Tag Archives: Convair F-102A Delta Dagger

24 October 1953

Convair YF-102 52-7994 on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Convair YF-102 52-7994 on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

24 October 1953: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Richard Lowe Johnson, Chief Test Pilot for the Convair Division of the General Dynamics Corporation, took the first prototype YF-102 Delta Dagger, serial number 52-7994, for its first flight.

The YF-102 was a single-seat, single-engine, delta wing fighter designed as an all-weather, missile-armed, Mach 2 interceptor. It was developed from the earlier, experimental, Convair XF-92 Dart. The F-102 was planned for a Westinghouse XJ67-W-1 engine, but when that was not ready in time, a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 afterburning turbojet engine was substituted. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The J57-P-11 was rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.482 kilonewtons), and 16,000 pounds (71.172 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, was completed at the Convair plant in San Diego, 2 October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, was completed at the Convair plant in San Diego, 2 October 1953. (Convair Division of General Dynamics)

The prototype had finished assembly at the Convair plant in San Diego, California, on 2 October 1953. It was then shipped by truck to Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California where final preparations and testing was carried out.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) had tested scale models of the YF-102 in the 8-foot HST wind tunnel at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical laboratory and found that significant shock waves were produced at near-sonic speeds. Surprisingly, shock waves were created at the trailing edge of the delta wing. The shock waves caused very high drag that would keep the aircraft from reaching Mach 1, even with the more powerful engine planned for production models.

Convair YF-102 with the original fuselage. (NASA)
Convair YF-102 53-1785 with the original fuselage, photographed 31 December 1954. (NASA)

The Republic YF-105 fighter bomber had similar problems, though it did pass the speed of sound. Both aircraft were significantly redesigned to incorporate the “Area Rule,” developed by NACA aerodynamicist Richard T. Whitcomb. Rather than considering the aerodynamics of the fuselage independently, the frontal area of the wings and tail surfaces had to be included to reduce drag. This produced the “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape that the production models of these two fighters were known for.

Convair built two YF-102s before the design was changed, resulting in the YF-102A prototypes and the production F-102A Delta Dagger.

The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, on Rogers Dry Lake, October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
The first prototype Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger, 52-7994, on Rogers Dry Lake, October 1953. (U.S. Air Force)

Several problems showed up on the YF-102’s first flight. Severe buffeting was encountered at high sub-sonic speed. As predicted by NACA, aerodynamic drag prevented the YF-102 from reaching Mach 1 in level flight. There were also problems with the landing gear, the fuel system, and the J57 engine did not produce the rated power.

The production F-102A was considerably larger than the YF-102. The fuselage was lengthened, the wing area and span were increased, and the vertical fin was taller. A more powerful J57-P-23 engine was used. These and other changes increased the F-102A’s gross weight by nearly 1,800 pounds (815 kilograms).

Convair YF-102 52-7994 parked on the dry lake bed, Edwards AFB, California. (U.S. Air Force)

On 2 November 1953, just nine days after the first flight, the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 engine flamed out during a test flight. Dick Johnson was unable to restart it and made a forced landing in the desert. The  YF-102 was severely damaged and Dick Johnson badly hurt. The flameout was traced to a problem with the the fuel control system. The prototype was written off.

Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger 52-7994. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger 52-7994 just before touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck o fConvair YF-102 52-994 near Edwards Air focre Base, 2 Novemnber 1953. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck of Convair YF-102 52-7994 near Edwards Air Force Base, 2 November 1953. (U.S. Air Force)

Richard Lowe Johnson ¹ was born at Cooperstown, North Dakota, 21 September 1917. He was the eighth of nine children of Swedish immigrants, John N. Johnson, a farmer, and Elna Kristina Helgesten Johnson, a seamstress.

Dick Johnson attended Oregon State College at Corvallis, Oregon, as a member of the Class of 1943. He was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣΑΕ) fraternity.

Dick Johnson was a pitcher for the college baseball team, and later, played for the Boston Red Sox “farm” (minor league) system.

On 18 June 1942, Johnson enlisted as a private in the Air Corps, United States Army. On 5 November, he was appointed an aviation cadet and assigned to flight training.

Aviation Cadet Johnson married Miss Juanita Blanche Carter, 17 April 1943, at Ocala, Florida. The civil ceremony was officiated by Judge D. R. Smith.

After completing flight training, on 1 October 1943, Richard L. Johnson was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.).

