Apr 212017

If there was ever a demonstration of the combination of “technical genius” with “wartime desperation,” it was the Bachem Natter from late in World War II. This German design was a point defense interceptor, from a time when B-17’s, B-24’s and Lancasters freely roamed the sky, laying waste to the German infrastructure. The Natter was a rocket-powered, vertical takeoff, partially reusable manned surface-to-air missile. It was to be armed with a multitude of unguided explosive-tipped rockets in the nose, probably to be launched as a single salvo. Reportedly, someone had the bright idea that the pilot would then aim his plane at another bomber for a ramming attack, bailing out at the last second. But since bailing out meant separating the nose from just forward of the cockpit aft bulkhead, the likelihood is vanishingly low that either the pilot would survive or that the Natter would continue forward in a predictable path. The more reasonable approach would still be for the pilot to bail out, but for both the pilot and the aircraft to pop chute and land safe enough to be recovered and reused.

The Natter was launched unmanned a few times and manned once, killing the pilot. It was *kind* of a neat idea, but the execution was not so good. The Germans would have been better advised to have worked on unmanned surface to air missiles than the Natter. But for all the claims of vaunted German efficiency, the Nazi regime was astonishingly inefficient, with many redundant and non-communicative programs.

Just as well, in retrospect.

There are many photos and illustrations of the Natter out there, but I figured these diagrams might be of interest.

 Posted by at 11:31 am
Apr 152017

Now available: two new US Aerospace Projects issues:

US Transport Projects #07

US Transport Projects #07 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #07 includes:

  • Lockheed L-279-9: an early SST
  • Convair HST – Phase II Variable Sweep Configuration: A mid-1960’s hypersonic transport
  • Lockheed CL-1373: a short-haul turboprop liner
  • Boeing Model 702-134(4): a large nuclear-powered logistics hauler
  • McDonnell-Douglas Swept Wing Spanloader: a heavy cargo carrier
  • Lockheed Hybrid Wing Body: a current design for an efficient military transport
  • NASA Cut-Down 747 SCA: a 1973 idea for a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft
  • Rockwell Boost Glide Transport: An early 1970’s rocket transport


USTP #07 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:


Also available, the first in a new series:

US Recon and Research Projects #01

US Recon & Research Projects #01 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #01 includes:

  • General Dynamics “FISH”: 1958 concept for Mach 4 parasite
  • NACA-Langley X-Tail X-15: early hypersonic rocket plane concept
  • “Jake’s Jeep”: WWII-era motorjet design
  • Lockheed “Archangel”: The first step on the road to the SR-71
  • Boeing Model 853-21 “Quiet Bird”: A 1961 stealth platform
  • Northrop Tacit Blue: Operational version of the early stealth experiment
  • Convair Pilotless Airplane I-40 Inhabited: WWII-era design of a manned test for a flying bomb
  • Lockheed CL-278-1-1: a proto-U-2


USRP #01 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:



 Posted by at 11:43 am
Apr 122017

So very, very close on the next two US Aerospace Projects issues. I’m only lacking cover “art”and have to deal with a bit of “dead air” in the middle of US Transport Projects #7. Usually I can shuffle things around well enough to not have this sort of thing, but this time it just hasn’t worked out. I suppose it doesn’t really matter all that much, but it does look kinda lazy like that.

It’s been about a year since I released the last USxP issue. That last issue was the first time where I used vector diagrams embedded within the issue, rather than raster images; getting the diagrams from AutoCAD into Word was a bit of a chore back then. And in the intervening months… I forgot how I did it. So I had to figure it out again, and the process is different. I have to walk the AutoCAD diagram through Rhino 3D and save as a WMF and blah, blah, blah; end result is it works just fine. I’ve done some further refinement… the main outlines are set at 0.25 mm width and the ends of the lines have been reset to rounded and mitered, so sharp corners now look more like sharp corners.

Hoping to have these two out in a day or two. The other three will be rather longer.


 Posted by at 6:57 pm
Apr 022017

I’m essentially done with the drafting portion of the exercise. Now to finish the writing. I had planned on releasing ll five at once, but due to external factors I’ll almost certainly have to split this up. So… which ones do people want more? The publications forthcoming are Fighters, Bombers, Transports, Launchers and Recon & Research. Comment below…

 Posted by at 11:05 pm
Mar 282017

Google has a collection of thousands of photos from Life magazine, including some relatively rare color photos of the Lockheed L-2000 supersonic transport full scale mockup. Sadly the website is set up for lookin’ at, not for easy linking or downloading of the photos. You can zoom in on the images, but good luck on copying the full-rez images.

Lockheed Supersonic Airplane

Lockheed Supersonic Airplane

Lockheed Supersonic Airplane



There are a bunch more if you go searching (search for “supersonic” brings up quite a few), but most are in B&W.

 Posted by at 12:19 pm
Mar 262017

A piece of NASA art circa 1961 depicting an early Apollo capsule concept, current being sold on eBay:

This concept seems to depict the use of a cluster of sizable solid rocket motors, possibly dual-use abort (jettison) and orbit circularization motors.


