Northrop F-89 Scorpion–The First Combat Aircraft Armed with Air-to-Air Nuclear Weapons
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The twin-engine, all-weather Northrop F-89 Scorpion was the first jet propelled interceptor specifically designed for this role and put into service by the Air Defense Command. The two-seater aircraft had a radar driver to guide the pilot, which allowed the F-89 to locate, intercept and destroy enemy aircraft day and night in any weather condition.
Officially known as a hunter, the F-89 was powered by two 8,000 pound Allison J35 engines. Thrust, each with an afterburner. The aircraft had a cruising speed of 465 miles an hour and an afterburner, a top speed of 630 miles an hour, a range of 1,000 miles, and a service cap of 45,000 feet.
The F-89 made its maiden flight in August 1948 and delivery to the United States Air Force began in July 1950. A total of 1,050 interceptors were produced and the straight-line aircraft remained in use until the late 1960s. As an interceptor, the plane was supposed to shoot down Soviet atomic bombers before they could reach the United States.
The F-89 was equipped with the most advanced weapons available at the time, but was largely conventional at the time. The internal twin-engine turbojet configuration and the air intakes were located deep on the fuselage sides.
It was the first Air Force combat aircraft to carry all-missile armament and the first jet to be equipped with Hughes Falcon air-to-air missiles. These could be fired automatically in a huge volley as soon as the aircraft's radar was visible to determine that it was aimed at a bomber target.
In particular, the scorpion has been modified to increase its potential sting!
The F-89J (modified from the F-89D) was the first combat aircraft to be armed with air-to-air nuclear weapons, the unguided genius missile. In July 1957, she launched a genius test missile with a nuclear warhead that exploded over a test track in Nevada. That was the first launch of such a weapon.
The MB-1 Genie, later renamed AIR-2A and popularly referred to as the "Ding Dong", was a three-meter missile armed with a 1.5-kiloton W25 nuclear warhead at its tip. The AIR-2 was later converted by atomic air-to-air missiles into a conventional weapon for detonating targets on the ground. Instead of the 1.5-kiloton nuclear warhead in the genius, the technicians grabbed the nose with tiny bomblets the size of hand grenades. However, when these modifications were made, the F-89 Scorpion was replaced with newer and more modern aircraft, including the F-4 Phantom Jets.
In the early 1960s, however, Scorpion and Genie were largely connected.
A total of 350 of the F-89Ds were converted to "J" models, and these became the first interceptor of the Air Defense Command to wear nuclear armor. Beginning in the late 1950s, former USAF F-89s were handed over to the Air National Guard without nuclear weapons, and the last of which was retired in July 1969.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is the author of several books on military headwear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.
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