Thursday, April 4, 2013

Early Jet-Powered Fighter Technology

My career began in the early 1950s
by Albert B.

In 1953, I was hired right out of college by the Glenn L. Martin Company. I was assigned to the servomechanisms section in engineering and was tasked to work on an electro-mechanical airborne computer. This was part of a fire control system called T-08, a turret containing four 20mm guns to be mounted on the nose of an F-89 Scorpion. The turret could roll 360 degrees. The guns could traverse from dead ahead to 110 degrees, thereby providing more than a hemisphere of coverage. A target tracking radar was provided in the nose of the turret. A handful of engineers tested the system on a modified F-89 at Yuma Air Force Base in 1954 and 1955. Yuma typically provided airborne tow sleeves for fixed rocket fires. We added a radar corner reflector to the sleeve to simulate a target. I got to fly as radar operator in the F-89 and to fire the guns. On our first flight, we flew alongside the tow target. I was about to fire when the pilot of the tow plane yelled that the guns were pointed toward him! I assured him the computer was providing the necessary lead angles for the guns. We subsequently flew numerous different trajectories. The tests were successful, but the corporation decided to get out of the turret business. For me, it was a very interesting and exciting start of a 35-year engineering career with Martin. 

Here's a photo of the F-89 with the "Scorpion's Sting" and test pilot.