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Real or Photoshop?

Because of my interests and network of friends in the business, things of interest often cross my virtual (and real) desk. Sometimes they are surprising. This time my jaw is still laying under the desk and I am applying a healthy dose of skepticism until I really, really am sure these are real and not exceedingly good fakes. I do not think they are and I have examined them closely. The first is the F/A-37, reportedly capable of Mach 3.5 supercruise and top speed in excess of Mach 4. It is shown on board the USN George Washington for catapult fit tests according to the source.

The only thing I can say about this one is it has some familiar resemblance to some test articles I am aware of, and it looks a bit like some things which have been described coming out of Groom Lake. Other than that, it has me absolutely flat-footed… if it is real.

F/A-37 prototype on George Washington
F/A-37 prototype on USN George Washington.
Photo: original source unknown (Now pinned down to the making of the movie “Stealth”)

The second aircraft caught me only a little less flat footed. I am well aware of the base design of the aircraft but to my knowledge it was just a concept design, something that might or might not be built 20 years from now. Given the efficiency and strength and capacity (larger than the Airbus 280) this has got to have Airbus executives reaching for the Maalox… if it is real.

Boeing 797
Boeing 797 Blended Wing/Body aircraft.
Photo: original source unknown. (Now pinned down as photoshopped.)

Given that these images are now slithering their way around the mailboxes of the cognoscenti, I am certain we will be hearing more about them one way or the other. I think this is on the up and up, but I am just not yet sure of it.

So, any comments on what has this Samizdata Editor in a state of flabbergasted shock?

29 comments to Real or Photoshop?

  • The first photo is a full-size movie prop, used for the movie Stealth. It’s not a real aircraft.

    The second photo is a Photoshop mockup of a concept BWB design from Boeing. It, too, is not a real aircraft and Boeing has not assigned the 797 numeral to any aircraft or design as yet.

  • Darren is correct, and therefore it is my duty as editor to post pictures of Jessica Biel (exquisite moonbat that she is):


    My sober editorial duties are fulfilled.

  • John_R

    Snopes(Link) has the same pic of Boeing 797 that was circulating in 2006. It too, is fake.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Perry, hubba hubba!

  • Dale Amon

    Damn good work I must say. I’ll add that I was thinking about the movie angle as I was walking to the shopping mall this afternoon because the image detail was such that it had to be a physical object but could not think of a movie one that matched it. I was actually thinking on the lines of a documentary I saw about next generation 2020’s fighters.

    As to the ‘797’, the image matches the original concept design very well and whoever did this was one hell of an artist. This aircraft design or something like it will very likely fly, but again, it is a 2020’s era craft, not a 2000’s craft.

    Thanks for the details on how the stuff was faked.

  • With the engines on top, will that reflect noise upwards away from unfortunates living under the flight path?

  • David Gillies

    The movie Stealth was pretty risible (although Jessie was as toothsome as ever). One thing that struck me about it was why, if the aircraft is meant to be stealthy, does it appear to have a linear aerospike engine, which would give it the IR signature of an airborne Mt. Vesuvius?

  • Laird

    Re the faux “797”: does anyone know what city that is in the background?

  • RAB

    Well done all, especially you Perry 😉

    That’s what this Blog is for.

    If the truth is out there, we will find it!

  • John_R

    Popular Science created the image, in fact you can order a poster of it here(Link)

  • That’s a whole lot of truth there, RAB:-P

  • Dale Amon

    Actually “Stealth” had some very interesting aspects to it. The AI aircraft that was being trained by the pilots of the secret aircraft became sentient and through the course of the movie it grew from childhood (WHEEEEE!!!) to declaring independence from its parents to full on teenage rebellion to mature (and self-sacrificing) adult hood at a very rapid pace. I would not be surprised at all if that were how it actually will happen, although hopefully not in an seriously dangerous attack aircraft!

    I say this because I pretty much agree with the school of thought (Moravec and others I know: remember I was in this field at CMU as a grad student under Dr. Simon and a decade later on staff at the Robotics Institute), that self consciousness will be an emergent property of mobile learning systems. That implies to me that a new intellect will reprise many of the stages of human intellectual growth.

  • Robert Sealey

    According to an article in The Economist for 8th June 2006 Boeing abandoned the idea of a blended wing aircraft – despite its technical advantages – some years ago. Volunteers were asked to sit in a full scale mock-up, but their reactions were so negative Boeing decided to to pursue the idea.

    However, for those of you who missed your chance to fly in the Corcorde, supersonic is coming back. SAI are looking to have a supersonic jet operational by 2016. It will carry 12 to 25 people at between mach 1.6 and 1.8, and they seem to have solved the related environmental problems, including the sonic boom, which caused so many problems for the Concorde.

