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The Parasite Fighter Programs


The great size of the B-36 Peacemaker made it possible for the behemoth to carry, launch, and retrieve other airplanes. The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin program was intended to provide the B-36 Peacemaker with a fighter for self defense which could be carried entirely within the bomb bay of the bomber. The constraints were that the fighter had to be only sixteen feet long, and only five feet wide when stowed. The wings of the Goblin were designed to fold up alongside each side of the fuselage to fit into the Peacemaker. Due to the unavailability of a B-36 for the flight tests, they were conducted using an EB-29B, serial 44-84111, which was named Monstro, after the whale that swallowed Pinochio.

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XF-85 Goblin, serial 46-0524, was the first to fly on August 23, 1948. It made six of the seven free flights flown by the Goblins. The pilot for all XF-85 Goblin flights was Ed Schoch.



A parasite fighter is a fighter aircraft intended to be carried into a combat zone by a larger aircraft, such as a bomber. If the bomber were threatened, it would be able to release the parasite to defend itself. Parasite fighters have never been highly successful and have seldom been used in actual combat. Projects for this type were designed to overcome the great disparity in range between bombers and their escort fighters. Apart from the fact that none of these schemes worked particularly well, aerial refueling has done away with the need for such schemes.

The first parasite fighters were carried aboard military airships. As early as 1918, the Royal Air Force launched Sopwith Camel fighters from HMA-23, and tried again with Gloster Grebes on the R.33 in 1923. The Imperial Airship scheme envisaged an airship carrying 5 fighter aircraft but the scheme died with the loss of the R.101. In the following decade, two U.S. Navy airships, USS Akron and USS Macon were built with parasite fighter carrying capabilities designed into them from the start. Although operations with F9C Sparrowhawks were quite successful, the loss of both airships in crashes put an end to this program.

The first bombers to carry parasite fighters did so as part of experiments carried out in the Suviet Union by Vladimir Vakhmistrov from 1931 onwards. Up to five fighters of various types were carried by Tupolev TB-2 and TB-3 bombers. One of these combinations would fly the only combat mission ever undertaken by parasite fighters when a TB-2 carrying Polikarpov I-16SPB dive bombers attacked the Negru-Voda bridge in Romania in 1941.

Later in World War II, the Lauftwaffe experimented with the Messerschmitt Me 328 as a parasite fighter, but problems with its pulsejet engines could not be overcome. Other late-war rocket-powered projects such as the Arado E.381 and Sombold So 344 never left the drawing board.

During the early years of the Cold War, the United States Air Force experimented with a variety of parasite fighters to protect its Convair B-36 bombers, including the dedicated XF-85 Goblin, and methods of either carrying a F-84 Thunderjet in the bomber's bomb bay (the "FICON project"), or attached to the bomber's wingtips ("Project Tom Tom"). These projects were all abandoned before long.

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In 1948-49, a pair of McDonnell XF-85 Goblins had been test flown from a Boeing EB-29B.



From 1952 to 1956, the Fighter Conveyer (FICON) program investigated the potential of carrying various models of the Republic F-84 in the bomb bay of a Peacemaker.


In 1955 and 1956 Project Tom-Tom explored an alternative method of attaching a Republic RF-84F Thunderflash to each wingtip of a Peacemaker.



Following the cancellation of the Goblin program, the Fighter Conveyer (FICON) program investigated the potential of carrying various models of the Republic F-84 in the bomb bay of a Peacemaker.


McDonnell XF-85 Goblin

Wingspan: 21 feet 1-1/2 inches, folded: 5 feet

Length: 16 feet 3 inches

Wing Area: 90 square feet

Maximum Unhook Weight: 4550 pounds

Proposed Armament: 4x 50 caliber machine guns

Powerplant: 3,000 pound J34-WE-22 turbojet


Loading The F-85


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A special pit was dug into the tarmac at South Base for loading the XF-85 into the EB-29B. XF-85, 46-0524 is seen in the loading pit on August 2, 1948. The complexity of the folding trapeze is evident. Note the "horse collar" at the end of the trapeze which served to secure the nose of the Goblin after it had engaged the cross bar.


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XF-85, 46-0524 part way through the retraction process on July 15, 1948.




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XF-85, 46-0524 fully retracted into the EB-29B on August 2, 1948.




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Ground clearance was limited while carrying the XF-85. Monstro is nearing take-off speed in this view and is already beginning to rise on its landing gear. To make Monstro easier to see against the sky, The rear fuselage and vertical stabilizer were painted yellow and the outer wing panels and horizontal stabilizers were striped yellow and black

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Because of the turbulence encountered as the XF-85 approached the trapeze, only three of the seven free flights ended in a successful hookup. The other four flights ended in skid landings on Rogers dry lakebed at Edwards AFB. During the first flight, Ed Schoch missed the trapeze with the hook and hit it with the cockpit canopy of the Goblin. The trapeze broke the canopy and knocked off his helmet.

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This is XF-85, serial 46-0523, which was the second Goblin to fly. It made its only captive flight on March 19, 1949 and its only free flight, the last flight of the program, on April 8, 1949.





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XF-85, 46-0523 posed in front of Monstro on the South Base flightline at Edwards AFB. The loading pit can be seen behind them. This Goblin was equipped with vertical surfaces at the wingtips to augment the six vertical surfaces clustered around the tail.


Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Wingspan: 141 feet

Length: 99 feet

Wing Area: 1740 square feet

Maximum Take-Off Weight: 140,000 pounds

Maximum Bomb Payload 20,000

Powerplant: 4x 2,200 hp Wright R-3350 two bank radial engines


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XF-85, serial 46-0523, survives in the Air Force Museum. This picture was taken on August 19, 1972. The hook that was used to attach the Goblin to Monstro is missing. The other Goblin, serial 46-0524, can be seen at the strategic Air Command Museum.

McDonnell XF-85 Goblin, serial 46-0523, seen on display next to the B-36J at the Air Force Museum on August 17, 1998. The hook has been replaced.



 Detail of the retractable hook. The tip of the hook was extended late in the flight program of the Goblin. On one occasion, the tip of the hook was snapped off in an attempt to attach to the EB-29B. Photographed at the Air Force Museum.




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