF competition that led to the F-16 aircraft. In May of 1975 the Navy announced that the YF-17 was the winner of the Navy Air Combat Fighter (NACF) competition and would form the basis of the F/A-18 aircraft.

Some information from Wikipedia.

L-73-327 Boeing Close Air Support AircraftL-73-329 Boeing Close Air Support Aircraft1973-01-10 Boeing Close Air Support ModelL-73-644.jpgL-73-645.jpgL-73-750 Boeing Close Air Support AircraftL-73-751 Boeing Close Air Support AircraftL-73-752.jpgL-73-753 Boeing Close Air Support Aircraft1973-01-24L-73-855.jpgL-73-856.jpg1973-01-29L-73-906.jpgL-73-907.jpgL-73-908.jpgL-73-909.jpg1973 Boeing Light Weight Fighter.jpg1973-02-05L-73-1053.jpgL-73-1054.jpgL-73-1055.jpg1973-02-05 Boeing Close Air Support Model in 16' Tunnel.jpg
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