This is a picture of an old Lockheed Martin concept for the A/F-X, which the US Navy once hoped would replace its Grumman A-6 Intruders and F-14 Tomcats following the A-12 debacle and US Air Force hoped would replace the Boeing F-15E, General Dynamics F-111 and Lockheed F117.

a-x_model_del-phi.jpgInitially it was simply designated the A-X program and focused on developing an advanced high-end carrier-based multi-mission aircraft.  The Navy wanted an aircraft with day/night/all-weather capability, low observables, long range, two engines, two-crew, and advanced integrated avionics and countermeasures. Greatly increased air-to-air requirements were added in 1991 after the Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter was cancelled.

The program was ultimately terminated on 1 September, 1993, during the bottom-up review in favor of what eventually became the Joint Strike Fighter program–which could be why the Navy has always been tepid in its support of the F-35C.

This Lockheed concept–this is a wind tunnel model–according to an industry source who worked on the design almost a lifetime ago, would have had performance that rivaled even the F-22 Raptor. It wouldn’t have been quite as spritely, but it would have come pretty close.

The company did a lot of work with making the design’s variable geometry wings and especially the wing/fuselage joint stealthy.  But it was apparent even at the time that this was going to an expensive proposition–new engines were probably going to be needed since even the Raptor’s Pratt & Whitney F119s weren’t going to cut it.

But it would have been pretty awesome if the Navy had actually bought this thing. Oh well…

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