Jul 012017

The Pluto nuclear ramjet is often considered one of the crazier (or perhaps more accurately, “badass”) weapons systems ever considered by serious people. In short, it used a nuclear reactor as the heat source for an airbreathing ramjet; it would fly at a few hundred feet altitude at Mach 3 with nearly unlimited range. Several American aerospace corporations vied for the contract; LTV won the contract to build the airframe in 1961. The “Tory” nuclear ramjet was static ground tested with some success, but the program was cancelled in 1964.

Convair gave the concept considerable study from the beginning of the program in 1957 until at least 1961. Their “Big Stick” concept has been reasonably well known, but they had another idea that was somewhat further from the basic idea. It was mentioned in at least two briefings that I’ve come across; some amount of serious work was done on it, but the information I have is fragmentary. The concept was called simply the “Submersible Nuclear Ramjet.”

Pluto and Big Stick were unmanned cruise missiles. They would be launched from the ground with solid rocket boosters (some though was given to launching from ships, subs and aircraft) and would fly “grand tours” of the Soviet Union, spitting out a number of individual nuclear bombs. They would leave in their wake a line of ruin… the shockwaves from their passage would likely shake apart civilian structures, and the reactors would constantly spit out radioactive particles. At the end of the mission the missiles would crash into one final target.

But the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet would work a little differently. For starters… it was manned. There would be a crew on board throughout the mission.

Rather than starting off at some Air Force base, the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet would actually start off as a submarine, floating around on its own in the ocean. Propulsion would be provided by the nuclear reactor, serving as a “water ramjet” by heating seawater and expelling it. Feeding salt water, diatoms, kelp, fish and all the rest of the junk  the ocean has to offer directly through a nuclear reactor seems a bit dubious.

When the order to begin an actual mission comes in, the propulsion system would be reconfigured from seawater-burning ramjet to seawater-burning rocket. The vehicle would expel stored seawater through the reactor, generating a large amount of thrust, enough to launch the craft vertically out of the water and up to high speed. The craft would then angle over towards the horizontal; the propulsion system would reconfigure once again, this time to an airbreathing nuclear ramjet. The vehicle would then fly a mission essentially similar to Plutos… low altitude, screamingly high speed, ejecting nuclear weapons as it goes. At the end of the mission, unlike Pluto it would *not* crash itself into one final target. Instead, the manned vehicle would return to secure waters and slow to subsonic speed. It would enter a vertical climb and slow to a stop; the ramjet would again reconfigure, this time back to rocket mode. Four drag brakes would deploy around the nose and the vehicle would back down into the water for a soft “splashdown.” It would of course land with nearly empty tanks, so it would be quite buoyant; until the tanks refill, it would likely sit tail-down in the water.

I’m going to try to find out more about this concept, but I have minimal hopes. I’ve gone all this time without hearing about it until just a few weeks ago.

Because why no, I’ve made a basic model of the concept. Complete accuracy is not assured… I have a top view and an inboard profile; as with a distressing number of concept aircraft diagrams, the views seem to conflict on things such as the cockpit canopy, and the inlet configuration is only partially shown. Still, it’s a really interesting concept.

If you’re interested in Pluto, take a look at Aerospace Projects Review issue V2N1. There is a very large, highly illustrated article on Pluto in that issue. If you are interested in the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet, keep an eye on US Bomber Projects… it will show up in the next issue or two.

The renders below show the Convair Submersible Nuclear Ramjet to scale with the LTV Pluto.

 Posted by at 12:36 am
Jun 182015

The USS United States (CVA-58) was a supercarrier that was begun in 1948, but never finished. Even though the keel was laid, the actual layout of the final ship has always been pretty poorly defined in published sources. It would have been an angled-deck supercarrier of modern design, but with no island at all, just a flat deck. But diagrams of it have always been vague, unofficial or dubious.

Huzzah! The National Archives has a number of high-rez plans of the ship as designed in October 1947. Five diagrams of slightly differing study concepts are available; I’m not sure which – if any – most accurately depicts the ship as it was eventually to be defined.

CV-New Study Arrangement Plans

Here’s one of the diagrams… greatly reduced in size. See the National Archives page for the full-rez versions.


 Posted by at 6:47 pm
Feb 212015

Modern submarines (like the Seawolf and Virgina classes) are often propelled not by propellers, but by pumpjets. These are shrouded turbines with a number of blades, looking much like the inlets and compressors of modern high bypass turbofans. They provide propulsive improvement, but apparently more importantly they are quieter than exposed propellers. However, the details of their designs are often obscure, for the obvious fact that they make submarines stealthier vehicles.

One of the few pumpjets I’ve seen shown in any detail comes from a 1963 General Dynamics report covering unusual propulsion system options for submarines. At this early date it’s safe to assume that the resemblance to a modern pumpjet is probably fairly minimal beyond the overall concept and configuration, but it’s still an interesting  look at a rarely seen technology Additionally, the pumpjet is about the *least* unconventional of the concepts shown in detail, which include props that are fitted to a ring at the maximum diameter of the hull and separate, podded propulsion systems (a common enough design feature on many surface vessels today) and cycloidal propulsion systems. All of the systems are compared by assuming they are applied to SSB(N)-616 USS Lafayette, a  ballistic missile sub.




This report can be downloaded from the Defense Technical Information Center website.

