Here's Why Cylindrical-Wing Fighter Jet Designs Never Quite Took Off

Illustration for article titled Here's Why Cylindrical-Wing Fighter Jet Designs Never Quite Took Off
Screenshot: Mustard on YouTube

The French are known for style, and right after World War II they were working on an aircraft design more akin to a sci-fi cartoon than anything seen on the battlefield before. It featured a cylindrical-wing design surrounding the main airframe, rather than traditional wide, flat wings. It never quite took off.

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The latest video from the Mustard YouTube channel features the legacy of the C.450 Coléoptère aircraft, designed to take off and land on a vertical axis without the need for traditional runways. It was once hoped to be the future of rapid air response for its compact practicality.

Technically, quite a few “wingless” or circular/short-finned wing designs were developed and air-tested in the 1950s, and many of the aircraft did literally take off at some point. It was ultimately those flight tests, though, that proved this circular wing design was never going to work in reality. It spun nearly uncontrollably as it landed, which compounded the existing difficulties pilots had with gauging their distance and alignment over the landing target — even after engineers implemented a swiveling cockpit.

The eventual development of aircraft like the Harrier jet, which used a more traditional winged airframe but could pivot its jet power down for vertical lift on takeoff and landing, proved superior compared with earlier designs like the C.450 for their familiarity and versatility.

You can also read more about this aircraft and others like it in this detailed article from Air & Space Magazine, featuring some good images too.

Just one question — if something like the C.450 actually worked out and you got rid of the lateral plane of the wings, could you even still call this an “air-plane” anymore? There’s no “plane” left. It’s quite literally just a jet at this point. I guess we’ll never know.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik

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