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Convair F-102 Delta Dagger: The Interceptor of the United States Air Force (USAF)

The aircraft for today is the one that served the United States Air Force (USAF) as their primary interceptor aircraft back during the 1950s. The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger entered service of USAF back in 1956 and the main purpose of the aircraft at that time was to intercept any of the invading strategic bombers of the Soviet Union like Tupolev Tu-95 during the early years of Cold War. The aircraft was a product of the company named Convair and nearly 1000 of them were built during its entire service period.

The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger happens to be the member of the Century Series and was the first official operational supersonic interceptor aircraft of the USAF as well as a delta wing fight jet. The aircraft was equipped with the ability to carry external and internal weapons such as rockets and guided missiles. The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger’s entry replaced the aged fleet of the Northrop F-89 Scorpion and it went on to saw limited service of US Air Force in the Vietnam War as the ground attack and bomber escort aircraft.




From mid to late 1960s many of the Convair F-102 Delta Daggers were passed on to the Air National guard expect the ones that were made into FSAT (Full Scale Aerial Target) drones designated as QF-102.

Origins & design problems:-

Back in August 1945, USAF placed a requirement for a jet-propelled interceptor aircraft that would have supersonic capabilities. Jet technology was still in its nascent years but Convair came forward to complete the requirement as they used the works of the German Engineer named Alexander Lippisch whose idea was for a delta-wing aircraft design for high-speed flight. The made a prototype on that design which they named XF-92A which flew the first time back on 1st April 1948.

The aircraft was not liked by the pilots due to the underperforming capabilities and violent tendencies during the flight and the project was canceled.

The first completed prototype of Convair F-102 Delta Dagger:-

USAF placed the requirement again in 1948 for the new aircraft for an interceptor that would be built around an MX-1179 electronic FCS (Fire Control System) for management of the radar tech and missile delivery system. The aircraft would also need to have the Mach-2 speed and was to be offered for evaluation by 1954. Utilizing their knowledge of XF-92A, Convair made the XF-102 with larger delta wings and longer fuselage section. This prototype was evolved to become the YF-102A which flew for the first time on 23rd October 1953 but was lost in an accident.

The second prototype was built under designation YF-102A which flew back on 20th December 1954 and was able to meet up with the requirements of USAF’s contract. The aircraft was ordered for serial production by USAF under the name Convair F-102 Delta Dagger. Nearly 889 of the F-102A models were created with remaining being the F-102Bs. During the course of serial production, nearly 1000 of the Convair F-102 Delta Daggers were manufactured with production lasting from January 1955 to September 1958.

Powerplant & Performance:-

The power was delivered to the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger via a single Pratt & Whitney J57P-23; a turbojet engine which created a dry thrust of 11700 lbs while the afterburner thrust was 17200lbs, which was achieved by pumping the raw fuel into the turbojet engine for realizing temporary burst in speed for reduced operational ranges.

With these thrusts, the aircraft could achieve a top speed of up to 825 mph for a range of 1350 miles at a maximum service ceiling of about 54000 feet which was far much better than the original requirement of the USAF.

Armaments:-

The weaponry of the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger was placed in the 3 internal bays which were located under the aircraft’s main fuselage area for reducing the flow of air to get as much speed as possible. This also led to the aircraft developing an inherent radar signature. The Convair F-102 Delta was designed to be fitted with weapons that could take down the Soviet bombers in air-to-air missions.

The aircraft was capable of carrying 6 missiles which were a mix of the semi-active radar homing guidance type named AIM-4A Falcon missiles and the AIM-4C Falcon, the infrared homing guidance type missiles.

Some provisions were made in the design of the aircraft so it could carry 24 of the FFARs (Folding Fin Aerial rockets) along with the aircraft’s door panels for short-range purposes. In its later missions, the F-102 was also cleared for carrying a single AIM-26A Nuclear Falcon; a nuclear missile for dealing with soviets as a nuclear deterrent aircraft.

The aircraft was never fitted with any internal gun but would still feature drop tanks underneath its every wing for increasing aircraft’s range.

Service with USAF:-

The aircraft entered the official service of USAF back in April of 1956 and were used primarily by the ADC (Air Defense Command) at the Perrin Air Force Base. ADC used the F-102 well until 1960 before handing over them to the Air National Guard where it served until 1970.

Known as ‘Deuce’ instead of ‘Delta Dagger’:-

The official name of the F-102 was “Delta Dagger” but that name was never used, instead it was known across the globe by the name “Deuce” as for its variant model TF-102, it was known by the name TUB due to the wider fuselage design.

George W. Bush flew a Convair F-102 Delta Dagger:-

A president of the United States of America named George W. Bush also flew one of these Convair F-102 Delta Dagger aircraft. He flew his Convair F-102 Delta Dagger when he was in his service for the Texas Air National Guard from the year 1968 to 1972.

Project Pave Deuce:-

Back in 1973 about 6 of the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger were converted to be Target Drones designated as QF-102As and the PQM-102Bs under the FSAT project named ‘Pave Deuce’.  During the program, hundreds of Convair F-102 Delta Daggers were used as target drones for the new fighter jets along with being sued as test aircraft for the Patriot Missile system of the US Army.

Retirement:-

The last of the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger aircraft left its service of USAF and all the other branches of government back in 1976 whereas the last of its drone models were expended back in 1986.

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