VIDEO: YF-23 reborn as Romanian, rocket-powered, sea-based, space launcher

I’m not making this up. The ARCA — Romania’s answer to Scaled Composites’ suborbital spacecraft ambitions — today unveiled the wildest idea I’ve seen all year in aerospace. Take the tail and wing planform of the Northrop YF-23, attach a MiG-29-ish nose, install a rocket engine and — are you kidding me? — sea floats, and you get the ARCA E-111 supersonic seaplane.  See the ARCA announcement here and photos from the press conference here. And don’t forget to watch the video.

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19 Responses to VIDEO: YF-23 reborn as Romanian, rocket-powered, sea-based, space launcher

  1. Ed 23 December, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    Now now, the YF-23 is more than just the trapezoid wings and strongly angled V-tail, of course.

    I do wonder why they chose that configuration in combination with the round-ish nose and a huge round rocket, keeping stealth in mind. It’s like sneaking around whilst carrying a gettoblaster. :/ They’d also need pretty calm waters, I’m sure.

    Otherwise it’s a great thought, it would be awesome if such a thing could work.

  2. Ryan 23 December, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    The nose looks more like Scaled Composites’ “White Knight” than a Mig-29. Just sayin.

  3. Lawrence 23 December, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    Is it just me, or just me being old and skeptical….

    It seems over the years, after seeing a lot of these go-to-space schemes/companies, that I realized that the ones with the flashiest and best computer graphics are the one to go bankrupt first…

    word of advise, seems to be keep it simple, keep a low profile, and if you going to keep things cheap and reliable, do the true and tried method. It worked for the Russians, Musk…

  4. keesje 23 December, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    why from water and why stealth..

  5. alloycowboy 23 December, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    It’s a little early for April Fools isn’t it?

  6. FlightDreamz 24 December, 2010 at 1:25 am #

    Cool looking video to be sure, but until I see some actual hardware I’m EXTREMELY skeptical.

  7. Otto Pernotto 25 December, 2010 at 5:27 am #

    Stephen,
    since you are citing previous efforts I would have to say that centreline payload is a blunt version of the centreline pod on a B-58 Hustler. And I could discern no possible way this thing is afloat “on step” and why that pod doesn’t get ripped off while banging the sea.

    As far as I’m “out there” this is a pod too far…

  8. Axure 25 December, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    I don’t think they want it to be stealth. Maybe they choose this shape for some aerodynamic reasons or maybe just because it looks cool on the video. (Which would mean they don’t really mean it to look like this.) But a small private space-launching company certainly doesn’t need stealth. It needs low cost.

    By the way, Stephen, I don’t think they’re into Branson-esque suborbital crap. Rather, they’re participants in the SpaceX/Google contest. So, if anything, put them in the Musk category. ;)

  9. FlightDreamz 25 December, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    Like Lawrence and AlloyCowboy I’m skeptical that this very nice computer animation will ever become reality as an actual design. The trapezoid wings and butterfly wings is an interesting approach to the design. I’d thought I’d mention that Boeings losing submission to the then, Joint Strike Fighter, the X-32 was considering a butterfly tail as well late in the redesign when the all delta approach became nonviable for the navy’s low speed handing and bring back weight requirements. Funny how some designs pop up again and again.

  10. Ravenmaster 27 December, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    Well this video and the subsequent announcement caused quite a fuss among the aviation buffs in Romania. Some even went as far as suggesting that the ARCA aircraft can be transformed in a fighter plane (Romania is facing the real possibility of losing its entire fighter force by 2013). Is seems to me a rather risky bet, even as a civilian launcher for moon rockets. And I don’t really understand why they choose a sea plane configuration – maybe to save money on the landing gear development. And yes they did borrow liberally from other existing aviation projects.

  11. DensityDuck 4 January, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    Whoever made that design really really likes Ace Combat.

  12. jen 7 January, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    This team started out almost 10 years ago with all kind of aeronautical projects ( much disputed in media) but have never finished anything, except for several plastic models and two or three attempts to launch a said peroxide rocket engine from solar or helium balloons.
    The rocket plane in this movie seems very far from their capabilities (years-light) and due the enormous weight of the oxidant it cannot take-off with YF-23-like wings.
    It is quite strange for somebody whose backround doesn’t count for at least one model rocket to try building a manned rocket plane from scratch!

  13. John W 17 January, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    What the hell have those people been smoking out there???

    this plane comes after another big “projects” like rocket lanched from a baloon, rockets looking like sex-toys… come on!

    I looked on the ARCA site and related news, seems to me like very good web fraud and fooling sponsors to get money… have to admit it’s clever though :) )

    too bad they want to be put aside great Romanian engineers like Vuia (the first well-documented unassisted takeoff and landing by an engine-driven monoplane), Coanda (the first motorjet engine) and so on… they spoil Romanian Aeronautics…

  14. serban 18 March, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Well, according to what they post on http://www.arcatv.com/, the reason for the water landing is indeed cost and weight savings for the landing gear. The reason for the rocket engine is the cost of the jet engines, as they claim they are able to build the rocket engines themselves.
    They never mentioned anything about stealth and they made it clear that they do not have any intention to use the plane for military purposes.

    Not sure if they have the know-how and technology to pull it off, but they’re building it as I post. They estimate they’ll have the frame done by November.

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