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Book Review – Project Terminated: Famous Military Aircraft Cancellations of the Cold War and What Might Have Been

By Erik Simonsen; Crecy Publishing; 160 pages

Two huge, sleek, breathtaking Avro CF-105 Arrow interceptors are on the prowl over the western United States. One is a visitor from north of the border where the futuristic fighter was designed. The other CF-105 is attired in late-1960s colors and markings of the U.S. Air Force. “Had the USAF opted to procure a limited number of Arrows, it might have looked like this,” writes author, artist and photographer Erik Simonsen.

Project Terminated is a visual feast of what it might have looked like if very real aircraft designs in the West had been put into production instead of being canceled.

Project Terminated is a visual feast of what it might have looked like if very real aircraft designs in the West had been put into production instead of being canceled.

 

Hypothetical Heights

There’s a pair of North American YF-108A Rapiers intercepting a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” reconnaissance craft high off the coast of Alaska, a pair of Republic YF-103A fighters belonging to the 94th Fighter Squadron (the same outfit that had two F-22 Raptors on the ground in South Korea recently), and even a pair of hypothetical FV-12A fighters in a zoom climb in colorful U.S. Navy markings. That last one is a curious choice because the real-life XFV-12A from which Simonsen’s fanciful fighter is derived — a creature of bloated defense budgets in the early 1980s — may be the only aircraft in U.S. history that was so ineptly designed it was never going to fly, no matter what, or so said a well-known aeronautical engineer for the Navy.

“What if?” is the theme in Project Terminated. What if the XFV-12A had been a decent design that evolved into carrier-based fighter? What if the Northrop F-20A Tigershark had gone into production? Most aircraft and one spacecraft covered in this volume were good, solid designs that were scuttled for political or economic reasons. Operational versions can be seen today only in the high-tech blend of photography and artistry that produces Simonsen’s imaginary versions.

Northrop YB-49

The Northrop YB-49 is am example of the type of cancelled aircraft that author Erik Simonsen features in his book, Project Terminated: Famous Military Cancellation of the Cold War and What Might Have Been. U.S. Air Force photo

Many legendary aircraft like the Northrop YB-49 flying wing bomber (precursor to today’s B-2 Spirit), the Canadian CF-105 Arrow, and the Mach 3 Lockheed YF-12 interceptor were actually built and flown successfully before being cancelled.

Others, like the F-108, never made it past the mock-up stage.

With its high quality slick paper and solid binding, this book is a bargain at its suggested cover price — and a keeper.

 

Attention to Detail

The imaginary versions in this book are based on fact and research. The author’s attention to detail is evident in his caption for an image of a B-49D bomber that never was: “plans to install gun turrets on top of the wing were cancelled and only the tail 20-mm cannons would have been installed on operational bombers.”

This book would be a treat for the professional airman, aviation buff or historian if it contained only Simonsen’s pictorial visions of aircraft that could have been.

Project Project Terminated: Famous Military Cancellation of the Cold War and What Might Have BeenTerminated

Project Terminated: Famous Military Cancellation of the Cold War and What Might Have Been, by Erik Simonsen; Crecy Publishing; 160 pages

But Project Terminated contains much more. Each chapter includes real, archival photos of the real-life versions of the aircraft being covered. Each contains specifications and other technical information.

Simonsen, his bio says, has been photographing all types of military, commercial, business and sports aviation subjects since the 1960s. His “beat” seems to be aeronautical high-tech, plus things scientific. Simonsen authored two photographically illustrated books, Spy Planes and This is Stealth. His work has also appeared on Defense Media Network.

With its high quality slick paper and solid binding, this book is a bargain at its suggested cover price — and a keeper.

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...