Lieutenant Johnson was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group, Twelfth Air Force, in North Africa, Corsica, and Italy, flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. He was promoted to first lieutenant, A.U.S., 9 August 1944, and just over three months later, 26 November 1944, to the rank of captain, A.U.S. On 14 May 1945, Captain Johnson was promoted to the rank of major, A.U.S. (Major Johnson was assigned a permanent rank of first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, on 5 July 1946, with a date of rank retroactive to 21 September 1945.)

Republic P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt 42-26421, assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter group, Twelfth Air Force. This airplane was purchased by the employees of Republic Aviation. (American Air Museum in Britain UPL 25505)

During World War II, Major Johnson flew 180 combat missions with the 66th Fighter Squadron. He is officially credited with one air-to-air victory, 1 July 1944. Johnson was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters (3 awards), and the Air Medal with twelve oak leaf clusters (thirteen awards).

In 1946, was assigned to the Air Materiel Command Engineering Test Pilot School at the Army Air Forces Technical Base, Dayton, Ohio (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). He was the second U.S. Air Force pilot to be publicly acknowledged for breaking the “sound barrier.”

A few weeks after arriving at Dayton, Major Johnson met Miss Alvina Conway Huester, the daughter of an officer in the U.S. Navy. Dick Johnson and his wife Juanita were divorced 8 January 1947, and he married Miss Huester in a ceremony in Henry County, Indiana, 10 January 1947. They would have three children, Kristie, Lisa and Richard.

Richard L. Johnson waves from the cockpit of the record-setting North American Aviation F-86A-1-NA Sabre, 47-611.

Dick Johnson set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course,² flying the sixth production North American Aviation F-86A-1-NA Sabre, serial number 47-611, at Muroc Air Force Base, California (renamed Edwards AFB in 1949).

During the Korean War, Major Johnson was sent to the war zone to supervise field installations of improvements to the F-86 Sabre. He was “caught” flying “unauthorized” combat missions and was sent home.

Convair Chief Test Pilot Richard Lowe Johnson. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Lieutenant Colonel Johnson resigned from the Air Force in 1953 to become the Chief Test Pilot for the Convair Division of General Dynamics. He made the first flights of the YF-102 and the F-106A Delta Dart, 26 December 1956. He also made the first flight of the F-111 on 21 December 1964.

In 1955, Johnson was one of the six founding members of the Society of Experimental test Pilots.

Dick Johnson was Chief Engineering Test Pilot for the General Dynamics F-111 “Aardvark.” In 1967, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots awarded Johnson its Iven C. Kincheloe Award for his work on the F-111 program. In 1977, Dick Johnson, then the Director of Flight and Quality Assurance at General Dynamics, retired.

In 1998, Dick Johnson was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor at Lancaster, California. His commemorative monument is located in front of the Lancaster Public Library on W. Lancaster Boulevard, just West of Cedar Avenue. ³

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Lowe Johnson, United States Air Force, (Retired), died 9 November 2002 at Fort Worth, Texas. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, on 7 January 2003.

Chief Test Pilot Dick Johnson in the cockpit of a Convair B-58A Hustler. (Courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

¹ Several sources spell Johnson’s middle name as “Loe.”

² FAI Record File Number 9866

³ Various Internet sources repeat the statement that “Richard Johnson has been honored with. . . the Thompson Trophy, Mackay Trophy, Flying Tiger Trophy, Federation Aeronautique Internationale Gold Medal and Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. . . .” TDiA has checked the lists of awardees of each of the appropriate organizations and has not found any support for the statement.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 July 1957

Bendix trophy winner Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, U.S. Air Force, in teh cockpit of Convair F-102A Delta Dagger 56-1196 (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Bendix Trophy winner Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of Convair F-102A-65-CO Delta Dagger 56-1196 (Jet Pilot Overseas)

29 July 1957: Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, 11th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 343d Fighter Group (Air Defense), United States Air Force, won the 1957 Bendix Trophy Race, flying a Convair F-102A Delta Dagger from O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, D.C., a distance of 619.73 miles (997.36 kilometers).

His elapsed time was 54 minutes, 45.5 seconds, for an average speed of 679.053 miles per hour (1,092.830 kilometers per hour).

Cnvair F-102A-65-CO Delta Dagger 56-1196 with its drogue 'chute deployed on landing at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay)
Convair F-102A-65-CO Delta Dagger 56-1196 with its drogue ‘chute deployed on landing at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay)

The six F-102A interceptors in the race departed O’Hare at five minute intervals. Captain Chandler, flying the fifth Delta Dagger, departed at 1320.0 hours.

