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French VTOL aircraft in sixties?

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posted on Dec, 23 2005 @ 11:00 AM
I was very surprised when I found on wikipedia info that French had also supersonic!!! VTOL project in sixties. I never heard about it, and considering recent problems with reliabilty of wiki I thought it's hoax. But then I did some Google searches and it looks like the project was real.
It was modification of Mirage III called "Balzac".

external image

"This aircraft featured eight small vertical lift engines straddling the main engine. The Mirage IIIV was built in response to a mid-1960s NATO specification for a VTOL strike fighter.

To test the lift-engine concept, Dassault modified the first Mirage III prototype. Eight Rolls-Royce RB-108 lift engines were added, each with 980 kilograms (2,160 pounds) thrust. This demonstrator was known as the "Balzac V", with the "V" for "VTOL", or just "Balzac". It made its first hover flights in October 1962, with its first transition from vertical to horizontal flight in March 1963.

The name was not actually given to the aircraft in honor of a French literary figure. As the machine was the first Mirage III, it was serial-numbered "001", and at the time there was a French movie advertising agency that widely publicised its phone number, "BALZAC 0-0-0-1".

The Balzac crashed in January 1964. The pilot was killed, but the aircraft was repaired, only to crash in September 1965 and be permanently destroyed, killing another pilot in the process.

* In the meantime, the Balzac had led to the Mirage IIIV, which was twice as big. Two prototypes were built. The first Mirage IIIV performed its first hovering trial in February 1965. The IIIV had the general layout of earlier Mirage fighters, but it was longer and had a bigger wing, and, like the Balzac, nine engines: a single SNECMA-modified Pratt & Whitney JTF10 turbofan, designated TF-104, with 61.8 kN (6,300 kg / 13,900 lb) thrust, and eight Rolls-Royce RB162-1 engines, each with 15.7 kN (1,600 kg / 3,525 lb) thrust, mounted vertically in pairs around the centerline. The TF-104 was originally evaluated on a special-built trials machine, the "Mirage IIIT", which was much like a Mirage IIIC except for the change in engine fit.

The TF-104 engine was quickly replaced by an uprated TF-106 engine, with 74.5 kN (7,600 kg / 16,750 lb) thrust, before the first prototype made its initial transition to forward flight in March 1966. It later attained Mach 1.32 in test flights.

The second prototype featured an 82.4 kN (8,400 kg / 18,500 lb) thrust TF-30 turbofan for forward thrust, and first flew in June 1966. In September of that year, it attained Mach 2.04 in level flight, but was lost in an accident on 28 November 1966.

The loss of the second prototype effectively killed the program, and in fact killed any prospect of an operational Mach 2 vertical take-off fighter for decades. The British had been proceeding on design work towards the "Hawker P.1154", a supersonic follow-on to the "Kestrel" experimental VTOL fighter then flying, but the French preferred the Mirage IIIV, and the international cooperation needed to make the P.1154 a reality never materialized.

The British cancelled the P.1154 and used some of its design features to come up with an operational vertical take-off fighter based on the Kestrel, the highly successful BAE "Harrier". The Mirage IIIV was never a realistic combat aircraft. The eight lift engines would likely have been a maintenance nightmare, and certainly their weight imposed a severe range and payload penalty on the aircraft. Apparently the program was all but dead even before the loss of the second prototype."

Although it really looks like it was too complicated and impractical, still it managed to go supersonic 40 years before JSF!

Mod Edit: Image Size – Please Review This Link.

[edit on 1/1/2006 by Mirthful Me]

posted on Dec, 23 2005 @ 12:22 PM
It is very real longbow, the Balzac (irreverently re-named the 'Ball-sac' by British critics, please don't ask me to explain that reference, its too rude
) was a small scale prototype for the intended service version the Mirage III-V and should be viewed in relation to that aircraft in the same way that the P.1127 is related to the Harrier.

This can be related to our other discussion on VTOL engines as its main drawback was its reliance on lift engines in a layout borroed from the Short SC.1 research vehicle of the 1950's which was the first VTOL plane to transition from vertical lift to wing borne flight.

It shouldn't be viewed as a major technical triumph like the Harrier, Yak -41 or the F-35 as it uses the most rudimentary possible arrangement of a supersonic airframe fitted with enough lift jets to blast it vertically upwards. This arrangement was already rejected by UK, US and Soviet designers as impractical by the time it flew.

posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 06:38 AM
VERY interesting stuff, thanks to bringing this to my attention LB.

although I undoubtly heard about this before from Waynos, this still is something quite interesting.

posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 06:57 AM
Hahaha, I'm sorry, the ballzac? Who thought up that name?

posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 08:07 AM
All the time there was a Supersonic VTOL aircraft, Im suprised they never entered service but as testbeds for future aircraft.

On the other side, VTOL aircraft are quite expensive to run more than conventional fighters and need alot of water to cool the engines.

Also look at these British abandoned supersonic VTOL fighters:

[edit on 24-12-2005 by Browno]

posted on Dec, 27 2005 @ 06:15 AM
All other french V/STOL projects (but only pictures, text is in Slovak language).

posted on Jan, 1 2006 @ 05:22 PM
Here is a German VTOL concept, The Fokker VAK cancelled for the Panavia Tornado.

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