 Posted by at 5:16 pm
Mar 222017

Here are three pieces of art taken from North American Aviation documents from the early 60’s, part of the Spivak collection. Not the best reproduction quality, but whatryagonnado. The two with downturned wingtips depict the B-70 as actually built; the other is slightly earlier, with some differences from the final configuration. The most obvious is that the vertical fins have leading edge extensions; additionally the forward fuselage contours seem off, though that might be an artistic flub. As well, it does not appear to depict the existence of the wingtip fold hinges, which is either a mistake or artistic license for some purpose.


 Posted by at 2:22 am
Mar 202017

One of the oldest and most tiresome of the “Nazi Wunderwaffen” myths is that of the “Sun Gun.” The idea is that the Nazis were found to have been working on the design of an orbital mirror, miles in diameter, that would have reflected sunlight to the surface of Earth in such a way to cause enemy cities to burst into flames. This idea first hit the US press quite soon after the defeat of Nazi Germany, and *before* the nuking of Japan. Several articles appeared in the New York Times on the topic beginning in late June, 1945, and the idea reached its peak with an illustrated article in Life Magazine in July, 1945.

The “Sun Gun” was claimed to be a circular mirror one mile in diameter, orbiting at 5,100 miles. The mirror, it was claimed, would be made from large cubical and pressure-tight blocks, providing *vast* internal volume for the crew and their crop of oxygen-producing pumpkins.

Small problem: it’s BS.

Now, there *were* ideas for vast orbital mirrors. Hermann Oberth had proposed such a thing as far back as the 1920’s, so an orbital mirror was not unknown as a concept in wartime Germany. And in reading the lean details in the articles, it’s clear that what is described is the Oberth mirror as described after a round of “telephone.” The basic idea is Oberths, and Oberth even gets a shout-out in the articles, but Oberths ideas got mutated and bent out of recognition. Not leastways because an orbital mirror a mile in diameter 5,100 miles overhead *cannot* set a city, or even a dry piece of of tissue paper on fire. The basic physics of optics prohibits that. Thought experiment: take a mirror one inch in diameter. Can you use it to start a fire? If it’s precise enough and close enough to the target… sure. Now, move that one-inch mirror 5,100 inches from the target. Gonna set anything on fire *now?*

I suspect what happened is that the the US Army officers who reported on the “sun gun” were simply told about the Oberth mirror – which, by the way, was a far less insane idea than the “sun gun” in that it was essentially foil rather than a large solid structure – by Germans who either wanted to screw with them or, like von Braun, wanted to pump up their apparent usefulness to the US military in the hopes of getting transferred to the US. Given the conditions in post-war Germany and the risks of getting sucked into the black hole of the Soviet Union, it would make sense for *anyone* to try to wrangle a ride to the US for an actual job.

I have gathered together scans of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject and mashed ’em into a PDF file which I have uploaded to the 2017-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder. This is available to all APR Patreon Patrons at the $4 level and above. If interested, check out the APR Patreon.




 Posted by at 10:29 am
Mar 172017

Recently sold on eBay (for $500) was a display model of the Boeing proposal for the C-5 program, which of course lost out to Lockheed. The Boeing design (circa 1965) was vaguely like a Lockheed C-5 merged with a Boeing 747… roughly the configuration and fuselage size of the C-5, but with the raised upper deck and the standard “jetliner” lower tail surface of the 747. I have surprisingly little on the Boeing C-5, but I do have some fairly detailed diagrams of a civilian passenger version, and a few derivatives. Interestingly, while this was clearly part of the genesis of the 747 – which by every metric was a far greater success for Boeing than the C-5 was for Lockheed – it was actually a model 757. As the design effort continued the 747 designation would become the jumbo jet, while the 757 designation would be applied to a much smaller jet.

 Posted by at 1:44 am
Mar 102017

So here I was, minding my own business when several of my cats started acting glitchy. This is not unknown… where some dogs will bark their damnfool heads off if they hear a stranger on their turf, my cats warn me of visitors or trespassers in their own quieter way. In this case it was a UPS truck and the driver bringing a box to my door. As I hadn’t ordered anything recently, this was a puzzlement.

As it turns out, it was a copy of Dennis Jenkins three-volume book “Space Shuttle: Developing an Icon 1972-2013.” This is the latest, and presumably last, edition of the premiere tome on the history of the Space Shuttle. It is vastly expanded from the previous editions, now over 1,500 pages.

In short… if’n you’re at all interested in the Space Shuttle, procure yourself a copy of this book. It’s a billet of hardback paper massive enough to brain an ape, filled with full-color art & photos, diagrams and data galore. The first volume describes the early history of the Shuttle from World War II up through the 70’s; the second volume is a detailed technical description of the Space Transportation System. The third volume describes the operational history of the Shuttle program.

If you like projects/unbuilt designs, the first volume in particular provides an embarrassment of riches.

In short, I wholeheartedly endorse this book. It’s friggen’ awesome.

With every purchase of “Space Shuttle,” you’ll receive one free Raedthinn-approved Fort Of Imagination.

Note: seems my copy came to me due to my having contributed very, very slightly to it, another concept I wholeheartedly approve of. Thus, thanks to Dennis Jenkins for providing me with this!

 Posted by at 7:58 pm