Lockheed L-133 starjet- the nearly completed first jet fighter
Lockheed created a new type of fighter plane during World War II that could fly twice as fast as any other aircraft, had missions that allowed it to scout out enemy positions from a great height, and it could even shoot down bombers long before they became a threat. This would have been incredible, bringing forward the jet age years in advance, and might have even changed the outcome of the war, but this was so far in the future that even Lockheed thought it was impossible.
It’s the year 1939. The construction of the first jet engines was a crucial new discovery that was overshadowed by the escalating conflict in Europe and a developing Japanese empire. Lockheed engineers were inspired by this new advancement and started working on several paper projects to build a plane that could fly on jet power. By the following year, they had developed the I-1000 engine, which, I can’t stress enough, was truly revolutionary because it employed a theory known as axial flow type. Engine It would be over ten years before the British would introduce their own centrifugal flow engine concept that was inferior. At the time, Lockheed’s I-1000 would be the pinnacle of jet technology globally and usher in a new era of jet aircraft.
This presented the first challenge for our Lockheed Engineers because they didn’t actually have a plane to put the engine in, which is where our story’s hero comes in. The US Army was very interested in transportation as well as the obvious military applications, in fact, it was these military applications and the escalating tensions with Japan and Nazi Germany that made them very interested. They would authorize the construction of a prototype engine right away.
With Effect 2 demonstrating that this engine was the future of aviation, Lockheed would need all the support they could get for this project as they were introducing a completely new type of aircraft to the market. However, it would be difficult for the US government to understand because they had never heard of this concept of a jet engine because Lockheed didn’t have a website, something they could have avoided.
Using the P38 Lightning as a base, the engineers first gave it a conventional mid-wing layout with the prone seated pilot to eliminate the bubble cockpit and have better aerodynamics, but this would cause all sorts of issues with the gun. The engineers then gave it a conventional mid-wing layout with the upright pilot to prevent the bubble cockpit, but this would cause all sorts of issues with the gun.
and giving the pilot a more conventional cockpit, but the engine intakes on the side of the pilot wouldn’t give enough oxygen into the jet engine to get it up to the required speed, so the final design would have the air intake move to the nose of the plane, a typical cockpit, a blended Wing body, with the same wings at the back of the plane. Its wheels would also be powered and allow it to coast up to some serious speed on the runway to aid with takeoff. The d-shaped air intake This is where very early jet aircraft design is a little flawed, and it’s only because of 70 years of hindsight that we can actually be critical. In an interview with one of the designer’s children back in 2013, they admitted that their father had no idea where the guns were because the air intake was on the nose. Because of this, the weapons would actually be mounted inside of it, especially for 20-millimeter cannons providing enough Firepower to take out those enemy bombers.
If the air intake was at the front of the plane, where precisely would the ammunition for these guns, the landing gear, and eventually radar go? Additionally, if you thought a bird hit would be catastrophic, it would be sucked directly into the jet engine. The amount of dome area was already limited, and this air intake was generating a variety of issues. Additionally, even though the production model would have extended that range to several hundred miles, it was doubtful that it would have been particularly useful.
Fighter for extensive use across the sea to battle Japan so already practically this jet didn’t make a ton of sense but being the happy naive Engineers back then in the 1940s Lockheed took the concept to the government to be built and the answer from those in Washington stop this nonsense and build more propeller planes let me explain now at first glance this seems like a totally insane idea from the government here Lockheed had made an aircraft that on paper proved to have clear advantages over anything the Nazis or the Japanese had in the field in 1942 but these generals did have some legitimate concerns the first was that jet engines were clearly an untested unproven and undeveloped technology it could have been a few more months years or even decades to get it to work properly and to bet the farm on something that might not work wasn’t a high priority especially considering that they already had fleets of propeller aircraft doing the right job in fact this project management of the engine the r1000
was shocking due to wartime production Precision parts were hard to come by and the research stalled to a crawl they simply didn’t have the materials expertise or capability to make this at the time they were a decade too early additional fighter pilots at the time, as well as the crew maintenance in the entire U.S war machine trained on propeller aircraft to introduce a new type of plane during a war, would have been very difficult and again sucked away central War resources but it’s the last point that was the most interesting there was simply no need for this chat at the time enemy bombers and fighter planes flew around 10 000 feet at half the speed. so why would they need something so ridiculously overpowered that ironically they would encounter the Nazi me 262 only a few short years later the development of the British jet engines put an egg on the US’s face making them scramble to come up with their own jet aircraft at the end of the decade ironically much of the p80 was based on the original design work of the L 3-3 and even shared part of the name the shooting star so go figure as for the original engine the I-1000 was outsourced from Lockheed who needed to focus on plane building and wouldn’t actually, be built until the end of the 1940s it was simply too late the war was over and history had passed by now I do have to wonder her.
what if this aircraft had actually gone into production the ramifications would have been huge but like me 262 perhaps it would not have been made in large enough numbers to make a significant difference in the few battles that it would have been used it would have absolutely guaranteed air superiority for the Allies able to fly faster than any enemy aircraft that they could muster although it’s the real alternative history ramifications that would have been the most interesting for sure Lockheed would have developed a faster bomber using this technology and in turn jet commercial aircraft 10 years earlier than we had it today meaning we might be all flying around on board a Lockheed a300 Dreamliner instead wait didn’t Lockheed Martin just develop a new tanker aircraft