Model Airplane News
May, 1952

Model Airplane News Cover for May, 1952 by Jo Kotula Northrop F-89 Scorpion

Northrop F-89 "Scorpion"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for May, 1952
by Jo Kotula
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The Northrop F-89 Scorpion was an early American jet-powered fighter designed from the outset as an all-weather interceptor.

Though its straight wings limited its performance, it was among the first USAF jet fighters equipped to fire guided missiles, including the distinction of being the first combat aircraft armed with nuclear weapons (the unguided Genie rocket) for air-to-air use.

 Northrop F-89 Scorpion      Northrop F-89 Scorpion

Northrop F-89 "Scorpion"
(left) Initial Configuration (right) Final Configuration
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Northrop submitted four different designs, (including yet another radical flying wing). They settled on the N-24, a slim-bodied aircraft with a cantilevered mid-mounted wing and two Allison J35 turbojet engines with afterburners. It was to have radar and a crew of two, with an armament of six 20 mm (.79 in) cannon in a rotating nose turret.

One of the unusual aspects of the design was the use of Northrop's "Deceleron", a combination aileron/dive brake/flap that could be accommodated in the slim wing design. This became a Northrop trademark and is still used today on the B-2 Spirit. Contracts for two prototypes were issued in December 1946. The initial XP-89 prototype made its first flight in 1948.

Northrop F-89 Scorpion  Patent No. 2,665,084     Northrop F-89 Scorpion  Patent No. 2,706,431

Patent Diagrams for the Northrop F-89 "Scorpion"

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Patent Nos 2,665,084 and 2,706,431
Click Here to learn how to get free patent diagrams

The first F-89A entered USAF service in September 1950. It had AN/APG-33 radar and an armament of six 20 mm cannons with 200 rpg. The swiveling nose turret was abandoned, and 300 gal fuel tanks were permanently fitted to the wingtips to add range, given the exremely thin wing. Underwing racks could carry 16.5" aerial rockets or up to 3,200 lb of bombs

 November 1953 Popular Science article on additional rocket armament for the F-89

Rocket Pods for the F-89 "Scorpion"
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Here is a video with some early footage of the F-89:

In addition to the cover of Model Airplane News, this airplane was also featured in the WINGS "Friend or Foe" trading card series of the early 1950s

 Card 090 of the Wings Friend or Foe series  Northrop F-89 Scorpion

Trading card representation of the Northrop F-89 "Scorpion"
Click Here to see all 200 cards in the series
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The Scorpion was in the news as well, appearing in a supporting role on the cover of the November, 1953 issue of Popular Mechanics. The article describes how a "Helicopter Tug" would lift the F-89 off a more-or-less conventional ship and then release it, obviating the need for an aircraft carrier.

 November 1953 Popular Science article on Helicopter Tugs and the F89 scorpion     Sidney Hiller reaction Jet Patent No. 2,740,482     Sidney Hiller small helicopter Patent No. 2,481,745     Card 181 of the Wings Friend or Foe series  Hiller Hornet

The F-89 "Scorpion" and the Helicopter Tug
Reaction Jet Patent No. 2,740,482
Mini Helicopter Patent No. 2,481,745
Click here to read a ".pdf" of the article about the Helicopter Tug
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This scheme was fraught with some risk, since jet planes tend to drop like a stone unless they are moving at well over the maximum speed of the little helicopter. Landing posed other problems. However, the fellow who cme up with the idea was Sidney Hiller, certainly no flake. He perfected the reaction-jet helicopter and made significant contribution to the modern use of the helicopter by the military. He sold a number of his ultra-small "Hornet" helicopters.

Click Here for more information about the F-89 Scorpion.

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