posted on Jun, 5 2006 @ 05:17 PM
The debate about the naming of the F-35, and some of the suggestions, makes me think that some members may want to know just where names have been
used before, maybe even the USMC too, seeing as they suggested 'Spitfire II', clearly not knowing that the famous British fighter of WW2 already WAS
the Spitfire II! The 'Spitfire I' was a spectacularly unsuccessful fighter prototype which flew two years earlier than the famous one and which led
RJ Mitchell to think 'can do better'.
Before I go on I should point out that we in the UK do not subscribe to such tackiness as enumerating planes as if they were Monarchs - You can have
George V etc but not Spitfire II, it's just Spitfire, or Typhoon or whatever. In America there was the F-4 Phantom II, in Britain it was just the
Phantom. This had nothing to do with the fact that we didn't actually operate the FH-1, it's just the way we do things here. I know it makes it
easier for Americans to tell them apart, but most English people who are interested enough to have heard of them seem to manage.
So, planes in current service that have been named by leafing through dusty old plane books?
Well, clearly the first Typhoon, the Hawker Typhoon, was a Napier Sabre engined fighter on 1940 vintage that, like the early P-51, was inadequate
until switched to ground attack where, unlike the P-51, it served for the rest of the war in fine style.
Not so well known is the fact that the Hawker Tornado was an exact clone of it, but fitted with the 'X-24' cylinder Vulture engine, the Vulture
however was a dismal failure and that is why almost nobody has heard of the WW2 Tornado except anoraks like me.
Even less well know are two pre-WW2 Hawkers whose name is carried on current front line RAF aircraft. The Hawker Nimrod was the carrier based version
of the RAF's Fury biplane fighter. The Hawker Harrier was a late 1920's ground attack aircraft, pre-dating the famous Hart, that was unsuccessful
and remained a prototype.
Of course the Americans do it too, and how! The most frequently used single aircraft identity in history must almost certainly be 'Vought Corsair'.
There are of course the two mega famous ones, the 1960's A-7 and the WW2 F4U, but apart from these two Vought seems to have named almost every single
new naval combat aircraft it produced up to WW2 'Corsair'. There are three, utterly different, Vought Corsairs listed in the 1938 Janes All the
Worlds Aircraft for example, and none of them are the F4U which hadn't been produced yet. It appears to have been an almost generic name for the
companies products at the time. In todays USAF there is the Thunderbolt II, named after the P-47, and the Globemaster III, named after two previous
Douglas heavy transports, the C-74 and C-133, remember, Boeing only inherited the C-17.
Its not only military planes of course. The first Boeing Stratoliner was the 1938 Model 377, based on the B-17. But later, in the 1950's, Boeing
launched a new 'Stratoliner', this time based on the KC-135 tanker. Of course this time the name didn't stick and everyone simply came to know it
as the 707, which kick started the entire 7-7 tradition for Boeing jetliners.
These are examples of tradition being carried forward by a manufacturer and I could trawl my library to add many many more but I wont because if you
aren't bored already, you soon would be. Terefore to finish I will make a minor mention of how names are often just pilfered by other firms, because
they like them.
Examples here include the North American FJ Fury, navalised Sabre, presumably because they thought, after using it twice already, Britian had finished
with the name, and the Sepecat Jaguar, BAC rescuing this fine name from being wasted on a nondescript Grumman prototype of 15 years earlier.
We also nicked 'Lightning' after Lockheed had first used in on the P-38, though it seems much more aptly applied to BAC's fast climbing interceptor
of 1960. Perhaps a few at Lockheed think its about time they had it back? After all, they already tried once already, applying it to the YF-22, so,
truth be told, if they give it to the F-35 it CANNOT be 'Lightning II', it will have to be the 'Lightning IV', which is just silly, you see why we
Brits don't bother with the numbers?