a reply to: SpeedFanatic
(long time reader, probably wrong about all of this, but whatever)
OP reminds me of this aircraft, looks kinda like I imagine the Companion:
(this is just a Teledyne Ryan / McDonnell Douglas XST concept)
Anyway, what always bothered me about the Companion is the manufacturer. Between boomer and Zaphod I have no doubt it exists, but who build the thing?
Northrop never made much sense to me. As far as I understand it, the Companion is supposed to go way back, being developed more or less alongside
Senior Trend, meaning at best early eighties or something.
In this timeframe, Northrop didn’t have much to offer. Just look at what they came up with for the XST competition. Their entry is essentially a
worse looking Have Blue variant, not anything like the Companion is supposed to look like. And how would that work anyway? Did Northrop have a second
team to develop the Companion? Was there another competition? Northrop ‘blew’ the XST and just happened to luck out on the Companion, somehow
creating an airframe beyond anything at the time its still operational decades later? It doesn’t work like that.
Later in the decade they had BSAX and the ATB, but no radical evolution that would result in an stealth fighter-sized airframe still relevant today.
Tacit Blue was a big fat whale and it took decades and the cranked kite evolution to get a decent fighter sized flying wing going.
Granted, the YF-23 came out of nowhere and I read about someone trying to link it to the Companion, but ATF came almost a decade after the Companion
and the development history doesn’t add up well with a classified predecessor.
So, who else? I’m not sold on McDonnell/TR either. Their XST concept looks juicy (perfect for the Companion IMO) but XST went forward without them.
I’m unsure on the details of them dropping out, maybe there is a case to be made for their airframe getting picked for the Companion at that
Other companies which participated in the early studies (Project Havrey) are even less interesting. Fairchild and Grumman declined outright, General
Dynamics wasn’t into Stealth at all and wanted to do ECM while Northrop and McDonnell moved forward and Lockheed forced itself in.
If one excludes Northrop (at least of the airframe), all that’s left is McDonnell or someone else entirely. So just to put the question out there,
what on earth was Boeing up to during all this? They were not in the fighter business back then, but no one never bothered to include them into the
quest for stealth? They had just acquired Rockwell a few years back, and between the shuttle and the B-1, they were most definitely cutting edge. Then
there is Boeings Quiet Bird which never made any sense at all. They had essentially figured out material and shape based Stealth back in the sixties,
way before Lockheed put some Russian math into a computer program.
I mean, at least the shapes of the Quiet Bird look like what I imagine a revolutionary airframe from way back but still relevant today would look
like. And yet, Boeing not only supposedly ‘forgot’ all about the program until the nineties, the company never ventured into the black world of
fighter sized stealth platforms and slept through the XST revolution. uhuh
If I had to pick a manufacturer for the Companion during the late seventies / early eighties, I’d put my money on them or McDonnell. I really
don’t see Northrop, at least if the Companion was indeed developed alongside the Nighthawk.
F-22 happened. It can drop bombs when it has to (did over Syria) and for everything else there is JASSM and/or B-2s. The F-117s were not needed
anymore and while they were revolutionary (as far as we know) decades ago, stealth has evolved since then. The Air Force is short on cash as is,
retiring the Nighthawks was one of their smarter decisions in recent years.
Congress decided to put them in some sort of advanced storage, they are kept in flying condition to be reactivated quickly in case of emergency. Dunno
if this is still the case.
And who knows, maybe some black vlo strike platform entered operational service, effectively replacing them too. Improbable but not impossible.
The Companion is probably similarly outdated at this point (at least technologically). I suppose once they get the F-35 ECM systems working (Block
4.something ?) they’ll retire it too if it hasn’t already. As far as I remember it was last seen airborne / talked about in 2014.