  • Dale Amon

    Yes, some people I know are working on the boom problem 😉

  • Dale Amon

    As to the blended wing body… I do remember hearing the results of that user study. However, it will come regardless. Economics drives the airline industry and the economics of this type of design are just about indisputable. The decrease in drag and the increase in lift (the whole thing is a lifting body, not just the wings) and the increased usable volume mean that once some airline starts flying these and dropping the ticket prices, everyone else will follow or die. Look for them to appear on the tarmac in the 2020’s and thereafter drive the winged pipes onto secondary routes and eventually 3rd world freighters.

    The pocketbook is mightier than the user study. If it weren’t we’d all still be getting meals and service on airline flights.

  • Dale, they would have to install a mock sky at least as good as the one in Caesars Palace, or I am not flying.

  • Dale Amon

    I can’t say I’d like it either, but I fly a great deal and it is very often paid for by my customer, whose CFO or CEO is deciding on price.. which means I ride cattle class on the cheapest available flight. Even when I am flying on my own dime for business, it’s my own internal CFO who is dong the same thing. If someone comes up with an aircraft that has a very large efficiency improvement, an airline using it will get all the business customers.

    And there will be windows, but most likely those will be in the First or Business Class areas.

    However, on the plus side, keep in mind that these things will be quite large, with more internal space than the A380 because it isn’t just a tube: a lot of the inner ‘wing’ area is part of the pressurized passenger compartment. You won’t be in a tube, it will be more like being in a theater.

  • I panic in a theater too, that’s why I always buy aisle seats. And why do you think that they will not try to cram as many passangers into the box as they possibly can, just as they are doing now? The fact that the box is bigger only means that you can stuff it with more people. I hate flying, and when I do, I have to pay for it too!

    Anyway, the design is cool, I bet that it also makes the plane much less unpleasant to be in during turbulence. Handling it might be a different matter though, unless by that time it will be an inflatable pilot doing it anyway…

  • Dale is right though, the economics of the Blended Wing Body design are indisputable. In time, people will get over their aversion to flying without windows.

    But I would expect the first BWB aircraft to be targeted primarily at the cargo market. As far as I know, this is in line with Boeing’s plans, which aim to have the first commercial BWB available for cargo somewhere between 2015 and 2020 if development progresses smoothly.

  • But I would expect the first BWB aircraft to be targeted primarily at the cargo market..

    Yes, well the Boeing 747 was supposedly intended to be targeted mostly for the cargo market when it was designed, too. (The reason that the cockpit is above the main passenger level is to allow cargo to be loaded from the front. The top deck came into being as a consequence of this decision). The theory at the time was that people were going to be travelling on supersonic aircraft, and the 747 would be mostly useful for cargo flights in which efficiency would be more important. However, efficiency won out there too.

    If someone builds a BWB intending it as a cargo carrier, that doesn’t mean this will be the main thing it can be used for.

  • John K

    The design seems redolent of the the ideas Burnelli had about flying wings back in the 30’s. Maybe he will finally be vindicated? He always argued that the classical aircraft design of a fuselage and two wings was inefficient and dangerous.

  • The aerodynamic superiority of flying wings has been known for a long time (Hugo Junkers in 1910!!! then Burnelli, the Horten Brothers, Leslie Baynes, Alex Lippisch, Jack Northrop…etc. etc.). This is the (long overdue) future of aviation and given the current state of IT and audio-visual technology, some sort of decent virtual windows for Alisa are pretty much a certainty (virtual overhead sky and maybe better seat back displays)… and relatively trivial from an engineering perspective.

  • If someone builds a BWB intending it as a cargo carrier, that doesn’t mean this will be the main thing it can be used for.

    Oh, I agree completely. See my first point, where I said that people would eventually get over their aversion to flying in BWB aircraft.

    I just think that Boeing will probably use the cargo sector to create a market for this style of aircraft and then leverage off that for the eventual passenger variants. And I think Dale is essentially correct in saying that BWBs will become the predominant passenger type over time, at least on trunk routes.

  • Of course they are trivial from an engineering perspective Perry, the big question is will it be available in coach, or how virtual will the coach sky look compared to that in 1st class:-)

  • Steven Groeneveld

    The Blended wing-body as a cargo transport might be the way it has to go. A big problem with the concept for passenger travel is how to contain the necessary cabin pressure in an effeicient way. Flying cylindrical tubes are very efficient at this. In a passenger version of a BWB there will not likely be a cavernous cabin but more likely one broken down into a series of parallel pressurised tubes.

    Dale, Interesing on the sonic boom work. I am hoping to get into a bit of that too. There seem to be a few companies dabbling in SSBJ studies at the moment.

  • Mike Lorrey

    Thats not a linear aerospike engine on the F/A-37, it is, like the F-117 exhibits, a heat-hiding baffle system that traps the hot combustion gasses between two layers of cool bypass air and intermix them.

    I’d be interested in finding out who tried to bamboozle Dale with these pics which are long since known to be fake planes.