The link to the abstract is here.

The direct link to the PDF file is here.

Support the APR Patreon to help bring more of this sort of thing to light!


 Posted by at 12:17 pm
Jan 052015

A scan of a piece of art from 1961 depicting a Long Beach-class guided missile cruiser launching a Polaris ballistic missile. Note that the caption says that this *will* happen; as it turned out, not only was the Long Beach never equipped with Polarises, it was also the only ship in its class. The US Navy decided that putting strategic nuclear ballistic missiles on easily-spotted and tracked surface ships was less desirable than putting them on far stealthier submarines.

missiles and rockets feb 61 polaris long beach

 Posted by at 6:49 pm
Jul 232014

Found on ebay a while back, an artists concept (almost certainly an AP artist, using imagination more than primary documentation) showing an odd little submarine carrying four Polaris missiles while would launch through the sail. Such concepts *were* studied early on in the process, but I think this one is pure artistic license.


 Posted by at 11:22 am
Jul 042014

I have added another milestone to my Patreon campaign. If I get to $500 of patronage…

There are a lot of PDF (and Powerpoint) references available online that would be of interest to aerospace aficionados. But that’s kinda the problem: there are a *lot* of them. NASA alone has had millions of reports online. There are far too many for any one person to even try to get a handle on. However… I’ve got a handle on a great many of them. While they are – or in some cases were – freely available online, you’d have to know they existed first. Well… for many thousands of such reports… I know they exist. So at this milestone, I’ll post reviews, including illustrations, of two such reports or presentations per month. Additionally, I’ll post links to the reports or, in some cases, the reports themselves.

So rather than just some snipped images, you’ll get the images, a description of the report *and* the report itself, posted to the APR Blog. This is in addition to the reports, brochures, documents and diagrams that get sent to patrons, stuff that *isn’t* otherwise available.


 Posted by at 9:12 pm
Jun 302014

I have a pretty fair supply of interesting documents and large format drawings… but not an infinite supply. Consequently, I’m in the market. Do you have interesting aerospace (aircraft, missiles, spacecraft or even perhaps unusual naval or terrestrial projects) documents, large format diagrams or actual blueprints? If so, let’s talk. I’d like to borrow, rent or buy such things. My preference is of course for unbuilt projects, but basically *anything* interesting would be… interesting.

If you have something you’d be willing to share, but not give away, I’d be happy to scan it and send it back ASAP. Alternatively, I’d be happy with good scans.

Additionally: a lot of interesting stuff pops up on eBay. I am actively trolling eBay for such things; just bought two documents tonight. But there’s so much stuff on eBay, with such weird and divergent descriptions, that I can’t possibly hope to catch everything. So if you see something on eBay that looks interesting, by all means let me know.

 Posted by at 11:21 pm
Jun 282014

These are vastly-reduced versions of some of the diagrams I may include as rewards for Patreon patronage. Not all are unbuilt aerospace projects, obviously, but all are, I trust, of interest to those interested in aerospace. If interested, please consider joining my Patreon campaign. Also to be provided are PDFs of aerospace documents

patreonb-45 patreona5 patreona2j patreonxb-70 8engineawacs patreonua-1207 patreonnervadiagram patreonx-15a-3b patreonnervaart patreontacbj-58 patreonbj-58 patreonsuperhustler patreonx-15a-3 patreona-4 patreon2707-200 patreondynasoar patreonatlassiiar patreonhsct patreonarrow patreonx-15i

 Posted by at 11:04 pm
Jun 282014

I’ve launched the Patreon funding campaign:


If you appreciate the aerospace research I do and the stuff I dig up, please consider contributing. As a bonus, you will get goodies if you do! High rez large format diagram scans, brochures, reports, proposals, etc.


Pledge $0.75 or more per month

You get my thanks and a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that you are contributing to saving the history of aerospace engineering!

Pledge $1.50 or more per month

You will receive the uploaded documents and blueprints at 125 dpi

Pledge $3.00 or more per month

You will receive the uploaded documents and blueprints at 200 dpi

Pledge $4.00 or more per month

You will receive the uploaded documents and blueprints at 300 dpi

Pledge $5.00 or more per month

You will receive the uploaded documents and blueprints at 300 dpi plus a bonus CAD diagram at 300 dpi, sized for 8.5X11

Pledge $6.00 or more per month

You will receive the uploaded documents and blueprints at 300 dpi plus a bonus CAD diagram at 300 dpi sized for 11X17

Pledge $8.00 or more per month

You will receive the uploaded documents and blueprints at 300 dpi plus a bonus CAD diagram at 300 dpi sized for 18X24 or larger AND the diagram in the native vector format

Pledge $10.00 or more per month

You will receive all the prior rewards, plus have the opportunity to vote on what will be released next.

Tell all your friends.

 Posted by at 10:34 am
Apr 292014

The San Diego Air and Space Museum has posted a great many images to Flickr, including a fair amount of concept art. One piece (you can see the best-rez version HERE) depicts a Ryan Aeronautical concept for an air boat equipped with a Flex-Wing. Date would probably have been around 1962, plus or minus a few years. The exact role here is a bit obscure… why would the Army have boats like this? Perhaps a troops transport of some type, though a helicopter would probably be a better choice.


 Posted by at 1:48 pm