Captain Chandler’s commanding officer, Colonel Robert L. Gould, also flying an F-102, placed second in the race.

Chandler’s F-102 ran out of fuel while taxiing to the ramp.

Captain Kenneth D. Cahnadler's Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay, with much appreciation—TDiA)
Captain Kenneth D. Chandler’s Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, at Andrews Air Force Base, 28 July 1957. (From the Collection of Johan Ragay)

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported the event:

KOREA JET ACE WINS BENDIX TROPHY RACE

Sets New Record of 679 M.P.H.

Washington, July 28 (AP)—Capt. Kenneth D. Chandler, a Korean War jet ace, set a new Bendix Air Race record of 679 miles an hour today.

     Chandler, 33, flew a Convair F-102 delta wing interceptor 620 miles from Chicago’s O’Hare field to nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in 54 minutes, 45½ seconds. Five other Air Force pilots made the race, flying F-102s.

     Second place went to Col. Robert L. Gould of Baltimore, with an elapsed time of 55:16:8.

Chicagoan Is Third

     Captain Leroy W. Svendesen of Chicago placed third with an elapsed time of 55:17:2. There was a difference of only about two minutes in the times of the first and last place planes.

     Chandler smashed the 666 mile an hour set last year by Maj. Manuel (Pete) Fernandez. Fernandez flew an F-100 from Victorville, Cal., to Oklahoma City.

     The Ricks Memorial trophy flight today also ended at Andrews. The winner of the 2,680 mile flight from Fresno, Cal., was Maj. Peter R. Phillipy, 35, of Pittsburgh. Phillipy made the trip in 4 hours, 13 minutes and 40 seconds, averaging 638 miles an hour.

Springfield Pilot 2d

     Second place was won by Capt. Shirley V. Drum, 29, of Springfield, Ill.

     Chicago area pilots in the race were Maj. Aloysius X. Hiltgen, 33, of Park Ridge, whose time was 4:31:7, and Capt. John C. Nowacki, 34, of Cicero, 4:31:36.

     The Bendix and Ricks air races were highlights of an air show sponsored by the Air Force Association, in a salute the 50th anniversary of the United States Air Force.

     A crowd estimated at more than 75,000 persons witnessed the first public flights of the Ryan X-13 Vertijet and the Republic F-105 supersonic fighter-bomber.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Volume CXVI—NO. 180, Monday, July 29, 1957, Part 1, Page 15, Columns 1–3.

The tally board shows the departure times and elapsed times of each pilot. Chandler is number five. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
The tally board shows the departure times and elapsed times of each pilot. Chandler is number five. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

Kenneth Donald Chandler was born 14 October 1923 at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the second of six children of Thomas Brown Chandler, a cabinet maker, and Gladys A. Smith Chandler. While growing up, his family lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and Compton, California.

During World War II, Chandler flew Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bombers in the European Theater of Operations. In 1950, he flew a North American Aviation F-86A Sabre as Captain Chuck Yeager’s wingman during the filming of aerial sequences for Howard Hughes’ movie, “Jet Pilot,” which starred John Wayne and Janet Leigh. (RKO Pictures, 1957.)

While flying an F-86 Sabre with the 336th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter Interceptor Group, 18 November 1951, Chandler, flying just ten feet over the ground, destroyed four enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15s parked at the south end of Uiju Airfield, on the North Korean side of the Yalu River. He and his wingman, Lieutenant Dayton W. Ragland, damaged several others. On 13 December, he shot down a MiG 15, but his Sabre, F-86A-5-NA 49-1159, ingested debris from the damaged enemy airplane. Chandler flew the crippled fighter to the vicinity of Chŏ-do Island, where he bailed out and was rescued by two South Korean airmen in a small boat, and taken to a waiting helicopter.

Captain Chandler and 1st Lieutenant Frank Latora, both of the 343d Fighter Group, were killed when their Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star jet trainer crashed 12 miles (19 kilometers) north east of Parker, Colorado, while on a ground-controlled approach to Lowry Air Force Base on the night of Friday, 28 March 1958. Captain Chandler’s remains are buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California.

Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, United States Air Force, with the Bendix Trophy. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Captain Kenneth D. Chandler, United States Air Force, with the Bendix Trophy. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Convair XF-92A 46-682 on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)

The Convair F-102A Delta Dagger was a single-place, single engine, supersonic all-weather interceptor. It featured a delta wing and was based on the experimental Convair XF-92A of 1948.

The F-102A was the first production model and was vastly improved over the YF-102 pre-production prototypes, which had first flown 24 October 1953. The redesigned YF-102A made its first flight 20 December 1954, and the first production F-102A flew six months later, 24 June 1955.

The Convair F-102A was 68.3 feet, (20.82 meters) long, including the pitot boom, with a wingspan of 38.1 feet (11.61 meters) and overall height of 21.2 feet (6.46 meters). It had an empty weight of 19,283 pounds (8,747 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 27,950 pounds (12,678 kilograms), and 31,559 pounds (14,315 kilograms), maximum inflight weight or overload takeoff.

The F-102A’s delta wing leading edges were swept aft to 60° 6′. The angle of incidence was 0° and there was no dihedral. The total wing area was 695.1 square feet (64.58 square meters).

The F-102A was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-23 axial-flow turbojet engine. The J57 had a 9-stage, low-pressure and 7-stage high-pressure compressor section, and a single-stage high-pressure turbine and 2-stage low-pressure turbine. The J57-P-23 had a maximum continuous power rating of 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons). The Military Power rating was 10,200 pounds (45.37 kilonewtons) (30 minute limit), or 16,000 pounds (71.17 kilonewtons) with afterburner (5 minute limit). The engine was 20 feet, 5.1 inches (6.226 meters) long and 3 feet, 3.8 inches (1.011 meters) in diameter. It weighed 5,045 pounds (2,288 kilograms).

Compare this overhead view of a Convair F-102A-90-CO Delta Dagger, 57-0809, to that of the prototype YF-102 at top. The "wasp waist" area rule fuselage is very noticeable. U.S. Air Force)
A Convair F-102A-90-CO Delta Dagger, 57-0809. The “wasp waist” area-ruled fuselage is very noticeable. (U.S. Air Force)

The Convair Delta Dagger was the first American production interceptor that could reach supersonic speed in level flight. Its maximum speed was 710 knots (817 miles per hour, 1,315 kilometers per hour)—Mach 1.24—at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The service ceiling was 55,500 feet (16,916 meters). The F-102A could reach 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) in 6.4 minutes from a standing start at Sea Level. It had a combat radius of 430 nautical miles (495 statute miles/796 kilometers), and its maximum ferry range with internal fuel was 1,140 nautical miles (1,312 statute miles/2,111 kilometers).

A Convair F-102A Delta Dagger launches three AIM-4 Falcon guided missiles. (U.S. Air Force)
A Convair F-102A Delta Dagger launches three AIM-4 Falcon guided missiles. (U.S. Air Force)

Armament consisted of six Hughes GAR-1D Falcon radar-homing, or GAR-2 Falcon infrared-seeking, air-to-air guided missiles, or a combination of both, carried in two internal bays. (The Falcon missiles were re-designated AIM-4A and AIM-4B in 1962.) The missile bay doors contained launch tubes for twenty-four 2.75-inch (70 millimeter) unguided Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR). The Delta Dagger was not armed with a gun.

A Convair F-102A Delta Dagger fires a salvo of 2.75-inch Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

Between 1955 and 1958, Convair built 889 F-102A Delta Dagger interceptors. The F-102A remained in service with the U.S. Air Force Air Defense Command until 1973, and with the Air National Guard to 1976.

The Bendix Trophy-winning F-102A, 56-1196, was delivered from Convair to the 326th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 328th Fighter Group (Air Defense), at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, south of Kansas City, Missouri, on 2 July 1957. It later served with a number of Air Force and Air National Guard squadrons. Its last operational unit was the 157th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, South Carolina Air National Guard. Placed in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, in March 1975. 56-1196 was converted to a QF-102A target drone, and in August 1978, a PQM-102B.

The Bendix Trophy-winning Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, in storage at The Boneyard. The interceptor is wearing the markings of the South Carolina Air National Guard.
The Bendix Trophy-winning Convair F-102A Delta Dagger, 56-1196, in storage at The Boneyard, circa 1975. The interceptor is wearing the markings of the South Carolina Air National Guard. The interceptor’s fuselage missile bays are open.

Note: TDiA would like to express its appreciation to Johan Ragay for the use of the photographs of 56-1196, and for some additional details of its service history.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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